WATN, Local 24, had an interesting way of framing news about Cyntoia Brown's commuted life sentence.
Brown, the teenage sex trafficking victim who killed a john
when she was 16, was granted executive clemency Monday, January 7th.
Here's WATN's original tweet on the story:
Local 24 quietly deleted the tweet Tuesday, after it started receiving negative attention. The account has made no official mention of the deletion, nor has anybody accounted for the unfortunate framing of a tragic and complicated story.
Commissioner Tami Sawyer cuts to the heart of things:
Over the past week, MLK50 founder Wendi Thomas has been taking local broadcast stations to task for the huge role they play in linking African-Americans and criminality. She's been particularly vocal about the number of black faces linked to crime that show up in local social media feeds whether the news is local or not.
If you want to know just how disproportionately crime is reported in the Memphis market, the Memphis Flyer
does an occasional survey.
This isn't a condition unique to Memphis and since, at a national scale, local TV news stations reach more viewers than all the top cable stations combined, it's fair to say that regional broadcasters across America play a huge role in shaping urban narratives related to race and crime. Local 24's tweet is just the latest example, and an especially egregious one.
By deleting the tweet, someone has acknowledged its inappropriateness or, at least, the potential for controversy. But deletions like this require some accompanying public statement. For example, when WMC distanced itself from a deleted tweet reading: "Nashville is still trash," a subsequent tweet explained the deleted post didn't represent
the station's "values or views."
Whether there's an accounting or not, here's something to think about. Negligent and incendiary headlines and the over-association of black and brown faces with violent crime isn't new, and neither is criticism pointing it out. The people responsible for organizing and distributing the news in 2019 know exactly what they are doing. They do it anyway.