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STAFF EDITORIAL | Investigation of race and the role of media

Recently, murders relating to issues of race, such as the cases of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, have been gaining much attention in the media. Due to cases like these, race is becoming a large part of the way investigations and trials are conducted; these cases are also exploding in the media. The Campanil recognizes there are far more murder cases like these that have not been turned into media sensations.

The Campanil feels that racism is still a prevalent issue, despite the advances that have been made in creating a more tolerant society. We agree that when a murder or other crime involves two members of different races, race should be considered as a possible motive, but should not be used to profile the perpetrator or the victim; the staff of The Campanil also feels that in such cases, assumptions about racial motivators should not be made unless there are actual facts to support it. Some members of The Campanil also feel that society has been trained to look at people and identify them by their race, which may cause people to automatically assume that race plays a role in crimes. While we recognize that racism is very real, we do not believe that it should be the center of an investigation unless the facts point in that direction.

The Campanil also believes that the media plays a large role in how these cases are viewed by the general public. The way the media presents a case or story directly affects the way citizens think about the case — if the media portrays a situation as a hate crime, it will likely be regarded that way by many. The media also plays a role in what stories make the news and what stories do not. Some members of The Campanil have noted that certain racial minorities appear in very specific types of stories, and that this may reinforce stereotypes as well as assumptions of racist motivation in crime. And while hate crimes and murders seem to be on the rise, The Campanil would like to acknowledge that this may not be so; this is an issue that has been present in our nation for decades, and perhaps is only being brought to attention by the media because it is becoming more socially acceptable to speak about race.

Assumptions in investigations should never be made based on someone’s appearance or race unless they can be supported by facts. By automatically assuming that something is an act of racism because of the color of the involved parties’ skin, aren’t we perpetuating that same racism? Many members of The Campanil  feel that certain racial minorities become the subject of sensationalized crime investigations more than others and that the media often chooses to focus on certain cases and present others in a less visible way. Some members of The Campanil feel that this system of choosing who is important enough to make the news and who isn’t is unfair. As journalists, we believe that everyone has a story worth telling.