Sometimes the best policing of mainstream media comes from social media. TMZ’s headline for Marion Barry’s death reading “MARION BARRY CRACK MAYOR DEAD AT 78,” has created a stir.
Yes Barry did battle substance demons at one point doing his life. However, its easily argued that his positive contributions to politics, the city of Washington D.C. and its citizens overshadows Barry’s challenges by substances and alcohol. Most importantly at the time of his death, Barry was not a Mayor and as far anyone knows was not using crack.
When you die would you like to be defined by the worst mistake you made in your life, or the positive contributions you made to family friends and society?
TMZ’s headline is also characteristic of some of the biased or just plain wrong reporting some media outlets have been accused of engaging in.
Barry, was plagued by prostate cancer and diabetes in his late age. The 78-year-old four-term mayor and three-term councilman also received a liver transplant in 2009, which may have been a factor in his death. While Barry, nicknamed “Mayor For Life”, did have a well-publicized battle with substance abuse, that represented just one element of his legacy.
So is TMZ’s tasteless announcement of Barry’s death, a gaffe, click bait, or biased in nature? I lean toward the latter.
Double-standards along racial lines in the media are nothing new. Just this year many called foul on the use of the word “robbery” as oppose to the word “shoplifting” after a convenience store video was released by Ferguson police showing Michael Brown stealing cigars. During Katrina many opposed the overuse of the word ‘looters’ to describe victims of the hurricane who raided shuttered stores for food and other survival necessities. And how can we forget the famous elevator “fight” between Beyonce’s sister Solange and Jay-Z.
The takeaway here is we should start scrutinizing the way the media feeds our intelligence. Headlines like the one in question contribute to the growing number of malnourished minds among us.