Racial Bias Regarding Crime In The Media: Breaking Down The People vs Rashaun Weaver and Gregory and Travis McMichael vs The State of Georgia

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A graphic of the vast difference in coverage of race in the media. Photo credit to EJI.

Bias in the news is not a new concept for media moguls. Since the inception of media and its massive use in the technological era more than ever, bias has affected numerous groups. Racial bias being one of the top problems in the media. Looking at the coverage of crime in the media particularly, we can see the bias the media shows against particular races.

Their are thousands even millions of examples you could choose to look at for racial bias in media. “Mugshots were used in coverage of 45% of cases involving Black people accused of crimes compared to only 8% of cases involving white defendants”.(Equal Justice Initiative)

Looking at and comparing two different court cases, the Ahmaud Arbery murder by the Mcmichael family(https://www.npr.org/2021/11/24/1058240388/ahmaud-arbery-murder-trial-verdict-travis-greg-mcmichael) and the Tessa Majors murder by Rashaun Weaver(https://abc7ny.com/tessa-majors-rashaun-weaver-barnard-student-murder-sentencing/11487509/) . Both these cases were heinous crimes in which both lives did not deserve to be lost.

In each case the bias reporting on each was beyond apparent. In the case of the McMichaels, they were shown in suits versus Weaver who was shown in handcuffs in almost every news articles. The disparity between each is shown in almost every article and can be seen by just a simple search of each of the cases.

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Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan pictured above in suits at court after murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Photo credit to NPR.
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Rashaun Weaver pictured above being ushered into court in handcuffs and a sweatsuit after murder of Tessa Majors. Photo credit to New York Post.

A study also looked at numerous things such as language use, imagery, framing of victim among many other topics.(Study by GSG 2021) An interesting finding was that, “Media coverage was 50% more likely to refer to white defendants by name as compared to Black defendants.” (EQI 2021) This related directly to the cases looked at as Tessa Majors was named more than her assailant Rashaun Weaver whereas the McMichaels were named much more often and at the top of articles more frequently than Ahmaud Arbery was.

In each of the articles linked you can find a victim impact statement for one of the cases, while the other expresses remorse there is no such statement. “This is a victim impact statement. The victim is Tess Majors. Tess Majors cannot say how being murdered impacted her because she is dead” is found at the end of the article written on the Rashaun Weaver murder. In the case of the McMichaels, Arbery is given no such tribute.

Language also played a major role in creating a narrative for each story. The McMichaels were praised in some articles for trying to “protect their community” and their lawyers even used that as an excuse for the crime. The Rashaun Weaver reports discussed more of the “anguish of losing a child” according to Tessa Majors parents. It was also mentioned that Weaver was said to be part of a “”symptom” of a broken system of repeated incarceration.” His father and other role models had been imprisoned.

Racial bias is an obvious problem in the media. Although it seems to have attention being brought to it and solutions are on the way, the issue still plagues many media outlets and reporters across the nation.

There were numerous instances of bias reporting on the George Floyd situation. Even for outlets like Fox News and CNN the bias could not escape them. “News outlets that are traditionally seen as politically conservative are notably more likely to use language about “looting” and “rioting” and less likely to mention racism and police brutality.” (Signal Ai 2020)

With racial bias still fragmenting the media, solutions have to come to solve the dicey problem. Do these solutions come from the reporters? The editors? The directors? The general public? Does it take standing up or is it an entire systematic change? Whatever it takes it has to come soon and become a massive turn for all of media.

Written by Michael DelloStritto