Raquel Christie’s article in the latest American Journalism Review is a thorough analysis and critique of media coverage of the Jena 6 controversy which S&R has done its own thorough job of ranting about. Her conclusions, based on interviews with reporters and bloggers involved are relatively straightforward:
1) Local media slanted its coverage to make the Jena story as much about unfair reporting by the national media – thereby misleading casual observers of the Jena events that the story was about “more of the same” injustice in a stereotypically racist Southern small town.
2) National media pursued its usual “celebrity driven” line and only really went into the Jena story once national figures like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton associated themselves with it.
3) National media relied too much on using information provided to them by sources with agendas (including blogs such as this one).
4) Local media spent far too much time reporting about what “good folks” the citizens of Jena/LaSalle Parish/Louisiana are – sometimes to the point of ignoring some of their more questionable actions.
This seeming disconnect between views is well expressed in this observation by the dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute:
The most profound realization coming out of those two conversations was how utterly differently two people could see the same story,” Woods says. “To essentially paint it as the participants did, in the case of Paul [Carty of the Alexandria, LA, Town Talk], a story about overblown and incorrect media coverage, as much as it was about Jena, and to Shawn [Williams of the blog Dallas South], it was a story about injustice. – Keith Woods, Poynter Institute
That’s the thing about the sound and fury of reporting a case like that of the Jena 6. To some, like the national media, it means almost nothing. To others, like the kids involved, it means almost everything.