(Editor’s Note: Just before 9 p.m. Thursday, 12 Dallas police officers and other citizens were shot during a rally being held in response to the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota discussed below.
This post originated Thursday to examine media coverage on the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and its contents are at least tangentially related to the Dallas tragedy that followed.
By Friday morning, five Dallas officers had died. For immediate information, consider following the Dallas Police Department Twitter account.)
About 35 minutes after midnight Tuesday, a police officer shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in the parking lot of a food mart in Baton Rouge, La. The very next evening in Minnesota, a St. Anthony police officer shot 32-year-old Philando Castile in the Saint Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. Castile died from those wounds shortly after arriving at a local hospital.
Both shootings reflect the all-too-frequent occurrence of black suspects being killed at the hands of police. Both shootings also highlight the growing importance of video footage in determining the facts of each incident.
But both cases differ with regard to the coverage each generated. In the Sterling case, the news arc went something like this: bystander uploads footage of cops detaining and shooting a black man, video sparks outrage and protest, celebrities speak out against Baton Rouge shooting, the investigation is handed over to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In Castile’s case, the news arc was different: police shooting of black man livestreamed to Facebook, Minnesota shooting draws comparisons to Baton Rouge shooting, outrage spreads amid protests.
While the proper investigations of each case will spin more slowly than the public can scroll its social media feeds, accuracy of information will be paramount.
The following roundup of links intends to illustrate a timeline of headlines regarding each case while also noting some of the news angles specific to each incident. Headlines are listed in chronological order based on available publishing times as listed on their respective sites.
Headlines from the Sterling case
The Washington Post: Video captures white Baton Rouge police officer fatally shooting black man (Note: graphic video)
The Washington Post: What you need to know about the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling
USA Today: Baton Rouge mourns Alton Sterling at vigil
The New York Times: Baton Rouge Is Passionate, and Peaceful, After Shooting of Alton Sterling
Headlines from the Castile case
Twin Cities Pioneer Press: Woman live-streams aftermath of boyfriend’s fatal shooting by police in Falcon Heights
Hip Hop DX: #PhilandoCastile: Man Dies In Falcon Heights Police Shooting Captured On Facebook Live (Note: graphic video)
The Washington Post: Bystander witnesses aftermath of Philando Castile’s shooting
The Tennessean: Police chief orders officer decommissioned after Facebook post
Media circus around awful shootings
As one may imagine, news outlets strive to find story angles that differentiate them from their competition. Simultaneously, they also seek angles likely to garner clicks, which pushes the envelope of relevance for covering matters as serious as these shootings.
Given that the Sterling case is slightly older and presents coverage of the Castile case a readily accessible association, headlines surrounding the Sterling case feature longer reaches for news value and more basis on which pundits can editorialize for their audiences.
Some of the more pulpy takes from the Sterling case include:
International Business Times: Cop Who Killed Alton Sterling Is White Donald Trump Supporter? Don’t Be Fooled By Internet Hoax
Detroit Free Press: Detroit sports celebrities weigh in on Alton Sterling shooting
You decide: Full dash-cam video of MWC police shooting by William W. Savage III