Shannon Kulik

Shannon Kulik
New York, New York, USA
April 01
Hsquared Editorial and Brand Studio
Hsquared Editorial and Brand Studio, an editorial and creative services agency for women's brands. Publisher of Bohomamma, an online magazine for women writing about culture, politics, news and lifestyle. Honoree in lifestyle websites by the 16th Annual Webby Awards.

Shannon Kulik's Links

New list
No links in this category.
MARCH 27, 2012 3:59PM

Trayvon Martin and Ethics in Journalism

Rate: 1 Flag

Why Twitchy Media and Business Insider did more than publish incorrect information regarding Trayvon Martin. Why these organizations have fostered racism and bigotry under the guise of the search for truth. 


Moms, can we agree that if our 17-year old son was shot as he was walking home from a store, we would not only demand an investigation, we would bring the power of motherhood in our quest to see that our questions were answered?

We're moms - we know. Can we just stay here for a moment and allow Trayvon Martin's mother this? A mother lost her 17-year old son to a gunshot wound as he was walking home from the store. The man who shot Trayvon Martin was not taken to the police station for questioning; he was not detained; he was released at the scene. His version of events - it seems - was accepted as fact at the scene.

Trayvon's mom needs answers. As a mother, she deserves those answers; as a tax-paying citizen of this country, she has paid for her right to those answers; and, as a human being, she is entitled. I am in awe that she is holding it together as well as she seems to be and I support her in her quest for truth, because I have children and my greatest fear in life is losing one of mine. I do not know if her search for truth will also mirror her quest of what justice should look like in this case. I support her, no matter.

Today's headlines tell us that Trayvon Martin was suspended from school for 10-days because he was found to have an empty bag, which had at one time contained marijuana, on his person. There are also reports that he was suspended from school for graffiti.

My first thoughts are, "so what if he did smoke marijuana? I'm white; I'm female; I went to private schools in the South; and, if my experience is any indication, race has nothing to do with marijuana use." I couldn't step into a party when I was 17-years old without running into someone with a joint. If I turned right, I could find someone with Ecstasy and if I turned left, someone with a substance much stronger. But by and large, marijuana use was what some (a lot) of us did and we didn't blink at admitting it to ourselves or others.

There are reports which have been leaked by the Sanford, FL police department to the media that suggest Trayvon Martin confronted George Zimmerman and hit Zimmerman in the face. This may or may not be true. I do not know. I'm not certain if it matters to me as a person, although it may be of great importance to the legal system. If I were someone being followed by another person (as has happened), my choices are as follows: to run or to confront the person who is following me.

The fact of the matter is that a 911 operator told George Zimmerman that he did not need to "follow" the black male ("coon" or "goon" - and, no...."goon" is not a term of endearment - please), but Zimmerman did not heed that warning. Perhaps he did not heed the warning for altruistic reasons. Maybe, he did not heed that warning because he had a rescuer complex and it made him feel good to think that he was doing good in this world. Maybe, Zimmerman did not heed that warning because he held beliefs about black males. And, maybe this is the discussion this country should be having. Maybe, none of these facts are of importance to justice, because it may be that Zimmerman's actions, under Florida law, are allowable. This is why we have investigations.

Florida has statute, which allows a person to use deadly force in face of the "presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm." Perhaps, in our minds, we will ultimately write-off Trayvon Martin's death as a series of unfortunate incidents that coincided: a young man who was staying with his father because he had been suspended from school; a young man who decided to walk to the store at the half-time of a basketball game to get a tea and candy; another man, who consciously or unconsciously held ideas of what robbers and burglars and people up to know good looked like and ultimately took a life for the wrong reasons; and, it may be that his right to do so is upheld by Florida law. Maybe, this is how this story unfolds. And. maybe these are the answers that Trayvon's mom receives.

We can agree or disagree of what the "facts" ultimately prove, but be darned, as a mother, if I am going to contribute to any system which suggests Trayvon Martin's mother should not ask the questions in the first place; as if she should accept the death of her son, because that is the fate of black mothers in this country.

So, I am worried and grieve for Trayvon Martin's mother; but, I am frustrated and angry as someone who turns to good journalism to help me discover my truth.

We have been privy to such irresponsible journalism on this topic; journalism that goes farther than releasing incorrect information, but actually uses false information to create a storyline - ignoring facts as facts should be presented in journalism.

Twitchy Media published a story on its website (which was picked up by several news outlets), which included a photograph of George Zimmerman in a suit and tie and posted another photograph of a young black male, with no shirt, baggy pants, flipping the bird (from both hands) to the camera. The photo caption of the photograph read, "Media Bias".

I assume - due to the caption - the point of the photographs was to highlight another version of this story: a version that suggested the Hispanic male was a law abiding citizen, while the black youth was a "gangsta". Business Insider also posted this photograph, which reports suggest was downloaded from a Neo-nazi site (because all great journalists would look to a Neo-Nazi site to fact find a story whose central theme is racism).

For the record, I have a nephew who routinely posts photographs of himself "gangsta" style. He also serves in the military and is one of the most generous hearts I know. It is not my style, but kids attach themselves to ideas of what success and bravado look like. And it may be that those who are supporting a police investigation and the Trayvon Martin family were not quick to release photographs of Trayvon Martin as a 17-year old because 17-year old black males to many of us are scary men. Add a hoodie and we have outlaws who will rob, pillage and take away what we have.

As a country, by and large, we are scared of black male youth. So, let's have this conversation and then let us remind ourselves that Trayvon Martin was an A-B student who played football and to our knowledge has no police record.

Let us challenge ourselves; let us challenge our fears and our assumptions; and, let good journalism lead us there.

Twitchy Media, which is a conservative website/organization, made a mistake - with intent or not, in publishing a photograph of Trayvon Martin that turned out not to be "the" [sic] Trayvon Martin (which, would also seem to imply there is another Trayvon Martin out there causing trouble for some white community).

The organization's response to being called out on this mistake is not only irresponsible, it smells biased and racist and that is alarming to me. We, as women and as mothers, are smarter than this and we're better than this.

Twitchy Media's apology consists of striking through the words that were incorrect and to throw out "we apologize to our readers and to the Martin family".

A publishing organization releases a photograph of a black male, which not only suggests that the black male is somehow responsible for his own death; perpetuates the idea that he had it coming because he was wearing no shirt and flipping the third finger to the camera; and captions this photograph "Media Bias" and it's correction is to strike through the words?

The photograph this organization releases is not the actual victim (or criminal, depending on the writer of these stories) and this organization decides to strike out the wording, as if the idea that the organization was conveying could also be taken away. "Hey, strike that...the photograph we released suggesting that Trayvon Martin was a bad-ass black dude out to hurt you was not actually the Trayvon Martin."

I believe that Twitchy should release information as to where and how they received the photograph. I believe that an editor of this organization should write a true apology on its website and its Twitter account - a full apology, which respects the idea that a young man's life was taken. Journalists do not strike through incorrect information; true journalists admit that they made an error and correct that mistake as quickly and as effectively as they can, in full format. As journalists, Twitchy Media - in all its twitchiness - contributed and perpetuated myths many of us hold as to the dangers black male youth pose. But what they did as people is insulting and dangerous. Ethics in journalism matters. 



Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Thank you for speaking out!!!! And how wonderful to see a journalists speak out! The press has missed a rare teaching moment and an opportunity to show a scintilla of credibility by demonstrating a thimble full of knowledge concerning the plain and easy language of the law in question. WHAT a missed opportunity. Thank you for demanding professional responsibility!!!!

With all due respect to all of this, it never fails to amaze me how people talk, talk, talk, about this case and it’s mostly race, race, race– which is totally legitimate for that is the ugly underbelly in America. This infestation of racism pollutes our body politic and is a disgrace on a great Nation.

But what troubles me most is that people also talk, and jabber hysterically about this law when they haven’t even troubled themselves to go read the freakin’ statute  so they might at least have a thimble full of knowledge demonstrating they have a clue what they are talking about.  Essentially it comes down to what Randolph McLaughlin, attorney for the family of Kenneth Chamberlain said speaking about that case on Democracy Now and comparing the police there to Zimmerman here. You can’t provoke a situation and then respond to it, "Oh, I had to use deadly force to protect myself."  That really is all of it in a nutshell. Superbly stated.

But if we are going to trash a law (when the real trash is law enforcement) we should at least go read it. This is easy. This is not rocket science.  If anyone is going publish their opinions credibility helps.  The law in question here is really simple enough for a 17-year old to understand.

Read "Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?"  as well as the follow up commentary and I think you will agree that the ONLY person who can rely on this law as a defense is Trayvon Martin.

Indeed, even as to the alleged fight that broke out the legal consequence is the same. Under the plain and simple language of this law and the facts as we know them, The ONLY man with a right to stand his ground was Trayvon Martin and the only one legally authorized by law to meet force with force as that 6' 3" 140 lg boy against a 5. 9' 240lb gorilla with a gun.  

“Suspicion” will NOT suffice under this statute. Read it. Much more  must be specifically shown.  Did Trayvon fight back? Is this even a relevant question? If you were 140 lb  skinny teenager  displaying none of the BEHAVIOR SPECIFICALLY required before one can even evoke this statute (just read it!) and 250 gorilla jumps out of a car and comes after you as you are retreated from his aggression what would you do?  What would and person do? Waht they have a right to! Stand your ground and meet force with force if necessary to prevent great bodily harm.

Notice, once you read this simple and clear law, one person and one person only has the factual and legal right to assert on their behalf.  And that ONE person was Travyon Martin.  I rest my case.
And btw, Zimmermen's threshold proof to assert this defense is to prove he, in the first place, was not engaged in "Unlawful conduct" After that he still has a lot more he must prove to rely on this defense. In any event the Neighborhood Watch rules are that watch-person can carry no gun. Second, in most states it's crime (usually a misdemeanor) to disobey a lawful police directive. The 911 operator was the police and they instructed GZ to not take chase. Ergo the moment he disobeyed that lawful directive he was arguably engaged in "unlawful conduct" . That's what the 911 cop was telling him. Don't do that.

Again, the law is not his defense but Trayvon's. People need to see this.

See how easy it is to know what's right you know the simple law? Facts spawn the legal issue. The fact the GZ disobeyed the police means he forfeits the defense - just on that the one fact. And there is way more fun to be had with these facts if you read the simple law. Do not miss the opportunity to be way out ahead of your colleagues -- not to say you aren't already. Thanks again. R!
But just look at that skinny kid! Only 140# and 6' 3"!. They called him slim. And Zimmerman a 5' 9" , 24o# buffed gorilla jumps outta his car and goes after him!? ! Gee mustabeen that pack of Skittles that struck terror into Zimmerman's endarkened heart. Facts. Facts. Facts. Ain't they wonderful.