This week in lab for J2150, we were shown an article from FARK.com about a white grandfather who was babysitting his black granddaughter. The article was titled, “Austin Police release surveillance video of ‘babysitting while white’ incident.”
There are two big ideas that I want to hit on in regards to this story. The first is that why was a call made in the first place to the police? The second is to realize how important and critical the use of social media, like blogs, have become in making news stories what they are today.
It seems that a few different arguments have been made about the subject of this article and if it’s really about racism or not. One viewpoint you could take is that this is blatantly racism. An older white man and a young black girl stick out when together as not normal. Why was the call made it the first place? Was it because Scott Henson was chasing a little girl into the woods, or was it because he was chasing a black little girl into the woods? Would the person who called in the incident have still made the call if the little girl was white? I thought that at this day in age, racism had cooled off, but that’s quite a mistake.
But the other argument is that this incident wasn’t about racism at all, but truly was about a citizens concern for the safety of a child. You can think that not matter what the race of the child is, somebody who witnessed this event would have called the police for the protection of the little girl. It’s unfortunate that the only evidence we have is what actually happened, not any answers to “what if” questions. Please, tell me if you think this whole ordeal should have happened in the first place. Personally, I’m a bit torn about the answer.
The other part of this story that I wanted to address is how the use of social media by the public added to the escalation of this story. Scott Henson’s personal blog, gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com, discusses the criminal justice system in Texas. I think it’s important to notice that major coverage of this story regarding Henson was partially due to the comments he made in his blog. It’s interesting to see how journalism has transformed from the way it was even just a few years ago, before people kept personal blogs and could be their own reporter. There’s a lot more information journalists have access to these days to turn into a story because of blogs, Facebook, twitter and many other forms of social media. When do you think journalism was “better”, with or without the extensive use of social media? Do you think the job of a journalist has become easier or harder?