A news station received massive backlash after posting a photo of a Black girl who was killed that appeared to diminish the young woman’s status as a victim.
KTVU Fox 2 shared a photo of Nia Wilson — who was stabbed in the throat on the BART train — holding what appears to be a gun near her face (less than one day after her murder).
The supposed firearm was not in fact a weapon but was actually a cell phone case designed to look like a gun.
An outcry resulted on social media, with people questioning why — of all the photos available — this one was chosen.
The photo, which the news station took from one of Wilson’s social media accounts, almost seems to diminish what happened to Wilson and paint her as violent.
But what happened to her cannot be downplayed. BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said Monday, “In my close to 30 years of police experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen.”
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) was appalled by the move. It issued a statement, along with the Bay Area Black Journalists Association (BABJA) and the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (MIJE), that read, in part:
Use of this photo violated one of journalism’s core ethics: “do no harm,” as it implied Ms. Wilson was dangerous. The use of the photo can be seen as an attempt to dismiss her humanity and silence those who view her death as a racially-motivated attack.
The groups also requested a meeting with the news station to have a conversation about how to prevent something like that from happening again.
Authorities have not yet determined that the murder of Wilson, 18, was a hate crime, but a suspect is in custody. The 18-year-old was stabbed in the throat, as was her sister 26-year-old Letifah Wilson, who survived her injuries.
John Cowell, a 27-year-old white man, was arrested for the brutal attack.
“It looks like it was an unprovoked, unwarranted, vicious attack,” Rojas, the police chief, said, also describing it as a “prison-style attack,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
Letifah Wilson said her sister died calling out to her, the Bee also reported.
“I looked back and he was wiping off his knife and stood at the stairs and just looked. From then on, I was caring for my sister,” she shared with ABC7 News earlier in the week.
The statement from NABJ also points out that this is not KTVU’s first racial blunder. According to the San Francisco Gate, several employees in 2013 left or were fired after fake names of four victims of an Asiana Airlines plane crash that were read on air.
The “names” of the four pilots read were Capt. Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.
The anchor who said the names was reading from a teleprompter and did not realize the mistake until after the fact. The SF Gate reported that investigative producer Roland DeWolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock were all no longer with the station (a fourth employee also left but cited health reasons).