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Mainstream News Coverage of Rodney King and The La Riots

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In 1991 Rodney King was in a high speed chase with the police and when pulled over he was brutally beaten by four white officers, the four officers were acquitted of all charges. The acquittal of the officers led to the 1992 riots in LA. Mainstream media coverage was a key role in how the general public received information and how they got information presented to them shaped how people view the situation. Different news outlets portrayed different situations than others, such as the riots, King being victimized or being seen as bad.

Portraying of the LA Riots

During the time of the LA Riots there were many different angles and perspectives of how the LA Riots were portrayed. Different news outlets impacted the general public by portraying the riots as good or bad. “It had been filmed and seen around the world – most notably in the same Southern Cali hoods that didn’t need a translator to rally behind N.W.A’S ‘F**k Tha Police’ – yet once again, white authority was given a pass for racially motivated violence. The people took to the streets and began to destroy everything within reach”. Unlike other articles, This Rolling Stone article seemed to be justifying the LA Riots. In the article they implied that white cops have been let free in situation like this one. The article even says that the Rodney King incident has given a pass for the riots essentially. Some people who were interviewed by USC News at the time of the riots, said that it wasn’t a riot going on but a rebellion. Many people felt this way. In one interview a lady said that this wasn’t the first time something like this happen, she said it has been going on for 200 years and people are tired.

The Rolling Stone article seemed like a reminder to America that the La Riots were not the first riots, and that’s there been race riots on this scale for a long time in America. The article even goes into depth about how American Americans are tired of being killed, beaten up, and how that black people have developed zero tolerance for watching all the things happen to them. This article seemed to be targeted to people who don’t understand why people are protesting or view the riots as senseless. But wanted to make those people realize that riots aren’t senseless,but how and it can shape America. Some news outlets viewed the riots as senseless and that people had no legit reason for rioting. And wanted to remind the general public of Rodney King’s untold story that has been twisted from the truth. US News said the “Worst American riot in the century” has “By now it has been twisted into a series of half-truths and misconceptions”. U.S News wanted to remind the people rioting and the people watching in their living rooms across the country, that the story they heard were exaggerated fabrications of the truth. By saying things like worst American riot in the century captivates the general public and gets them to rethink about the situation. “Avenging Rodney King was only superficially present in the minds of those who started the riot at the now infamous intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues”. Avenging was the only reason for the century worst riot said U.S, implying that no valid reason for 50 deaths, 2,300 injured and 1 billion dollars in damage but vengeance. Many portrayed the rioters just as senseless people rioting not for change but chaos. Koreans didn’t see the rioters as people who wanted change, but people who wanted to destroy their business. Live news broadcasts like NBC news interview angry and sad Koreans saying things like “Why are we the victims”. That showed that the riot wasn’t doing anything but hurting, making people angry and inconveniencing people. Negative and positive portrayal of the riots and Rodney King Popular news outlets used their popularity and qualification to criminalize King or paint King as a victim and hero. U.S News revealed the truth in Kings arrest that led to the riots. “He threw a kiss and wiggled his butt at a female officer who had ordered him, at gunpoint, to lie down. King’s behavior so alarmed the arresting officers that they mistakenly assumed he was on PCP”. The news article used eyewitness at the event to show that King wasn’t the victim some of the general public saw him as. “A second Taser dart fired by Sgt. Stacey Koon failed to incapacitate the 6-foot, 3-inch, 225-pound King”, this article portrayed King as a huge giant that couldn’t be taken down with basic measures. It implies that the four officers that beat him it was justified to do what they did. In an interview on NBC news one of the jury members said that King controlled how long he got beat. She said that if he was compliant it would have been over quickly. She said “He was in complete control”. She even said that “Rodney King wasn’t even badly hurt”. “Can we all get along?” famous words spoken by Rodney King. A man who sparked change in the eyes of some, and who was tired of injustice acts towards the black community and wanted the violence to stop. “King, who during the height of the riots implored people to stop fighting and ‘get along,’ said he feels like he has played a small part in the civil rights movement and the change within the LAPD”.

King used his influence at the time to try to promote change in LA and the nation. He was even recognized in being part of the civil rights movement, Rev Al Sharpton called King “a symbol of civil rights”. A lot of people at this time viewed King the same way. Not all people viewed King as a hero, but didn’t view him as negative. One lady said “Rodney’s situation gave the world a look into police brutality and cover-ups”. Korean perspective The LA Riots weren’t just black and white, there were many different groups involved such as the Koreans. The Koreans felt like no one was focusing on their issues at hand. Sa-i-gu knows to the Koreans as the day the riots broke nearby Koreatown. Koreans had many stores in Koreatown and viewed their stores as their “American Dream”. They felt angered their stores were ransacked and burned to the grown and nothing was done to resolve the issue. There was already tension between the Korean-Americans and African-Americans. African-Americans viewed the Korean-Americans as “exploitative and would not hire blacks, as well as viewing them as unfriendly and rude”. And the Koreans-Americans viewed them as “poor, violent, and lazy”. So with beliefs like that things were bound to take a wrong turn. When the Koreans decided to take matters into their own hands things got really violent. There were many shootouts between Koreans, Blacks and Latinos. Everyone one had a gun at the times of the riots. And that led to many deaths that made the situation worse, a Korean shop owner shot and killed a 15 year old girl because she thought she was stealing. The shop owner only got short prohibition and a fine. That made the Black community furious, the felt like they were protesting and things were still unequal. When Elaine Kim was asked about the media she said “The media has seemed to always perpetuate the stereotypes with its sensationalism. Kim believed that the media is used to divert attention from the roots of racial violence in the U.S”. The Koreans-America felt as if the media were against them, they felt like the media was only dividing them and making them seem like aliens.

In all, mainstream media was a very important way in which the general public received information about Rodney King and the LA Riots. The media was the first source of information that was given to the public, so the media shaped how America and the world viewed the situation. The media portrayed the riots in either a good or bad way, they criminalize or made King a hero and they got the Korean-American perspective.

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Mainstream News Coverage Of Rodney King And The LA Riots. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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