The Front Page: Judge, Jury and Journalist

It’s Friday, November 19th.

While coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial is abundant, the quality of the reporting has been inconsistent.

Dozens of stories from news organizations, both local and national, show that journalists have learned little since Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd. On Nov. 14, The New York Times sent a push alert that said: “The Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse cases are forcing a country awash in guns to grapple with the moral and legal question of self-defense.” Journalists like Jewel Wicker of Capital B rightly criticized the notification immediately.

Considering how readers learn about and find content, the responsibility to properly frame information lies not only on the part of the journalist or editor, but also on the person or team who sends out the push alerts.

In addition to sending notifications that juxtapose a victim and a killer from separate cases, The Times also ran a headline implying that Rittenhouse could be considered a “hero” if he is found not guilty, while other publications repeatedly featured pull quotes that suggest single statements were completely factual or hugely significant.

Likewise, one article by Forbes includes warnings about misinformation on social media, yet embeds illustrative Tweets that further spread the misinformation it’s warning against. Many other outlets have begun highlighting preparations by the Wisconsin National Guard and Chicago Police Department in Kenosha for anticipated threats to public safety.

Tabloids and talking heads have produced predictably bad takes as well, but word choice still has the potential to be misleading, especially if audiences are unfamiliar with trial details or the difference between editorial sections and newsrooms.

While some stories have helped break down the mechanics of the trial, along with deficiencies in the coverage itself, much of the industry’s disposition towards simplistic, zero-sum coverage has framed the Rittenhouse trial as sport, reporting on the spectacle of the event without actually increasing public understanding.

— This issue is by Holly Rosewood with editing by Curtis Yee.


Books Every Journalist Should Read

What book has changed your view on the journalism industry, for better or for worse? Is there an author whose work has taught you something important about objectivity? If you could assign required reading for every journalism student, what would it be?

We want to hear from you! Join the conversation on Twitter.


A bit more media

Q/A: Sisi Wei Janelle Salanga, Deputy Editor at The Objective, interviewed Sisi Wei, the co-executive director at OpenNews, for our most recent Q/A. Wei, who also founded the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coalition for Anti-Racist, Equitable and Just Newsrooms, spoke about sustainable, collective change and the importance of taking breaks. 

Wirecutter workers ready to strike On Tuesday, New York Times employees rallied for a fair contract outside company headquarters. The Wirecutter Union has bargained for two years, and reports that 90% of union members are prepared to strike during Black Friday shopping week if they don’t reach a deal with management. You can sign up for updates here.

“The lie of the storm” — In the 16 years between Hurricanes Katrina and Ida, newsrooms’ misguided fixation on looting hasn’t improved, writes Ko Bragg. In addition to spreading false or unverified information provided by law enforcement and elected officials, the narrative is often racist, as was the case in New Orleans. Read more in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Black by God: The West Virginian West Virginia has a serious news gap: The state has “85 local newspapers, but […] only three Black journalists,” reports Amanda Page. Fortunately, Crystal Good is bridging the gap with a new publication for Black West Virginians, Black by God. With a variety of price points and formats (email, online newsletter, print), the publication is accessible to audiences across the state. 

“How CBT Harmed Me” — Alana Saltz published her New York Times interview that Saltz’ says was omitted from an article about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and chronic pain. Saltz writes that, rather than including first-person accounts from herself and other patients, the Times “perpetuate[d] outdated, victim-blaming treatment models like CBT.”

60 Minutes platforms Andrew Sullivan — Though Sullivan already shares his thoughts via his Substack newsletter, 60 Minutes further amplified the conservative author’s commitment to debating Black people’s intelligence and failed to appropriately address or challenge previous racism. “CBS News, like many newsrooms, seems afraid of allowing the Sullivans of the world to claim that they are being silenced,” writes Daniel D’Addario.

Stay Up To Date 

  • 0 days until … How Non-Native Journalists Can Cover Native Communities. Today, at 2:00 PM EST, the Uproot Project will convene journalists and editors who will discuss methods for covering environmental stories in Native communities.
  • 1 day until … Black Women Photographers’ next Photo Walk + Lunch. Now through December, in-person meet-ups will take place in Nairobi, Chicago, and London. For more information, email [email protected].
  • 3 days until … How Journalists Can Report on Toxic Hot Spots. ProPublica and the Society of Environmental Journalists are partnering up for this tutorial. ProPublica reporters will demonstrate how to use a map tool to uncover local pollution problems.
  • 5 days until .. the next Info Session for Start-ups. ($$$) Every month, the Institute for Nonprofit News hosts these virtual meetings to share advice on starting an independent news organization.
  • 13 days until … The Press in Prison: A media training and guidebook from Scalawag. This five-hour workshop is open to anyone working in the journalism industry, but a $10 donation is recommended to help pay panelists.

What events should we feature? You tell us. Reply directly or send an email to [email protected].


A few more resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($) 

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook

Want to get in touch? Email us at [email protected].

Thanks for reading. We’ll have more for you soon. 

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The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.

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