Thursday, May 23, 2024

How This Kansas City News Outlet For And By Young Black People Amplified The Ralph Yarl Case When Key Facts Were Ignored – Yahoo News

The citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, are still reeling from the shooting of Ralph Yarl, leaving the city in emotional turmoil. On April 17, 16-year-old Yarl was shot by an 84-year-old white man, Andrew Lester. The teenager accidentally rang Lester’s doorbell, mistaking it for a friend’s home.
The headline made national news as people questioned Lester’s motive. Outlets covered the breaking news around the story, including the recovery of the resilient teen. However, few were on the ground to feel the racial tension from the incident.
Journalist Roland Martin thanked the Black owned/operated Kansas City Defender for its proficient story coverage. He acknowledged the outlet on his Instagram, stating it owned the glory of “making the story go national.”

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A post shared by Roland S. Martin (@rolandsmartin)
He wrote, “Let me say this right now: NO ONE can claim credit for making the #RalphYarl story go national than Black-owned @kansascitydefender. They were on the ground, doing the hard work and reporting on the shooting. Check the time stamp. They were first to push this story out. And they have stayed on top of it. I want to give them their just due. JOB WELL DONE!!!!”
Martin ended the caption with the intentional hashtag #BlackOwnedMediaMatters.
Ryan Sorrell, founder and executive editor of the Kansas City Defender, and his team broke the story to his readers.
The article, “This Is A Hate Crime”: Kansas City Black Family Demanding Justice After A White Man Shoots Black Boy, Ralph Yarl, In The Head Twice For Ringing Doorbell Of The Wrong Home, White Man Released By Police Hours Later,” shared facts other outlets missed or chose to overlook.
“The truth is that when our local white news outlets first reported the story, the headlines did not indicate anything particularly heinous,” Sorrell told Blavity. “For example, one of the first stories from KMBC read, “Kansas City juvenile shot after trying to pick up sibling at wrong address.” There was no race or motive mentioned. It would be very easy to glance past that headline, which I did at first. Honestly, it would have likely remained this way, like so many other stories that have been erased and swept under the rug.”
Sorrell added that community was a major part of their story development.
“We have a lot of people in our community who provide us stories through our DM on social media,” he said. “I started getting five, maybe 10 DM’s from people saying ‘This doesn’t sound right can you look into this?’ So we did. Then we found out Ralph was Black, we found out Andrew Lester shot him twice, once in the head and once while he was already bleeding out on the ground, that it was essentially an attempted murder. I then contacted his aunt and spoke with her as well. In contrast, our headline read ’This Is A Hate Crime’: Kansas City Black Family Demanding Justice After A White Man Shoots Black Boy In The Head Twice For Ringing Doorbell Of The Wrong Home, White Man Released By Police Hours Later.'”
He mentioned their uncompromising approach to the story gained some national backlash but, more importantly, local support.
“So there was immediate outrage when we published the first story that included all these critical components about the real story and the hateful, horrific, and purposeful violence inflicted on this child,” he explained. “More critical than outrage, though, was people wanted to take action. So we published it on a Saturday morning around 10 a.m., and within 48 hours, it seemed like the story had already traveled worldwide. More importantly, though, our community came together, and hundreds of people commented on our social media platforms, asking, ‘What can we do about this?’ So we helped organizers connect with one another, and it took a life of its own from there.”
“As disgusting as this particular incident was, the truth is that in Kansas City, it is not an anomaly,” Sorrell said. “I think the naked and brazen violence of this shooting, and the fact Ralph was such a model student and that there is absolutely [nothing] negative anybody, even the most racist person, can say about him whatsoever, made it wildly viral.”
The Defender was one of the first outlets to give the details of Lester shooting Yarl in the head through the peephole and then reshooting him once he was already incapacitated.
“But in our work, just in the past year, we’ve covered stories of our police department murdering people in cold blood, lying about it, and our local media participating in these coverups. There’s a 19-year-old student, Jaylon Elmore, sitting in prison in our state right now, facing life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This is our everyday work. That’s why I started The Defender, so we can have a vehicle to defend, to refute the lies and dehumanization of Black people through the media. We were able to bring light to this story which I am grateful for, but it equally made me realize how if we hadn’t published our reporting on it, it likely would have just been another day in the city. I can only think of how many more Ralphs there are who don’t have Black media outlets in their cities or neighborhoods to bring light when something horrific happens to them.”
Sorrell is already looking at the outcome and impact of everything that has transpired.
“One of the outcomes we can already see, is that Andrew Lester is facing charges,” he said. “Knowing the racist culture of the Northland here in Kansas City, there’s no doubt in my mind that without the public outcry and massive national response, our police department wouldn’t have made a criminal referral and the prosecutor certainly wouldn’t have brought the charges he has. Beyond that, we are also seeing a massive resurgence in people wanting to organize, to volunteer with our organization. I haven’t seen anything like it since 2020.”
The Defender was started in 2020, arising from the racial unrest in the nation. The nonprofit community media platform primarily focuses on education, justice, business, arts & culture and technology.
The Defender isn’t the only Black owned/operated outlet covering Kansas City stories.
The Kansas City Discover was able to interview James Lynch, the neighbor that helped Yarl after Lester shot him.
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