On February 26th, Trayvon Martin (17 years old) was killed by George Zimmerman (28 years old) during what some may describe as an altercation. Zimmerman, who called 911 to report a suspicious individual, admitted to killing Martin in self-defense. The Sanford Police Department came under public scrutiny after no official arrest was made of George Zimmerman. Even more recently residents of the subdivision, plus 911 calls have been released that call into question the accounts from that night and the police department’s investigation.
In belief that everyone has the right to a trial by their peers, an assumption will not be made on this blog as to whether or not George Zimmerman is in the wrong for his actions. The purpose of this blog post is to review the letter written by Robert Zimmerman (George Zimmerman’s father) which was released to and posted by the Orlando Sentinel. This attempt to address the media is a good example of the importance of using appropriate words during a crisis (Crisis Communication).
Below is a copy of the letter where we are striking through words and providing suggestions in parenthesis as if this were a draft from Robert Zimmerman awaiting Above Promotions Company’s approval before sending to the media. To view the full and exact account of the letter, please visit the Orlando Sentinel’s article. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/os-trayvon-martin-shooting-zimmerman-letter-20120315,0,1716605.story)
“The tragic event
s (One event-The shooting. If George Zimmerman had been arrested, then a possible second event would have occurred. If it was revealed George had a mental episode, it would be a third event. Make this singular.) of February 26 are (is) very sad for all concerned. The Martin family, our family, and the entire community have been forever changed.
The portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that led to the tragic shooting are false and extremely misleading.
Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have used this tragedy to further their own causes and agendas. (The first sentence is moving towards blaming the media for inaccurate reporting. By adding this one, it would appear as though any group concerned about civil rights and the handling of the case had wrong reasons to ask for further investigation which is what is hoped to be used to clear up George Zimmerman. Instead pose a sentence reflecting how the accusations are further from the truth to help lead into the next paragraph. “The police have the correct statement from George and in time full information will be revealed.)
George is a
Spanish speaking (Latin American would be the better term if attempting to apply race. Many individuals who are not of latin descent speak spanish) minority with many black family members and friends (“with friends of all races” would be a better attempt to address not being a racist. It is not uncommon for Americans, to have family members and friends of other races. This doesn’t equate to him having a close relationship with every member of the family or define levels of relationships in a friend status. The public is aware that drawing a conclusion based on a race not being able to be a racist due to one having a minority status is not effective and does not prove an individual does not discriminate nor stereotypes others.) He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. One black neighbor recently interviewed said she knew everything in the media was untrue and that she would trust George with her life. (This would be a better statement if the woman spoke up. If she trusted him with her life she would not be afraid to speak up to every news outlet to defend his character. This can be taken as possibly misreporting information to push a personal stance. This should be left out.) Another black neighbor said that George was the only one, black or white, who came and welcomed her to the community, offering any assistance he could provide. (This shows his support to the community and intent to be a superior Watch Captain learning about each person living in the neighborhood. Expand and show how he extended himself to everyone. Good place to insert any false claims of concern by residents being afraid of George in his position as a Watch Captain.) Recently, I met two black children George invited to a social event. I asked where they met George. They responded that he was their mentor. (Naming the social event and their official mentorship ties would go a long way to strengthen the sentence.) They said George visited them routinely, took them places, helped them, and taught them things and that they really loved George. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth. (Proving this relationship would go a long way. This point could only be further clarified by demonstrating factual accounts of a mentorship role and an active role in the community as a youth leader. Without any of them stepping forward to account for his non-discriminatory actions, this topic is best left untouched.)
The events of February 26 reported in the media are
also totally inaccurate (The word incomplete or skewed would be the better selection since the media has reported his statement of being innocent, played the 911 call, reported on his name, age, education and previous encounters with the law.) Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, I will not discuss specifics. However, the media reports of the events are imaginary at best (“time will reveal our son’s innocence. As we understand there are concerns on how the police has handled cases in the past, it is in the best interest to not group this tragedy with others. Our son was not raised to treat others unkind or to judge others by their outward appearance.” would be a more palatable statement based on our previous comment. It would also help to forge a emotional distance to other cases and any negativity previously reported by the media regarding the police.). At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin. (Since Mr. Zimmerman wasn’t there nor were camera video footage available to make this statement, the better response would be, “George would not maliciously assault a teenager, nor plot to kill anyone. I believe his actions will be validated through the investigation to the public and not through the media’s eyes.” This would be a point of contention should Zimmerman’s attorney decide to request a plea deal if the state decided to go to trial.) When the true details of the event become public, and I hope that will be soon, everyone should be outraged by the treatment of George Zimmerman in (how) the media (“has made this tragic event to appear to be an act of a racist man”).
Our entire family is deeply sorry for the loss of Trayvon. We pray for the Martin family daily. We also pray that the community will grieve together and not be divided by more unwarranted hate.
The Zimmerman family will have no further contact with the media prior to the resolution of the investigation.
It would be greatly appreciated if the media would respect our privacy. (at that time should any additional comments be deemed necessary they will be made at that time.)”
Indeed the names Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department will stay in the media for some time. Their names will not be forgotten anytime soon. Beyond the obvious unimaginable event of February 26th, these past few days has shown the power of words in a tragic situation. It has proven how words can be used to form opinions, voice views and seek to find or present a possible truth.