As Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times, it took nearly a month for the killing of Trayvon Martin to become national news. But according to a new study the Trayvon Martin case has taken over mainstream news, becoming the first story of the year to get more coverage than the race for the president.
As attention to the story surged, the focus within these three parts of our media culture varied greatly, according to a special report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. On Twitter, the conversation has focused on sympathy for the slain teenager and expressions of outrage at the killing. On blogs, the emphasis has been on the role of race in the highly charged case. In the mainstream media, the Trayvon Martin controversy was heavily a cable news and talk radio story. And there, the primary discussion has focused on two politically oriented issues-gun control laws and the Florida Stand Your Ground statute, which gives citizens the right to use deadly force when they believe they are being threatened.
Moreover, the Martin story has been a much bigger story on MSNBC, whose talk show hosts are liberal, and a much smaller story on Fox, whose prime time lineup leans conservative. The focus of the discussion differs as well. Conservative talkers paid the most attention to questions about who Martin is and to the defense of the man who pulled the trigger, George Zimmerman. Liberal hosts focused primarily on gun control and the Florida law.
While all three sectors of media were suddenly focused on the same event their focus varied. Blogs had a lot to with the role of race being part of the story.
On Twitter, the conversation focused heavily on calls for justice (21% of the statements about the case) and sympathy for the victim and his family (19%). Together those two themes made up 40% of all the discussion about the case, which included millions of tweets on the subject over the 11 days since it became a major story, according to the report.