MARC H. MORIAL

MARC H. MORIAL

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—“The brutality with which officials would have quelled the Black individual became impotent when it could not be pursued with stealth and remain unobserved. It was caught—as a fugitive from a penitentiary is often caught—in gigantic circling spotlights. It was imprisoned in a luminous glare revealing the naked truth to the whole world.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1955, Jet Magazine and the Chicago Defender published photographs of Emmett Till’s mutilated corpse, igniting international interest in the American Civil Rights Movement. Defender reporter Mattie Colin, who covered the return of the teenager’s body to Chicago, captured his mother’s anguish in her poignant articles:

“Oh, God, Oh God, my only boy,” Mrs. Mamie (Till) Bradley wailed as five men lifted a soiled paper-wrapped bundle from a brown, wooden mid-Victorian box at the Illinois Central Station in Chicago Friday and put it into a waiting hearse. The bundle was the bruised and bullet-ridden body of little 14-year-old Emmett L. Till of Chicago, who had been lynched down in Money, Mississippi.

For many in the north, the brutality of the Jim Crow-era south was an abstract and distant concept. Reporters like Mamie Colin made it horrifyingly real. And no one dared demean it by calling it “fake news.”

Friction between the White House and the journalists tasked with holding officials to account is part of a healthy democracy. But recent concerted efforts to delegitimize the news media are destructive and demoralizing. Among the low points of the recent presidential campaign were the vicious attacks on individual reporters which were a regular part of some rallies.  White House press conferences, which should be a source of lively give-and-take, have devolved into ad hominem attacks.

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