Newspapers are down and will soon be out, destroyed by the internet. Next to follow them into the sewer pipes of history will be TV network news—first broadcast, then cable.
In the meantime, there’s still a lot of money to be made gluing eyes to the page or screen the old-fashioned way: by stirring up wars or riots. The 1960’s riots across America and the 1992 Los Angeles riots spiked newspaper sales and TV viewership. Enter Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American shot to death on February 16 by George Zimmerman, an Hispanic-American, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman told police that he shot in self-defense after Martin attacked him. At first Zimmerman wasn’t charged with a crime. The story lay dormant for nearly a month.
Then the racial ambulance-chasers got wind of it. The Rev. Jesse Jackson charged that “blacks are under attack. . . . I hope that this will be a transformative moment.” The Rev. Al Sharpton declared that, unless Zimmerman was charged with murder, “We’re going to have a full blown occupation of Sanford with tents and everything over Easter weekend.” Although both had been proved mendacious demagogues by the Tawana Brawley and Duke lacrosse team hoaxes, their new rants were broadcast without qualification.
Next, the New York Times played up...