Media Takes Sides on Zimmerman Decision

After continual media coverage of the George Zimmerman trial in the shooting of Trayvon Martin and more than 16 hours of deliberation by the jury, Zimmerman was acquitted of charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter over the weekend.

Since the shooting occurred last year, the case has been heavily followed by the media, with some outlets taking clear, strong stances. Now that the not-guilty verdict has been announced, some publications are being even more outspoken on the matter. We looked at a wide array of news organizations to analyze each publication’s own verdict of the case.

Publication: National Review

Article: “A Just Verdict” by National Review editors

Verdict: By the headline, it’s fairly obvious that National Review agrees with the jury’s verdict of Zimmerman being not guilty. It doesn’t take long for the article to confirm that. In the lede, the editors write “of this we are glad: People in America are still tried in the courts rather than by left-wing protesters or by the media.”

Other National Review headlines on the trial:

“Injudicious Criminal Justice in Florida” by John Fund

“Holder Revives Bogus Civil-Rights Investigation Against Zimmerman” by Andrew C. McCarthy

“Defense Witnesses: Zimmerman is the One Screaming on 9-1-1 Call” by Dimitrios Halikias


Publication: The Atlantic

Article: “Trayvon Martin And The Irony Of American Justice” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Verdict: Though it takes a while for Coates to make his point, after quoting Florida’s self-defense statute and instructions to the jury, the senior editor takes the side of Martin supporters who disagree with the jury’s decision. Coates cites the “criminalization of Martin across the country,” slavery white leagues and a number of other things as evidence that “American policy has placed black people outside of the law.” Instead of blaming the jury, however, Coates argues that the legal system is unbalanced and that based on the evidence presented in court, the jury made a fair decision.

Other Atlantic headlines:

“Stay Classy Robert Zimmerman” by Coates

“The Zimmerman Trial and the Meaning of Verdicts” by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

“Law and Justice and George Zimmerman” by Andrew Cohen


Publication: Slate

Article: “Zimmerman’s Not Guilty. But Florida Sure Is.” by Emily Bazelon

Verdict: Similar to Coates, Bazelon paints Zimmerman as guilty, but says it was the fault of Florida laws that he was found not guilty. Bazelon starts her story with “It feels wrong, this verdict of not guilty for George Zimmerman” before moving into an explanation of Florida law that states a person “who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked” has no duty to retreat. That, Bazelon argues, was a key part of the not-guilty decision by the verdict. Bazelon also says she had hoped Zimmerman would be found guilty on charges of manslaughter.

Other Slate headlines:

“The Newest Trayvon Martin Race-Baiting Theory from the Right” by David Weigle

“George Zimmerman Is Probably Going To Walk, and That’s Not a Bad Thing” by Justin Peters

“NAACP Calls on Department of Justice to File Civil Rights Charges Against Zimmerman” by Daniel Politi

“Demonstrations Erupt Across the Country to Protest Zimmerman Acquittal”

Publication: The Daily Caller

Article: “Zimmerman acquitted, locals react” by Chuck Ross

Verdict: Ross manages to refrain from taking an obvious stance on the not-guilty decision, but by the quotes and details used, it becomes apparent that he agrees with the jury’s decision. For instance he includes the fact that “[special prosecutor Angela] Corey stared down The Daily Caller as she was asked why she charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder” while including quotes from defense counsel Don West saying that “the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful.”

Other Daily Caller headlines:

“The Nation: ‘White supremacy led to acquittal of Hispanic George Zimmerman” by Kaite McHugh

“Weiner takes Zimmerman verdict hard on Twitter, but where are the nude pics?” by Eric Owens

“New Black Panther hopes Zimmerman is killed in prison” by Ross

“MoveOn and NAACP pushed Holder to look into civil rights case against Zimmerman” by Patrick Howley

Publication: Politico

Article: “President Obama on George Zimmerman verdict: ‘A jury has spoken’” by Juana Summers

Verdict: To give Politico credit, its focus on the trial was almost primarily through the lens of politics, unlike some other politics-focused publications who ran extended coverage of the trial and often seem to lose focus of their target coverage (we’re looking at you, Daily Caller). Though Summers’ article focused mostly on responses from Washington politicos, quotes used were almost exclusively, except for Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), going against the ruling of the verdict and calling it a failure of the justice system, giving the appearance that it is an almost universal feeling in Washington.

Other Politico headlines:

“Right blogs slam Obama statement on Zimmerman trial” by Hadas Gold

“Gingrich, Jones on Zimmerman” by Gold

“Sharpton plans Zimmerman Protests” by Tal Kopan

“W.H. Petitions press from civil-rights case vs. Zimmerman” by Kopan

“Zimmerman Trial expands deep divide” by Joe Scarborough


Publication: HuffPost

Article: “George Zimmerman Not Guilty: Jury Lets Trayvon Martin Killer Go” by Jermaine Spradley

Verdict: The headline doesn’t try to hide HuffPost’s feeling about the decision. Spradley points out previous accusations against Zimmerman for domestic violence, assaulting a police officer and sexual molestation and assault, as well as an accusation that his family was “proudly racist against African Americans.” The article also mentions Martin’s Twitter page, which had profanities and photos of fake gold teeth, as well as Martin’s tattoos and hoodies, which, “to some,” indicate he was “something other than an innocent teenage boy.” Spradley then concludes, however, that “to others, the attention paid to Martin’s tattoos, gold teeth and hoodie were symptomatic of the same kind of stereotyping and profiling that led to Zimmerman’s assumption that the teen was up to no good.”

Other HuffPost headlines:

“George Zimmerman Acquittal: How Are You Coping With The Outcome?”

“Petitions Demanding Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman Draw 250,000 Signatures” by Nick Wing

“Robert Zimmerman Jr: ‘What Makes People Angry Enough To Attack The Way Trayvon Did?’” by Spradley


Publication: The Nation

Article: “White Supremacy Acquites George Zimmerman” by Aura Bogado

Verdict: The story’s headline illustrates exactly what Bogado’s point is: it was no surprise that Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury in which five of the six jurors were white. Bogado identifies Thomas Jefferson not as a founding father, but as a “slave-owning rapist” and said Zimmerman’s counsel questioned at witness Rachel Jeantel “as if she was taking a Jim Crow-era literacy test.” Many media reports say that race was not a factor in the courtroom, but was very much prevalent in social media and media coverage, and Bogado’s article is a prime example. She does dismiss the white-Hispanic label that much of the media put on Zimmerman, acknowledging that he was indeed “not white,” but that his ideology “adheres to white supremacy.”

Other Nation headlines:

“‘America’s Justice System Is a Joke’: Athletes Respond to Trayvon Martin Verdict” by Dave Zirin

“Animating Black Bodies” by Bogado

“As Feds Review Martin Case, NAACP Seeks DOJ Action and Targets State ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws” by John Nichols