When mainstream media fails, seek other sources

The public was blanketed with coverage of Casey Anthony’s trial, but not Troy Davis’.

Tiffany Trawick

On Sept. 21, 2011, Troy Davis was executed in the state of Georgia after being convicted for the murder of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. The trial caused a lot of uproar and controversy for various reasons surrounding the case including the fact that Troy Davis was a black man being charged for the killing of white cop in Georgia, the debate surrounding the morality of the death penalty, and the remaining question of whether Davis was even guilty. What struck me by surprise was that many people hadnâÄôt heard anything about this case until just hours before his execution. I did not hear about the trial and the controversy until the day that Davis was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. How is it that I, an African American student at the University of Minnesota, had no former knowledge of a trial this controversial that had been going on for 22 years?

Talking to other students, many of them had the same sentiments. Brittany Lynch, a senior at the University and president of the student group Voices Merging, responded in the same way: âÄúI wasnâÄôt aware of the trial until it was too late.âÄù Lynch talked about how she found out about the case only a couple of days before the execution, through two text message updates sent to her phone from CNN over the course of two days. She compared this case to the Casey Anthony trial from which she said she received numerous text updates daily. âÄúItâÄôs amazing to me how this trial was on TV every single day, every single news channel was covering it. No way you couldnâÄôt know about it.âÄù

TJay Middlebrook, senior at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and another member of Voices Merging, was also quick to draw a parallel between the Troy Davis and the Casey Anthony trials, âÄúI thought the case was not covered well compared to the Casey Anthony case. To me it seems like the media was just brushing over the last moments when [the Troy Davis Trial] became intense.âÄù

The media simply did not inform the public about the Troy Davis case until it was too late for the public to have an impactful reaction. However, though the media may have its own agendas and priorities regarding what it wants the public to be informed about, there is still a certain responsibility that must be placed on the people to inform themselves. 

My initial reaction to the case was to blame the media for not adequately informing the public about something I felt was important enough to be addressed. However, after engaging with other students about this issue, I realized that we simply could not depend on the mainstream media to properly inform us about issues that matter.

As Victoria Oyewole, a junior at the University said, âÄúNews is face-value âĦ the media doesnâÄôt want you to think.âÄù

For this reason we canâÄôt rely primarily on popular media to be informed. More than ever, there is a plethora of other resources available to us, especially as students. We must learn to take advantage of these different sources of information for, as we have seen, popular media simply wonâÄôt tell us everything.

The problem I think a lot of us run into is that the resources we need arenâÄôt right  in front of us.Sources such as Fox News or CNN which are there at the click of a remote, but better, more informative sources are harder to find. However, there are many sources of information that lie closer than we think.

Regarding the Troy Davis case, Middlebrook said, âÄúIt could easily be Googled. ThatâÄôs what I did and thatâÄôs how I knew [about it].âÄù The Internet has many quick and easy ways to get information, whether itâÄôs through Google News, following politicians or activists on Twitter or even subscribing to a blog that keeps you updated on social and political issues. There are many strains of alternative media that are underpublicized yet can keep us in the know far better than most news networks. We just need to take the time to find them.  âÄúAs people, we need to be more informed of whatâÄôs happening on the state level, the national level, and the global level,âÄù Lynch said.

Not only is it our responsibility to gain such knowledge, but it is also our responsibility to share. Lynch said, âÄúAs students, we do have more resources, and therefore more responsibility to share the knowledge and information with others. WeâÄôre in the perfect environment to do this.âÄù

 This is very true; at the University of Minnesota we have many ways to access information outside of only the media which is readily available to the public:  libraries, classes and engagement with instructors and other students. The University also gives us countless opportunities to share this information, whether itâÄôs through creating student groups, passing out flyers, talking to professors or any number of other methods we must take advantage of the platforms the University gives us. ItâÄôs not enough to be passive; you need to get involved, to plug yourself in.

In this way, not only are we more informed, but we can keep each other informed.  Oyewole made this same point: âÄúIt is popular to be ignorant, but just because you donâÄôt know shouldnâÄôt mean you donâÄôt want to know.âÄù  Just because the media doesnâÄôt spoon feed us all of the information that is most relevant to our lives doesnâÄôt mean that we shouldnâÄôt care to find out for ourselves.

There is power in knowledge. But we can only know if we search for sources beyond the popular media, beyond what we see on TV. This is our moral responsibility as citizens.

In the Troy Davis case, the saddest outcome of the public being unaware was that there was no time to rise up and make a difference. And this is the most important reason why we need to be on the quest for knowledge, not just for our own sake, but also for the sake of others.