A news station made a racist error. This anchor went off-script to apologize.

On July 22, 18-year-old Nia Wilson was murdered in a stabbing at a transit station in Oakland, California.

The teen had just stepped off a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train with her two sisters, one of whom was also targeted in the incident but survived. The "prison-style attack" on Wilson, who was black, may have been a racially motivated hate crime, according to investigators.

"It's nothing imaginable, seeing your child on the BART platform with a yellow tarp over her body," said Wilson's father, Ansar Muhammad. "That is an image I'll never forget for the rest of my life."


The senseless tragedy rattled the Bay Area — and then the entire country.

Even though recently paroled John Lee Cowell — a 27-year-old white man with a violent criminal history — was arrested for the murder the following day, tensions flared across the nation.

Demonstrators in Oakland filled the streets, frustrated with law enforcement's relatively sluggish response to Wilson's death (research suggests police are slower to react when victims are people of color). Angry celebrities like Kehlani, Tegan and Sara, and Anne Hathaway elevated Wilson's story through their online platforms.

"The murder of Nia Wilson — may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here — is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence," Hathaway wrote on Instagram. "She is not a hashtag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man."

Many photos of the 18-year-old — who'd been planning a future career in the beauty or music industries or possibly the Army — were plucked from her social media accounts and shared by outraged sympathizers.

Out of all of Wilson's photos, however, a Bay Area news station chose the absolute wrong one to use in their coverage.  

In the photo used by KTVU News, Wilson appeared to be holding a gun. She wasn't, to be clear: The item in her hand was a cellphone case shaped in the form of a gun.

But the damage had already been done.

This may seem like a non-issue to some people (particularly white folks), but it reflects a much larger systemic problem concerning media portrayals of black and brown people in the U.S.

The news media often portrays people of color as inherently more violent — even when they're the victims of crimes.

White criminals, on the other hand, seem to benefit from their skin color.

Just look at convicted rapist Brock Turner, a white man who's habitually referred to in headlines as a "Stanford swimmer" and complemented with flattering photos. Compare that to much of the coverage surrounding slain, innocent 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whose "thug" outfit and cannabis use apparently justified his killing.

These aren't isolated lapses in judgment. They're part of a much larger news media system that portrays people of color differently than white people.

The photo KTVU used in its broadcast reinforced negative stereotypes and contributed to this problem, according to the National Association of Black Journalists.

"There's no justification for KTVU's airing of a photo of her apparently holding a fake gun cellphone case," the group's president, Sarah Glover, told Poynter. "KTVU victimized her twice by airing an image that puts her in a negative light and that also has nothing to do with her death."

Fortunately, KTVU quickly acknowledged its failure and apologized for featuring the problematic photo of Wilson.

Anchor Frank Somerville addressed the controversy head-on during a live broadcast, going off-script to express his apologies.

"There's no doubt we made a mistake," Somerville said. "It never should have happened. But we made the mistake, and we are owning up to that mistake."

He continued:  

"Nia was a just beautiful young woman. And I can only hope right now that her family and her parents are watching so that they can see me and all of us here at Channel 2 say that we are so sorry about what happened to your daughter, and we are sorry about the mistake that we made today."

Somerville, with the encouragement of the station's news director, also took to his Facebook page to address the issue.

He may not have been involved in choosing the photo, Somerville noted in a post, but that's irrelevant.

"There is no excuse for [what] we did. Repeat: No excuse!" Somerville wrote. "We NEVER should have used that picture. It was a huge mistake on our part."

You can read his whole post below:

I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a picture that KTVU showed on the air for several seconds today about the...

Posted by Frank Somerville KTVU on Monday, July 23, 2018

Even when it's done unintentionally, the media can get it wrong in big ways.

So when a news source does, it should confront the mistake and vow to do better. The more we talk about the flawed portrayals of people of color in the world around us, the more we can change the problem for the better.

Nothing can bring back Wilson. But her family deserves the world to remember her as the helpful, bright, big dreamer she was.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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