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.

True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via Jessica Jade / Facebook

Losing a beloved pet is one of the most painful experiences a person can have. Suffering the loss of their companionship is only compounded by the feeling of helplessness and worry over whether their friend is safe and happy.

If the animal is found and taken to shelter, it's obviously a relief, but it can cost a lot of money in redemption fees to get the animal back.

Some shelter charges can run as much as $300 if the owner refuses to have the animal spayed or neutered or if the dog has been picked up by the shelter multiple times. While others charge as little as $15 if the animal is picked up promptly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


With 16 years of sobriety under his belt, Dax Shepard has served as a beacon of hope for people in recovery. With a reset of his sobriety clock last week after confessing to a slip with prescription painkillers, he still is.

The actor has been open about his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, and that transparency and honesty has undoubtedly helped many people through their own recovery journeys. But recovery from addiction is not always a one-way, detour-free road. Even people who have been sober for years must be diligent and self-aware or risk relapsing in ways that are easy to justify.

That's the scenario Shepard described in his recent podcast, in which he announced that he's now seven days sober. For people who struggle with addiction, it's a cautionary tale. He didn't take a drink, and he didn't touch cocaine. His slide into addiction relapse happened with prescription painkillers—Vicodin and Percocet. He started taking prescription pain pills after a motorcycle accident in 2012, moved to taking pills with his dad who was dying of cancer, and then came a gradual spiral of justifications, lying, gas lighting, and other addictive behaviors that enabled him to abuse those pills without acknowledging he was doing so.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Last year, we shared the sad impact that plastic pollution has had on some of our planet's most beautiful places. With recycling not turning out to be the savior it was made out to be, solutions to our growing plastic problem can seem distant and complex.

We have seen some glimmers of hope from both human innovation and nature itself, however. In 2016, a bacteria that evolved with the ability to break down plastic was discovered in a Japanese waste site. Two years later, scientists managed to engineer the mutant plastic-eating enzyme they called PETase—named for polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic found in bottles and food packaging—in a lab.

Here's an explainer of how those enzymes work:

Ending Plastic Pollution with Designer Bacteria youtu.be

Now researchers have revealed another game-changer in the plastic-eater—a super-enzyme that can break down plastic six times faster than PETase alone.

Keep Reading Show less