Tell Her Story

I am a journalist. I am a writer. Before anything, however, I am a black woman; and because of all three I have a responsibility to Aiyana Jones.

As a journalist I sometimes want to throw in the towel. After reading News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcast by Bonnie Anderson, and Jill Nelson’s Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience, I applied for graduate journalism programs. Initially I set out to change the world through media. Over time I’ve become more dissatisfied and critical of the white male dominated media (according to American Society of News Editors minorities only make up 13% of the population in newsrooms across the nation).

Around 12:30 a.m. Sunday night, 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was shot and killed when a bullet from a Detroit police officer’s gun struck her in the neck.  Police were at the home to serve a warrant for a suspect in a homicide; but the warrant was for the wrong address causing them to enter the wrong home. The facts surrounding the case are still sketchy. But there is one commonality expressed by many on blogs and social media sites.  People are asking why mainstream media coverage has been bare minimum.

A pretty white girl goes missing and it is breaking news covered on every news channel for several days to follow. Don’t believe me? Any of these names ring a bell: Lacie Peterson, Jon Benet Ramsey, Kelsey Smith, Elizabeth Smart, Natalie Holloway, Taylor Behl or Dru Sjodin? But a black girl is dead due to a raid by the police department and there’s silence.

Where is the same amount of coverage for Aiyana Jones that was dedicated to Natalie Holloway and countless others?

Sunday when the news about Aiyana Jones circulated via Twitter I was heartbroken. Still am. As a journalist I want to give the media the benefit of the doubt. ‘Maybe the circumstances surrounding the untimely death have caused mainstream media to pump its brakes until all facts are lucid,’ I said. Unfortunately, reality set in only seconds later. History has proved the media’s constant neglect of the murdered and missing black girls.

Since Sunday I have searched the internet high and low only to find the same Associated Press story recycled and posted. Talk about the new wave of journalism. Where was the research, sources, angle and fact checking; you know, the things that journalism are composed of?

Certainly I am not above giving credit where it is due. Print media hands down has done a far better job of “reporting” this story than cable news networks. Monday I flipped between CNN, MSNBC and Fox News channels for at least two hours. Not one story about Aiyana. Here it is Tuesday at 6:46 p.m. and I am watching the first news story of her death on CNN.

It is not by accident CNN chose to lead the story with the police departments’ allegation of an altercation with the grandmother, which they are claiming caused the gun to accidentally fire. Furthermore, word phrases like  “crime ridden neighborhood” were present throughout the brief piece. Any consumer of news understands why this may sway viewers toward a biased opinion; and it is telling of how the media typically covers cases dealing with minorities. In particular a case where the police department was careless, hence resulting in the murder of a child.

One would expect the media to embrace this opportunity to be a voice of a people it so often neglects. After all, isn’t that the function of journalism?

African-Americans have detested the negative depictions, marginalization and criminalization of them in the media for decades. Why not counter that view by ceasing more positive stories of blacks,or at least covering the stories that exist? Aiyana Jones was another failed attempt by the media to alter the belief held by many African-Americans -the media does not care.

One thing that is undeniably true is that a child has been murdered by the bullet of an officer of the law. That within itself is newsworthy.

Do not let Aiyana’s death be in vain. She deserves justice; and the media’s job is to at least tell her story.

  • Malika

    you are so right, and no one even heard the story of Mitrice Richardson.

  • agnes-julie

    i fully agree
    im 23 white n living in vienna
    pls check my fb
    agnes-julie martin

  • Evette Dionne

    Forgive the late comment. I’m just stumbling on this blog.

    Bené, reading this invoked a real fire in me because I completely understand. I chose to enter the journalism/writing/media profession because I wanted to use words and images to uplift and inspire marginalized communities. Whether they are African Americans, oppressed Somalians, or sexually abused women in Egypt and New York, I want to use words to inspire them to break free from the chains keeping them from living their dreams.

    But often, I’m discouraged. I know that what I write matters and I know that black women writers and media figures have the power to be influential. Ask Oprah, Alice Walker, and Debra Lee.

    But when the media blatantly disregards and excludes groups of people, including African American women and children, or paints black men as villians, it perturbs me. It angers me. Gets under my rather thick skin; I attempt to dig my nails into the root of the problem to dig toward a solution, but to no avail. Media still ignores, excludes, and oppresses.

    At the same time, situations like this remind me of why black journalists and media personalities are SO important. Without us, nobody would tell Aiyana, Shaniya, and even, Trayvon’s stories. Their deaths would be in vain. Thanks for remembering them. Thanks for writing!