Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates & Trymaine Lee on Trayvon Martin

Between March 8 and April 11, Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates and Huffington Post reporter Trymaine Lee have produced an extensive body of coverage on Trayvon Martin. By my count, they have written nearly 60 entries concerning the Martin case, Coates with 32 entries, and Lee with 27 entries.

Following Coates's and Lee's writings have given me a broader sense of the key issues such as "Stand Young Ground" laws and the troubled racial history of Sanford police as well as background on key figures in the case. In addition, the writings by Coates and Lee have made me more aware of how black journalists can concentrate their energies on an topic and contribute to shaping the larger discourse.

Coates and Lee are hardly the only writers who have addressed the Martin case, but as two of a relatively small number of black journalists at high profile publications, their work gains expanded visibility and serves as a site for drawing large numbers of readers and commenters. So far, the comments sections for Coates's and Lee's writings contain thousands of responses.

Many of the more prominent African American commentators on the Martin case are columnists or "guest contributors" who provide primarily editorial comments about the case. Lee, on the other hand, provides reporting, based on journalist standards of objectivity, lack of strong opinionated claims, and quotations from multiple sources.

Coates's blog entries blend editorial and journalistic standards. Given his journalistic background, Coates regularly seeks out and identifies sources. He also works to facilitate a conversation (and display curiosity) by raising various questions to his readers, which encourage them to offer insight. Coates then engages with his readers in the comment section of his blog.

As the Martin case moves to a new stage with the recent arrest of George Zimmerman, I'm looking forward to their continued coverage. I'm also interested in what we can learn from the extensive work that they've already done.

A Notebook on the Trayvon Martin Case  

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