How the Modern Media is Covering the Death of Tony Robinson

The #BlackLivesMatter movement reached another peak this weekend when Tony Robinson, a 19 year-old black man was shot on Friday night in Madison, WI by veteran officer Matthew Kenny.

Police received calls that Robinson had battered someone earlier in the evening and was standing in the street and weaving in and out of traffic. Kenny arrived at the scene and entered an apartment after Robinson upon hearing a disturbance. After Robinson, who was unarmed, assaulted Kenny, he was shot and died at a hospital hours later.

With this case resembling the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, MO, which inspired wide-spread and long-winded protests and a massive social media campaign, it’s worth taking a look at the media coverage of the death of Tony Robinson and how newspapers, broadcast television and online publications are covering the event.

1. NBC News:  

In a two minute news package, NBC reporter Anne Thompson gives an overview of the incident and also provides a variety of shots of the protests that arose the day after the fatal shooting, grouping this story in with others about police brutality and racism in America.

The broadcast also shows footage of Madison Police Chief Michael Koval expressing his remorse for the loss of Robinson and saying that he wanted to be “transparent” that Robinson was unarmed in order to quell violent protests.

But the most interesting part of this story is the text underneath the package. Written by staff writer Elisha Fieldstadt, a recent Baruch graduate, it isn’t the simple script that usually accompanies broadcast pieces. It could stand alone as a strong piece of modern online journalism given the strength of the writing and the heavy use of social media.

Not only does it hyperlink to other websites that will help the reader better understand the story, but it puts all of the telling videos into one place. The article features the video statement of the Madison Police Chief, a video statement from Robinson’s grandmother, an Instagram video of the protest and a photograph of Kenny.

NBC’s package and article came up on the front page of a “Wisconsin shooting” Google search, proving that their use of social media and their reputation as a credible news source puts them in the spotlight.

I believe that consumers respond best to visual story-telling, but I am not downplaying the necessity for a well written piece of journalism. The combination of NBC’s video package and the well written, social media rich article put NBC on the radar of anyone seeking out this story.

2. New York Times

The Times wrote a cut-and-dry news piece on the shooting that was published on Saturday. Because of the print-like nature of the Times, there is not interactive or social media component of the piece, which I feel is a real detriment to it’s success. Though the Times is known as one of the highest standards for journalism, this story was only found on the third page of my “Wisconsin shooting” Google search.

The closest that they get to using social media is quoting tweets and discussing the hashtags that have been trending around the issue. However, they only hyperlink to the tweets instead of embedding them, which I feel takes away from the visual appeal of the story. It just seems to be a big block of text.

Here are some of the tweets that they allude to:

Wisconsin1 Wisconsin

The Times did what they do best by writing this top notch story. But because they didn’t marry that with social media and embedded multimedia, it suffered online and still makes NBC’s piece the best coverage yet.

3. BuzzFeed News

Buzzfeed news coverage is starting to gain ground. I found this article on the second page of my Google search.

Social media is heavily used throughout this piece, a prominent characteristic of the blogs style of BuzzFeed. Most of the article is comprised of embedded videos, photos and tweets of details about the shooting, but mostly a look into the aftermath of protests and city hall sit-ins.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.14.20 PM

Any of the text in the article simply reads like notes or subject headings, giving the basic idea of what the next piece of multimedia is going to show the news consumer. While their use of social media far surpasses the New York Times and NBC, the lack of copy makes this story fall out of the first place for excellent coverage of the story.

The videos of protesters chanting and photos of a crowded city hall tell an amazing story, but I do not think that they can stand alone in this story. I also don’t think that they can replace the high quality images and video gathered by professional photojournalists, rather than just a Twitter and Instagram search.

Yet, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the way BuzzFeed published the article is the future of journalism. However, I still feel as though there needs to be a balance between the heavy multimedia and social media component of BuzzFeed and the high quality reporting and writing of the New York Times.

In this case study, I feel as though the NBC News piece joins the two facets together very well.


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