Watts vs. Ferguson Coverage - ASCJ 100 TA Brandon Golob 12...

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ASCJ 100 TA: Brandon Golob 12 October 2014 Watts vs. Ferguson Coverage “If the police had exercised their legal right to shoot a man down who resists arrest in the course of committing a felony, the general carnage may have been aborted,” (Buckley). While it may shock people today that something so brutal could be written in response to race riots, the above statement appeared in an editorial piece by conservative author William Buckley, Jr. in the September 22, 1965 edition of the LA Times in direct response to the racial tension in Watts the month before. The statement is clear and indisputable evidence that times and opinions have changed greatly between the time of the Watts Riots and today—and that media coverage of events has changed dramatically as well. When considering the differences in coverage between the Watts Riots and the Ferguson protests, it is necessary to note the increased expediency and variety of coverage available in 2014, providing a more complete story, and the shift in the focus of the coverage, from predominantly on the black community during the Watts Riots to the actions of police officers during the Ferguson protests, which gives a more fair story. While the media has developed their ability to fully and fairly report on racial tensions, however, problems still exist in both the manner in which they represent African- American victims and in their tendency to sensationalize and editorialize news coverage. The most evident difference in media coverage between the Watts Riot and the shooting in Ferguson is the advancement of media technology, leading to increased accessibility and availability of options for the viewer. When considering the time difference, it would make sense that the media would have more outlets in 2014 than they
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did in 1965. The most accessible ways people heard the news in 1965 were the daily papers or the nightly newscasts—both of which came with a limited number of options for the viewership. There were only two or three newspapers for people to choose from in the Los Angeles area that had extensive, reliable coverage of the Watts riots; and only two or three reliable nightly news broadcasts on top of that. While people could rely fully on the factual consistency of these sources, it meant that the variety of opinions people were exposed to was minimal, and ideas espoused in these publications and broadcasts were taken almost uncritically. Additionally, the daily paper was constrained to production deadlines, so if news happened after the deadline, it would take a day or more for people to hear about it—this lead to gaps in understanding for the viewer.
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