As each timeline emerged in the story, it seemed to offer a correction to an earlier version that muddied the moral of the story in its rush to judgement, says Corinna Barnard.
By Corinna Barnard
Special to Consortium News
Consumers of news via social media knew their faces before their names. One was older, wore glasses and was chanting and striking a hand-held drum. The younger man’s complexion was lighter. He wore a red MAGA, or “make America great again,” cap. The younger one stared and smiled in a way that seemed, to many, arrogant and derisive.
They were both in Washington, D.C., in a stone-paved plaza where people gather for protests, or for sightseeing.
What was instantly striking was the juxtaposition of their faces. They were too close to another, in each others’ way somehow.
The video clip spread far and wide, generating discordant shards of outrage, arguments over which of the men was actually intimidating or disrespecting which. A big lingering question is: Did you see the “whole” video? Did you see what really happened?
By the time the editors and reporters showed up, they worked, quite helpfully, to generate “tick-tock” timelines. By establishing the beginning of the story, there would be a middle and then, inevitably, an end. Only this story, like so many, resisted tidy narrative packaging.
The timelines started getting tangled with each other, catching flak from an audience that felt closer to the primary source; from people who had seen the “whole” video, (which was over an hour long and painfully boring and repetitive in parts).
As each timeline emerged, it seemed to offer a correction to an earlier version that muddied the moral of the story in its rush to judgement (the chronic predicament of journalism overall, which is in the business of producing the first, not last, draft of history).
Here’s the introduction that BuzzFeed offered on its chronology:
“Nick Sandmann, a junior at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High, denounced what he called ‘outright lies’ about his conduct toward attendees at the Indigenous Peoples…