Minnesota's Star Tribune newspaper has largely failed to mention police violence against protesters in print headlines and lead paragraphs -- the most prominent parts of reporting on recent protests against police brutality in the Twin Cities. Instead, print pieces on the protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have overwhelmingly focused on instances of looting and rioting.
In contrast, the paper's online coverage has highlighted multiple instances of police using force against protesters and reporters alongside their coverage of people starting to rebuild in the aftermath of riots.
A Media Matters review of headlines and lead paragraphs in print editions of the Star Tribune between May 25 and June 7 found far more articles emphasizing alleged protester violence than those discussing instances of police brutality toward protesters. Of the 55 article headlines and leads analyzed, Media Matters found 12 articles with a focus on violent or destructive acts by protesters, 19 with no focus on violent acts, 23 about other violence resulting from the riots, and only one about police violence against protesters.
The paper’s overwhelming focus on the aftermath of looting and vandalism fails to fully contextualize the events in Minneapolis, where police and National Guard members pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters from their vehicles, slashed the tires of parked cars, and shot projectiles at people on their own front porch.
None of the print articles focused on the widespread mistreatment of journalists during the protests, which included the arrest of a CNN journalist on-air, an incident in which a journalist was hit by a police projectile and permanently lost sight in one eye, and police who hit multiple Star Tribune reporters with rubber bullets or threatened them at gunpoint.
As local newsrooms shrink and disappear, there are limitations to what can be covered. But the Star Tribune website has covered police force against the residents of Minneapolis in its headlines and leads, as have its reporters on their Twitter feeds. The paper has no excuse for focusing so heavily on the destruction caused by looting and riots in print when it can highlight a more complete picture with coverage from its own newsroom.
The Star Tribune’s website has covered authorities’ overwhelming show of force to quell protests and enforce curfew, as well as reporting on members of the local Minneapolis press who have been arrested or injured by police.
Although the Star Tribune's online coverage does a better job highlighting instances of police brutality against protesters, it is not without issue. For example, most of these articles also promoted police narratives, which can be false or misleading and should be independently verified. The paper has even acknowledged criticism for “regurgitat[ing] the news releases that come directly from the police department” in its articles.
Media Matters searched the Nexis database for print articles in the Star Tribune that included mention of violence perpetrated by protesters or police in their headline or lead.
Media Matters searched the headlines and leads of print articles in the Star Tribune published between May 25 and June 7 for any of the terms “chaos,” “curfew,” “unrest,” “fire,” “car,” “gas,” “rubber,” “cruiser,” “damage,” “force,” “brutality,” “shot,” or any variation of any of the terms “violence,” “escalate,” “loot,” “kill,” “arrest,” “shoot,” “beat,” “vandalism,” or “destruction” within the same paragraph as any of the terms “police,” “law,” “officer,” “justice,” “guard,” or any variation of any of the terms “protest,” “riot,” or “authority.” We then coded whether the article discussed police violence, any other violence, or no violence in the headline or lead.
The search returned 55 articles, out of which 12 were coded as being about protester violence, one as police violence, 23 as violence perpetrated by other parties, and 19 as no violence.
Chart by Molly Butler