National Town Hall: Is there a double standard in media coverage of police shootings?

Ferguson: America Reacts, a national town hall. Photo: NewsChannel 8

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- How much of a factor was race in the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri?

That was one of the many questions talked about in the national town hall we invited to you to watch on Tuesday night.

You can watch that full town hall event on our website now.

Also a hot topic—how the national media covers stories of alleged police brutality.

Why are some cases covered for weeks while others are barely mentioned? Is there a double standard?

Why do media outlets double down on some stories like the one in Ferguson, while ignoring similar stories of alleged police brutality in other parts of the country?

Armstrong Williams says the executives at national news outlets ultimately make decisions about what gets covered.

"They create these images, they reinforce these images and they don't do it necessarily because they care," says Williams, a conservative commentator and broadcast entrepreneur.

"The reality is in mainstream media, the executive suite looks just like the Ferguson Police Department. So, one of the problems is when you have media coverage is how you cover it and what are the perspectives," says Roland Martin, a syndicated columnist.

But if viewers sat glued to their seats to watch events unfold in Ferguson, why wouldn't they do the same for a police shooting of an unarmed man in any other city, regardless of race?

The national media largely ignored that a minority police officer in Utah shot and killed Dylan Taylor, 20, an unarmed man who reportedly was half-white and half-Latino. Police will only say the officer was non-white.

That came just days after Darren Wilson, a white officer in Ferguson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

What made the difference?

John Watson, a journalism professor at American University, believes the media would cover more police shootings, including the one in Utah, if the racial profile matched Ferguson where a white police officer shot a black teenager.

"The demographics were not the same. This is not a community where there has been a long held perception by the majority that they are being policed or occupied by the police force," Watson says.