WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Poor Decision by Big City Newsroom

Aug 7, 2018

KTVU-TV, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area, was criticized for its coverage of the stabbing death of 18-year old Nia Wilson. Wilson and her sister, Lahtifa, were attacked aboard a Bay Area Rapid Transit train by a man who slashed them with a knife. 

The Poynter Institute reported that KTVU decided to use a photo from Nia Wilson's Facebook page showing her holding what appeared to be a gun near her head (it isn’t a gun – it’s a cell phone case made to look like a gun).  As Poynter’s Al Tompkins wrote, even if the "gun" in the photo had been real, Wilson was a victim, not a criminal. She died calling out her sister's name.  KTVU was accused of victimizing Wilson twice by using the image, and the station has since apologized.

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton said the station should have known better and should have demonstrated better news sense.  She said the station was criticized a few years ago for getting fooled during its coverage of a plane crash.  Crighton said the people at the top should be held accountable for a newsroom that continues to make major mistakes.

Panelist Will Buss said the situation is symptomatic of the problems caused by newsrooms rushing to be first with a story on social media. He said some newsrooms are not making sound decisions.

Panelist Rich Egger said Wilson’s Facebook page likely contained many photos of her. He is flabbergasted the station chose one that portrayed the victim in a negative light.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.