Award-winning Poynter Institute journalist discusses media’s role in covering controversial stories

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s concerned about the media manufacturing division all the time. He said this in response to coverage of a flyover at TIAA Bank field Sunday with a banner that said, “put monuments back.”

We understand the concern of intentionally spreading conflict or stories people disagree on. Ultimately, The Poynter Institute says, it’s about how the media executes it and the context around it.

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a nonprofit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Florida.

On Sunday, the news covered a flyover that had a Confederate flag and a banner that read “put monuments back.”

RELATED: TIAA Bank Field becoming a place for protest messages

Tuesday, DeSantis was asked about the stadium becoming a place for protest. He says the media is responsible.

“I’m concerned about people in the media trying to manufacture division all the time. I’m concerned when people in the media - take some jabroni that no one cares about and will try to elevate them and make them some type of celebrity,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s totally wrong to tar an entire city, an entire region as somehow they’re engaged in hate. That’s not true.”

When this story broke about the flyover, News4JAX talked about Jacksonville’s history with removing Confederate monuments. We interviewed the people responsible for it and read statements from city leaders.

Al Tompkins, with The Poynter Institute, says the governor is right about it being the media’s responsibility.

“He’s probably making a point that a lot of people would agree with,” Tompkins said. “And that is to say, just because somebody says something controversial doesn’t make them newsworthy. However, it doesn’t automatically mean we’re not going to cover that because they’re controversial, if what they’re saying is, has some news value and as a voice that needs to be heard, deserves to be heard, then let’s hear them.”

Tompkins said the media should limit or alter how to use offensive content. He gave the example of media outlets that stopped playing the video of George Floyd’s murder.

The flyover is one example of displays at the stadium where free speech is being exercised.

“The question is, just because it’s free speech doesn’t mean that it’s newsworthy. You have a right to say what you want to say, to an extent, but you don’t have a right to be on the news,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins added that we must tolerate a certain amount of disruption to enable free speech. He says the objective should be minimizing harm while still not compromising the truth.


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A Florida girl and North Carolina A&T SU grad who thrives in breaking news.