Over the weekend, Chicago CBS-affiliate WBBM apologized for misquoting a black 4-year-old boy and making him out to be a future thug.
It all started out when a freelancer was shooting video interviews at a crime scene and met the child, who was standing nearby when a drive-by shooting took place. In the news segment, the child tells a reporter that such shootings don’t scare him and that, when he grows up, “I’m going to have me a gun.” But it turns out the station left out a key part of the story.
The Maynard Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to training journalists of color, transcribed the conversation between the cameraman and the boy as broadcasted by WBBM:
Boy: “I’m not scared of nothing.”
Reporter: “When you get older are you going to stay away from all these guns?”
What are you going to do when you get older?”
Boy: “I’m going to have me a gun!”
Bartelstein ended the story saying, “that was scary indeed.”
However, an unedited version of the interview shows the boy’s words were taken completely out of context. It turns out he wants a gun because he wants to become a police officer.
Gawker.com has published the station’s apology:
We accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made, both in the reporting and editing of the story. The video of the child should not have aired. As soon as news management identified the problem, they took immediate steps to ensure that the video would not air in subsequent newscasts. In addition, we have followed up with our employees to make sure that we all have learned from the mistakes that were made.
Boyce D. Watkins, a professor and columnist, writes that it’s easy to dismiss this incident as a simple mistake, “but it’s much deeper than we might think” because of how black men are portrayed in the media already. Watkins goes provides another local black figure who’s famous for being misquoted:
Even more challenging is the frustration that millions of educated, hard working, law abiding black men feel when the world typecasts us as being less than human. This little boy is already growing up in a city, Chicago, where a brilliant and hard-working man by the name of Rev. Jeremiah Wright had his 40-year legacy crippled by a Fox News sound bite that presented him to be the kind of unpatriotic, hateful black man that Fox News loves to present to its audience.
In the video posted above, Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, called the edits in the video “disturbing.” Jealous, who’s also a former journalist, went on to say it’s important to tell the whole truth because “when you’re telling half the truth, you’re in effect lying.”