Martin Luther King And Mass Media

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Martin Luther King And Mass Media


Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Mass Media
Martin Luther King Jr. was a very significant and influential man. Though his life was cut short at 39 years old, he left a big mark on today's society. From the Prayer Pilgrimage of May 17, 1957, an event and a date that marked King's entrée into the field of national Negro leadership to the unforgettable March on Washington. (Bennett 10) King was determined to reach his goal, which was to have blacks and whiter united and treated equally.
King was faced with many obstacles, including the press. At first, there was hardly any print about King's events and protests. When the events did get recognition King's name wasn't mentioned at all. Not until many years later when the protests sparked violence and death was King's name mentioned and even then, it was used in negative way.
In this paper, I will discuss how the news magazines Time, Newsweek, and the U.S. News went about distorting, neglecting, and eventually praising King and his events.
In order to help understand the Civil Rights Movement and it controversy you have to start at the beginning.
On the way home from work as a seamstress Mrs. Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery City Line bus. When asked to give up her seat for a white passenger Rosa Parks refused. The bus driver left his seat and summoned the police. The police officer arrested Rosa Parks for violating the cities segregation ordinances. ( Bennett 59) Rosa Parks arrest sparked a one-day boycott that stretched out to 382 days. That event started the Civil Rights movement and changed the spirit of Martin Luther Kings, Jr.
Time magazine was the first of the newsmagazines to pick up the story of the bus boycott. (Lentz 26) Newsweek didn't print the story until five months after it happened. In addition, not until then did King's name was mentioned by it or Time.
Neither King nor the cause grabbed the attention of U.S. News & World Report. What they did report was how disturbed the southerners were over the population shift in Montgomery that seemed to be leading to black control. (Lentz 28 ) With the bus boycott in full swing merchants were loosing millions of dollars and white housewives were having to drive their black maids around, whose services they didn't want to loose. With people, complaining the Montgomery government stepped in. While the court was scheduled to hear the city governments petition to stop the bus boycott, the Supreme Court stepped in.
A message came down form the Supreme Court striking down the motion that the bus segregation ordinance as unconstitutional. When this was heard a joyful bystander stated God Almighty has spoken from Washington D.C. (Lentz 31)
After King's victory, there was almost nothing in Newsweek and Time. Not until 382 days after the bus boycott began, did Time and Newsweek report on the event. Both magazines predicted that the black victory would be accepted by whites. (Lentz 31) This later proved untrue. Snipers fired shots at buses and the homes of black ministers were bombed, as were black churches.
Kings first arrest after trying to enter a crowed courtroom where another Negro integration leader was testifying put his face in Newsweek. A photograph showing policeman handling King roughly, appeared in Newsweek. The caption noted Alabama arrests a Negro minister on a loitering charge. (Lucaitis 27) Not even mentioning Kings name.
In the late summer of 1962, King decided to launch a series of demonstrations in Birmingham. The demonstrations lead to wide spread violence. White police officers with K-9 dogs invaded the march and arrests were made. King was one of the demonstrators arrested.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report would find themselves forced to write about the events in Birmingham. U.S. News would be forced into the all-together awkward position of having to account for the brutal and open violence black demonstrators, especially children, that the entire world had seen.(Lentz 78)
Time and Newsweek would recall the Birmingham campaign as a crusade for freedom. (Lentz 78) When reporting about Birmingham, Newsweek entertained doubts. The journal chose terms, siege, army, generals, and recruiting troops, -that spoke of invasion and military.

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