Al Sharpton is a leading civil rights activist in the Trayvon Martin case. He also hosts a daily politics show on MSNBC. Is there a conflict between Sharpton's activism and his journalism?
(AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)
Al Sharpton's activism on the Trayvon Martin case has given him a unique role — some would say unique conflict — on MSNBC. The news network host is in the middle of a story he's been featuring every evening on the air.
Half of Sharpton's "Politics Daily" program on MSNBC Monday was about the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla., leading with an interview with Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Sharpton's only reference to his own involvement in the case was a remark that "we did the press conference" earlier in the day.
The veteran civil rights activist has spoken at rallies in support of Martin. Monday before the Sanford city commission, Sharpton testified that Martin's parents had endured "insults and lies" over reports that their son attacked George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot him.
Sharpton's dual role would have been unthinkable on television 20 years ago and still wouldn't be allowed at many news organizations. While opinionated cable news hosts have become commonplace over the past decade, Sharpton goes beyond talking.
"It certainly represents a change in our traditional view of the boundaries between journalism and activism," said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. "Al Sharpton is clearly an activist."
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