Susan Roesgen, the CNN reporter who mocked tea party attendees in Chicago, is the same reporter who spread myths about the racially charged “Jena 6” case in Louisiana, in which six black teenagers were charged with attempted murder for the beating of a white student.
The case gained national prominence because of the racial issues involved, and Susan Roesgen was at the center of publicizing the controversy, and perpetuating several myths about it. Roesgen’s bio says that Roesgen
became the first national TV reporter to cover the tumultuous “Jena 6” episode in that Louisiana town.
In a piece titled Media Myths About the Jena 6, local reporter Craig Franklin wrote a piece dispelling several myths about the case.
The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.
Franklin says he knows this because he is “the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.”
It turns out that Roesgen was instrumental in spreading some of these myths. Here is Roesgen’s first video report on the Jena 6 case:
Roesgen told her national audience:
Back in September, black students sat under this tree in the school courtyard, where traditionally only white students sit. The next day, three white students hung nooses from the tree and were suspended.
Local reporter Franklin says this is not true:
There has never been a “whites-only” tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree.
Franklin adds that the hanging of the nooses was not racially motivated, and the students were not suspended:
An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. . . . Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals.
Just to show that not everything is black and white, Roesgen’s report ends with a sympathetic interview with the parents of the beaten white teenager. However, this nod to balance fails to make up for Roesgen’s inflammation of racial tensions based on inadequate research, and an incomplete understanding of what had really happened.
I’ll give Roesgen this: emphasizing the racial angle made it a more sensationalistic and interesting story. And isn’t that really all that matters?