Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. Photo: Black Youth Project

This photo of the late Trayvon Martin wearing a hooded sweatshirt has been featured prominently in print, broadcast and web accounts of the debate over the circumstances of his death.  Mallary Jean Tenore, an associate editor at Poynter.org, says that reporters need to probe more deeply to get beyond racial stereotypes and to give their audiences a better understanding of such terms as “racial tensions.”  She writes:

When deciding whether to describe criminals as wearing a hooded sweatshirt, journalists should question how much this description will add to a story. Does it reveal something important about the suspect? Would you be as inclined to say the criminal was wearing a white T-shirt, a blue Polo shirt, a corduroy jacket? Would you be inclined to mention the hoodie if the suspect were Caucasian?

Tenore’s analysis includes links to other resources for reporters and examples of coverage of Martin’s death.

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