5 Pages, Grade: A
Constituency Analysis - The Trayvon Martin Case
According to an April 5, 2012, article in the International Business Times, NBC left out some of the dispatcher’s questions so that Zimmerman’s 911 call proclaimed, "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." After a public outcry, NBC apologized for what they called an error in the production process.
The change of the 911 call put a negative image on NBC. Being a trustworthy news source, NBC didn’t seem unbiased when reporting about Martin’s death. To the public eye, it didn’t seem as if the cutting out of some of the call was an error, but rather intended to emphasize the racial issue behind the shooting. NBC, like other media outlets, seemed to want to spur the debate about the issue and to make Zimmerman appear like a racial criminal. Another example for this is the two pictures that most commonly were used by the media to portray both Martin and Zimmerman. Martin was usually portrayed on a five-year-old picture where he smiled innocently while a mug shot of Zimmerman immediately created the impression that he is at fault.
This incident is surely not improving the image of media coverage and especially NBC. Media coverage can have a huge impact on the trial proceedings, and the edited 911 call surely contributed to the public opinion that Zimmerman is at fault. To improve its image and to follow the ethics of news reporting, NBC should carefully present any upcoming news about the case and show both sides of the story.
With the outrage that the shooting of Trayvon Martin created, President Obama addressed the issue in his own words. According to an April 5, 2012, article in the International Business Times, Obama stood up and proclaimed that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.” With this statement, Obama clearly put himself on the side of Martin’s family as well as the black community.
This action surely helped Obama regain a positive image after the criticism against his presidency, which was in the spotlight during the last years. Obama pronounced that he cares about what is going on in his country and is still standing strong against racism. Because Obama is of African-American descent, too, people probably expected him to put himself on the side of Martin and his family. However, Obama’s opinion could have a severe impact on the outcome of Zimmerman’s trial. Many people still believe in the President and may adopt his opinion about the shooting. The case could be decided against Zimmerman somewhat because of Obama’s opinion.
Surely, Obama’s comment helped him and gave him positive PR. To help his PR even more and to therefore boost his chances at the presidential election this year, he should continue on the same path, proclaiming how this case influenced the country and how terrible it is for a young adult as Martin having to die. However, even though it would probably not help him, Obama should be rather unbiased about the case. It is not proven yet that Zimmerman is at fault, and Obama’s comment only makes people believe that he is. In case of Zimmerman being found not guilty, the public’s outcry would probably be even bigger.
Mostly affected by the case are surely Martin’s parents. Their son was shot and they have no idea why it happened, but they surely believe that Zimmerman coldheartedly killed him, not acting in defense. According to a petition, which was created by Martin’s parents on change.org, they are convinced that their son was killed and that charges of murder should be pressed against Zimmerman. Furthermore, they portray their son as a hero, a life saver to his father, and an aspiring college student.
Eventually, Martin’s parents got their will when Zimmerman was arrested and charged. A large amount of the population stands behind the family and believes that Martin was simply killed. That the parents came out and used the media in the case against Zimmerman can help them, because it gives the story some personality. At the same time, it can backfire, too. Depending on the outcome of the case, Martin’s parents might never have a normal life again. They are so widely known by now that, especially in Florida, they will be recognized. In case that it can somehow be proven that Zimmerman was truly acting out of self-defense and that Martin attacked him, it could shed a bad light on them. If they are really convinced that their son was innocent, they should continue being the face of the campaign against Zimmerman and for a just law system. However, if Martin’s parents feel that they might not be able to handle the media pressure, they should step back immediately.
According to a New York Times article from March 22, 2012, Zimmerman was a driving force behind setting up a neighborhood watch program in Sanford, Florida. Neighborhood watch programs are designed to be the eyes and ears for the police, but not supposed to follow people or to step in themselves. In the case of apparent danger, the patrolling person is advised to call the police. The police department claims to inform the volunteers of the program on what to do and especially what not to do. Carrying a weapon was never an option.
Zimmerman clearly didn’t follow any of these directions when he followed and later shot Martin, may it be in self-defense or for other reasons. In addition, Zimmerman had a criminal background and might be anything but the right person for the job. The shooting put a negative image on neighborhood watch programs throughout the country. Volunteers might take their responsibilities too seriously and misuse their power like Zimmerman did. The question that now arises is whether neighborhood watch is actually helpful or could create more harm. The program should definitely be revised. Passing out handbooks explaining the possibilities doesn’t seem to be protection enough. Volunteers should participate in some sort of real training and be regularly checked without warning while on duty. Another option would be to not allow people on the neighborhood watch program who have a criminal background and are allowed to carry weapons.
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