Friday, January 18, 2008
The media played key role covering civil rights era
By KEN ZHANG
(Ken Zhang was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2006-2007 school year.)
Today you watch the news, read the newspapers and magazines, and listen to the radio for news about what’s happening in your world right now. But imagine living in a country full of racism and hearing on the news about African Americans being murdered, arrested, ext. You might be appalled by this, living in a society of equal rights and even some people back them might fell the same, but most people back them would have not cared about African Americans and would look down on them. They separated whites and blacks in schools, public buses, businesses, ext. so eventually people both white and black began to fight back for African Americans to have equal rights in the civil rights movement which started because of the murder of Emmit Till.
Media played a huge part in the civil rights movement. It showed people at home how African Americans were being treated by white people and by the KKK. It‘ written “the civil rights movement played a crucial role in emerging production practices and self understanding of network information workers.” One of the first civil rights event covered by media was the case of the little rock nine because the national guard came in to take them to school as requested by the president at that time ( Torres Sasha; Black, White, and in Color Television and Black Civil Rights; copy right 2003; pg 15, pg 22 ).
The March on Washington was one of the rare civil rights events that effected the people who watched it. The extensive media that covered it were possible because before March, Martin Luther King Jr. had an interview with ABC and during that he argued that the events during the summer and spring the issues will be brought out in the open. Then over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondence from television networks covered the event ( Thomas III, William; Television News Civil Rights struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi; Southern Spaces; www.southernspaces.org/contents/2004/thomas/4f.htm ) and so many viewers at home watched and they were affected in some way by it ( March on Washington; www.waston.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/marchwas.html).
Many journalists and reporters risked their jobs and their lives in order to show the public the truth of the civil rights movement. In this essay I’m going to talk about three: John Chancellor ( NBC ), Dan Rather ( CBS ), and Jerry Mitchell.
John Chancellor of NBC covered the early civil rights movement like the Little Rock nine and the Emmit Till murder which caused the civil rights movement. He even gave up a newspaper career to cover the civil rights.
Another reporter that reported over the civil rights was Dan Rather on CBS. As a reporter of CBS news he was assigned to cover many stories on the events of the civil rights movement. He covered the story of Medgar Evers and his assassination later on. Then he also covered the death of Cheyney, Schwerner, and Goodman in the Mississippi Murders and the march on Selma along with the Memphis garbage workers strike. But his most privileged assignments was on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rather covered Martin Luther King Jr. during the march on Washington and was one of the prestigious few people who met Martin Luther King and listened to his moving “ I have a Dream “ speech. He even said he would like to have been his friend but he was reminded his only purpose is to let the American people see Martin Luther King and his work ( Covering The Civil Rights Movement, CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather Reflects; www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/03/30/civilrights/main6203.shtml ).
Last but not least is Jerry Mitchell who is a court reporter of The Clarion-Ledger. Then he went on to investigative reporting on The Clarion-Ledger to find evidence to the unsolved murders of the civil rights movement after he was inspired by the film Mississippi Burning which is about the Mississippi Murders of the three civil rights workers. He brought to justice four members of the Ku Klux Klan three of which were Bryon De La Beckwith, Edgar Ray Killen, and Bobby Frank Cherry. Edgar Ray Killen was guilty of committing the murders in Mississippi of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner in 1964. Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted of the bombing of the Birmingham church killing four little black girls that were in it. Bryon De La Beckwith was convicted for assassinating Medgar Evers. For all he did he received the John Chancellor Award for excellence in journalism ( John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism About the 2005 winner-Jerry Mitchell; www.jrn.columbia.edu/events/chancellor/jerry_mitchell.asp ).
That’s pretty much the main aspects of how the media affected the civil rights movement. If it weren’t for the media the public wouldn’t have cared about how harsh the African Americans were being treated. Many civil rights events that were broadcasted on national television like the March in Washington. Many reporters and journalists reported on the civil rights news and tried to inform the public of the ways African Americans were segregated. They showed the public their should be equal rights among all black and white Americans. Reporters like Jerry Mitchell opened the unsolved cases of the civil rights movement and convicted the suspects like the members of the Ku Klux Klan and other people. Cases like the Medgar Evers assassination which reporters like Dan Rather, Jerry Mitchell, and Claude Sitton ( New York Times ) covered. Claude Sitton even wrote three years after Medgar Evers assassination the description of his death: “ the snipers bullet struck him just below the right shoulder blade. The slug crashed through a front window of the home, penetrated an interior wall, ricocheted off a refrigerator and struck a coffee pot. The battered bullet was found beneath a watermelon on a kitchen cabinet. Evers staggered to the doorway, his keys in his hands and collapsed near the steps. His wife, Myrlie and their three children rushed to the door.” ( Talese, Gay; The Kingdom and the Power; copyright 1996; pg 171 ) They brought the message of the civil rights movement to the public helping the movement along until President Kennedy’s civil rights bill gave African Americans equal rights like white Americans in 1994 ending the civil rights movement.
(Photo: Claude Sitton of the New York Times interviews Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)