Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Congresswoman: Coverage of Los Angeles Trials Should Be Illuminating, Not Polarizing

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Congresswoman: Coverage of Los Angeles Trials Should Be Illuminating, Not Polarizing

Article excerpt

NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF the black community has improved a bit since last year's Los Angeles riots, but Rep. Maxine Waters fears the media will "seek to polarize and sensationalize, rather than illuminate and inform" in their reporting of two upcoming trials with racial overtones.

The black Democratic congresswoman from Los Angeles expressed her concern at the California Newspaper Publishers Convention in San Jose (Feb. 1143). Her reference was to the federal trial of four L.A. police officers in the beating of Rodney King and the case of three black youths accused of mauling a white truck driver at the height of the unrest. Jury selection has started in the police trial, and the other trial is scheduled to start in March.

Appearing on a panel, "Can We [newspapers] Take the Heat?" Waters, a sometimes controversial spokeswoman for the African-American community during and after the upheaval, suggested that the media miss the real point when asking her to comment on the possibility of another riot over jury verdicts or if she believes there can be a "fair trial?'

"What we want is justice... and serious attention paid to the frustration, alienation and hopelessness that fuel urban unrest" she said. "Just gaining fair trials won't solve anything in our community -- for that we need resources and in-depth reporting of our communities' plight.

"Everybody wants to ask me about the next rebellion but precious few want to hear about my 'Urban Agenda' for community-based public works projects, job training opportunities and community banking to boost investment in SouthCentral L.A?'

Waters put most of the blame for alleged bad reporting of the riot on television, although she scored all news organizations for playing up "black-on-white violence" while underplaying the fact that 25 of the reported deaths were African-Americans, 19 were Latinos and 10 were Anglos. …

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