The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Memphis, April 4, 1968
Martin Luther King was shot dead on Friday the 5th of April 1968 in Memphis. The shooter was an escaped convict known as James Earl Ray. Martin Luther King was an African American Civil Rights crusader who led the civil rights movement in America. He was shot while at the Lorrainme Motel about to have dinner. He had just addressed a large crowd in Memphis in a speech entitled “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” He was standing on the balcony of the hotel when he was shot in the neck by an assailant who was a distance away from him. This essay analyzes the story of Dr. King’s assassination as it was presented in two newspapers, the 5th April 1968 New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
First, the stories may be analyzed in terms of the details they provide on the assassination. The New York Times presented a special report in their daily newspaper on April 5th 1968. This was done by a writer known as Earl Caldwell. The story was told in an almost intimate way, the story follows the time the shooting happened and the events that sprung after that. The author provides details into the extent of the riots that followed the shooting and statistics of the city of Memphis in terms of black and white populations. On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune’s story on the same day was written by James Coates. Coates provided a very little amount of detail into the shooting. The story has a distant feel about it as the writer makes several allusions to happened in 1966.
Secondly, the stories differ on the level of credibility. The New York Times appears more credible due to the intensity of the primary sources quoted. For example, Caldwell (2) provides the spoken words of Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy, Jesse Jackson etc. On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune does not appear convincing and credible. Only one primary source is provided. For example, Coates (2) relies on “published” accounts to report about the death toll in the riots.
Thirdly, the two accounts of the assassination are different in terms of the type of message intended for the audience. The New York Times provides evidence in a manner that suggests that they were not ruling out police involvement in the shooting of martin Luther King. This is evidenced by the many witness accounts that indicated that the bullet had come from the same direction as the police officers. Some witnesses stated that the policemen had started arriving prior to the shooting. On the other hand, the Chicago Tribute completely ignores witness accounts and does not take an investigative stand on the murder. Coates (2) merely states the facts of the case and leaves it at that.
Martin Luther King was a crusader in the Civil Rights Movement. He championed the ideals of equality, eradication of poverty, equal opportunities and the end of bigotry. He was assassinated on 5th April 1968 in Memphis. The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune ran parallel accounts on the same story. The two accounts differed in three main respects. First, the New York Times story was more detailed on the story. Secondly, the Chicago Tribune was not as credible as the New York Times in terms of the primary sources used. Thirdly, while the New York Times seemed to implicate the police in a cover-up, the Chicago Times was neutral. Despite these differences, the two newspapers did a good job with the scanty information that was available at the time.
Caldwell , Earl . "Martin Luther King Is Slain in Memphis; A White Is Suspected; Johnson Urges Calm." New York Times 6 Apr. 1968, 1 ed., sec. 1: 2. Print.
James Coates, James. "Riots follow killing of Martin Luther King Jr." Chicago Tribune 6 Apr. 1968, 1 ed., sec. 1: 2. Print.