As the trial of George Zimmerman, the man accused of fatally shooting teenager Trayvon Martin, nears its start, Sanford, Fla., may soon resemble Orlando during the Casey Anthony trial.
But as the media maelstrom descends, the question arises as to what role journalists play in covering court proceedings for fair trials to take place.
The high-profile case garnered much national attention as discussions about racial prejudices and stereotypes were pushed to the center stage, and outlets scrambling for ratings bring out the most sensational aspects of news stories. Zimmerman, who was accused of shooting of the hoodie-wearing, black teenager with seemingly little reason, became the object of much speculation.
While important, sensitive dialogue is necessary, facts and circumstances surrounding alleged crimes — regardless of how heinous they may be — are to be left to be interpreted by the judicial system, not the Nancy Graces and Bill O’Reillys of the world.
The media’s role in covering court trials is an important one in holding the justice system accountable, but the media should not obfuscate the role of the justice system and play a role in determining the outcome of a trial.
When jurors are selected, they are to know minimal information about a case — something close to impossible in a world in which television and social media permeate most daily interactions.
With cases involving high-profile trials such as Jodi Arias’, in which every potential theory and scenario was reenacted on news networks such as CNN and HLN, excessive coverage is not only unnecessary but potentially a threat to the justice system.
Media outlets have built their ratings around news cycles of sensationalism, but this leaves little room for the justice system to complete fair trials.
During the Zimmerman trial, though much has already been decided upon, the media plays an important role in facilitating important dialogue, but it must balance its responsibility in allowing both the prosecution and defense a fair trial.
Divya Kumar is a junior majoring in mass communications and economics.