Police shootings continue to take place across the country, and it’s a challenge every time they occur for media outlets to figure out how they are going to report the story. When the latest incident and its aftermath happened Tuesday evening in Charlotte, North Carolina, it became the leading news item on Wednesday morning. Juxtaposed.media’s comparison shows just how complicated it is to cover from all angles. From the headlines to the use of the shooting victim’s name, Keith Lamont Scott, the choices made by each outlet create different insights and angles into the story. Here’s the link to the juxtaposition on the Charlotte police shooting story.
USA Today focused on the immediate reaction with its headline: “Charlotte police shooting ignites violent protests.” By using the words, “police shooting,” the newspaper sticks with a major topic that continues to resonate so deeply. It is as factual as possible without intentional bias, and it reflects an increased level of urgency with “ignites violent protests.”
To other outlets, there are other crucial details to report right away.
Reuters drives home the racial element: that it was a black man killed by police that let to the protests. The outlet’s story image caption reveals the incident that led to the unrest. CNN takes it a step further, reporting that Scott wasn’t the original target of the police. MSNBC’s headline focuses on the police explanation for why the shooting occurred, claiming Scott was “an imminent threat.” These headlines and captions quickly peel back the layers of the news and demonstrate the depth of the story.
But numbers also appeal to editors and headline writers, even if they also show bias in how a story is reported. Instead of the police shooting, the FOX News and Politico stories in the comparison lead with the 12 police officers injured in the ensuing protests. Only FOX News mentions in its headline that the injuries came after the police were involved in the death of a black man.
The number 12 draws attention, as media outlets always find it difficult to resist casualty counts. In this case, FOX News and Politico also appear more sympathetic to the plight of the police than to the original victim.
It is clear that USA Today very much wants to avoid appearing sympathetic, yet in reporting Scott’s name, it put the human face on this latest tragedy.