In a report highlighting how little has changed since the 1968 Kerner Commission criticized the “white perspective” of media coverage of race riots, Media Matters for America’s Tyler Cherry (2/18/16) cited Adam Johnson’s debunking of media justifications for a crackdown on young protesters in Baltimore (FAIR.org, 4/29/15):
Newsrooms covering Baltimore and Ferguson also disseminated misinformation that often originated from local city and police department officials. On April 27, 2015, The Baltimore Sun reported that a mass police presence had been pre-emptively convened near a Baltimore mall because of a “flier that circulated widely” among students online advocating a “purge,” referencing the 2013 movie The Purge that dramatized a night of lawlessness and anarchy.
After Baltimore students finished school and headed toward the mall, they were greeted by police in riot gear. Because of the purge rumors, the police allegedly shut down the subway and blocked buses from leaving, leaving hundreds of students on the streets unable to get home. A violent clash ensued.
But the purge rumor was immediately disputed. Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) tried tracing The Baltimore Sun’s account of the flier’s distribution and said the evidence was “murky at best.” FAIR noted how the Sun’s shaky reporting ended up “creat[ing] a perception of actual danger that the proffered evidence doesn’t substantiate.”…
Such shoddy reporting does more than run counter to journalistic ethics and best practices. Back in 1968, the Kerner report said the commission was “deeply concerned that millions of Americans, who must rely on the mass media, … formed incorrect impressions and judgments about what went on in many American cities.”