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Black press, white press, and their opposition: The case of the police killing of Tyisha Miller
Unformatted Document Text:  8 also gave the Tyisha Miller case extensive coverage, with at least one story and sometimes several receiving front-page treatment in every issue over the year following the shooting. Although the Black Voice News would occasionally cite the Press-Enterprise, the black newspaper’s stories were researched and written independently. x II. Police and press Police-involved shootings can place a strain upon the collective conscience, as the community is jolted by the incongruity of those who bear responsibility for casting out the “devils” in our midst appearing to have turned upon the innocent (Hall et.al. 1986; Wortley et.al. 1997). xi Community reaction can be intense: rioting is one possible response; sustained public scrutiny leading to external investigations, overhaul of institutional practices and replacement of high-ranking personnel is another. Additional long- term effects can include a withdrawal of community support of or cooperation with police that in turn can contribute to low morale among police rank and file. With legitimacy of the institution at stake, therefore, police departments are quick to investigate themselves. As Van Maanen (1981:151) has noted, however: “The aftermath of a shooting is administratively a very murky affair. The incident is replayed throughout the organization. Tapes are listened to and the involved officer is interviewed time and again…. Out of these procedures a plausible account of the incident usually emerges that is documented in a politically, culturally, and legally viable fashion.” He then adds a cautionary note: “Yet as police know only too well, these are equivocal matters” (1981:151). The author stops short of then stating the obvious, viz., that an atmosphere of equivocation lends itself to institutional management of meanings that are produced in the course of police investigating and commenting upon their own. For this reason of course the relation between law enforcement and the media is significant: xii To what extent will the press defer to official institutional sources? The white press relies heavily upon official sources. xiii In what Foucault (1979:299) in a slightly different context has referred to as a “continuity of institutions,” reciprocal legitimation is produced through close working relations: journalists who rely upon official sources are granted easy access to insider information and are then able to convey to their readers that they have drawn from the highest sources; officials who cultivate the dependence are able to control the dissemination of information while at the same time being recognized as experts who are professionally “in the know.” xiv Reporters for the white

Authors: huspek, michael.
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8
also gave the Tyisha Miller case extensive coverage, with at least one story and sometimes several
receiving front-page treatment in every issue over the year following the shooting. Although the Black
Voice News would occasionally cite the Press-Enterprise, the black newspaper’s stories were researched
and written independently.
x
II. Police and press
Police-involved shootings can place a strain upon the collective conscience, as the community is
jolted by the incongruity of those who bear responsibility for casting out the “devils” in our midst
appearing to have turned upon the innocent (Hall et.al. 1986; Wortley et.al. 1997).
xi
Community reaction
can be intense: rioting is one possible response; sustained public scrutiny leading to external investigations,
overhaul of institutional practices and replacement of high-ranking personnel is another. Additional long-
term effects can include a withdrawal of community support of or cooperation with police that in turn can
contribute to low morale among police rank and file. With legitimacy of the institution at stake, therefore,
police departments are quick to investigate themselves.
As Van Maanen (1981:151) has noted, however: “The aftermath of a shooting is
administratively a very murky affair. The incident is replayed throughout the organization. Tapes are
listened to and the involved officer is interviewed time and again…. Out of these procedures a plausible
account of the incident usually emerges that is documented in a politically, culturally, and legally viable
fashion.” He then adds a cautionary note: “Yet as police know only too well, these are equivocal matters”
(1981:151). The author stops short of then stating the obvious, viz., that an atmosphere of equivocation
lends itself to institutional management of meanings that are produced in the course of police investigating
and commenting upon their own. For this reason of course the relation between law enforcement and the
media is significant:
xii
To what extent will the press defer to official institutional sources?
The white press relies heavily upon official sources.
xiii
In what Foucault (1979:299) in a slightly
different context has referred to as a “continuity of institutions,” reciprocal legitimation is produced
through close working relations: journalists who rely upon official sources are granted easy access to
insider information and are then able to convey to their readers that they have drawn from the highest
sources; officials who cultivate the dependence are able to control the dissemination of information while at
the same time being recognized as experts who are professionally “in the know.”
xiv
Reporters for the white


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