Portrayals of a Presidential Statement on Race: The Barack Obama-Trayvon Martin Connection in 25 Daily Newspapers


  • George Daniels University of Alabama
  • Lillie M. Fears Arkansas State University
  • Gabriel B. Tait Arkansas State University




This study analyzed daily newspaper coverage of President Obama’s July 19, 2013 statement on the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The story was the most high-profile incident of 2013 where race was a major issue. The 25 front pages that made up the purposive sample represented a range of newspaper types including 13 metropolitan newspapers, seven community newspapers and five with the largest circulations in the nation. The analysis showed that the storyline most newspapers used in reporting on the statement by the nation’s first bi-racial president was one that made the connection between Obama and a 17-year-old African American boy from Florida who was gunned down as he wore a hoodie and carried a bag of Skittles. Fifteen of the 25 newspapers chose to use Obama’s words Trayvon Martin “Could Have Been Me” in their headline.


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