Looking at the News and Opinon Journalism in the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26, 2012

On February 26 2012, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed during an altercation with neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman while visiting his father in a gated community in Florida. Trayvon was unarmed, and Zimmerman was not immediately charged in the shooting, arguing that it was done in self-defense.

The story was first a very minor local news item, but later exploded into a huge national story after Martin’s parents started an online petition calling for their son’s killer to be prosecuted. The story has reignited a national debate on racial and cultural issues around the crime.

See relevant media clips and lessons that connect News Literacy concepts to the reporting of the story below.

News Literacy Lesson Connections:

  • Lesson 4: Know Your Neighborhood — There are different types of information: Advertising, Publicity, Propaganda, Entertainment, Infotainment, Raw Information, and News
  • Lesson 6: News or Opinon: License to Kill? — There is a wall that exists between News and Opinion Journalism
  • Lesson 8: Truth, and Verification — Truth is provisional — and may change based on evidence presented at the time of the report.
    • Which makes it crucial to follow a story over time.


Lesson Guiding Questions:

    • During the Trayvon Martin case, what pieces of verifiable evidence were presented at the outset?
    • What conclusions could you make from the first two video stories below, before the opinon journalists started to comment?
    • What does the opinon journalist add to the conversation about Trayvon Martin and his death?



One of the first media reports of the Trayvon Martin shooting from CBS 3/8/12 (3:15)

Further details on the case from ABC (2:39)

Geraldo Rivera speaks on the shooting, citing the Mr. Martin’s clothing as the prime reason to arousing suspicion of his actions (01:43) Geraldo Rivera speaks on the shooting, regarding the response of community leaders to this shooting compared to others (0:37)


Lesson Plans


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