More Half-Hearted and Sloppy Reporting on the Till Case (Kyle Martin of the Greenwood Commonwealth)
The mainstream news media has come in for much deserved criticism lately for sloppy reporting. These failings are nowhere better illustrated than the newspaper coverage of the reopening of the Emmett Till murder case. Most notably, as pointed out last year, the"60 Minutes" report was practically a gold mine of factual errors and misrepresentations.
The latest example of media misconduct is an article by Kyle Martin for the Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth. The article also appeared throughout the county as an Associated Press story. Martin focused on the efforts of Mayor Johnny B. Thomas to use new interest in the Till case as a means to revitalize Glendora, Mississippi (the hometown of J.W. Milam, a white defendant in the case). Shortly after the murder, some black reporters and others alleged that Thomas’s father, Henry Lee Loggins, a black employee of Milam, was a participant in the crime.
This issue has long been of interest to me. In 2001, my wife and co-author, Linda Royster Beito, and I were probably the first researchers to since the 1950s to ask Loggins about his role in the case. Loggins (who is now in a nursing home) denied any knowledge of the murder, a denial he has consistently repeated since then. Thomas is seeking “immunity” for his father and has tried to generate attention but has refused to say if he thinks his father is guilty. Loggins' daughter, by contrast, asserts that Loggins is innocent. Moreover, to our knowledge, no eyewitness has ever put Loggins at the crime scene. While Loggins might indeed be guilty, we have concluded that the evidence against him thus far is extremely weak and contradictory.
Kyle Martin’s story follows a typical pattern. Like “60 Minutes,” he does not bother to mention flaws in the case against Loggins. One line in this otherwise forgettable story, however, peaked my interest. According to Martin, federal "investigators believe Loggins was with Milam the night Till was killed.” I wondered if something new had happened. I had never heard this before.
I called Kyle Martin to ask if the feds had found eyewitnesses or other evidence against Loggins. After some time, he conceded that he had relied on “wire reports.” As the conversation continued, I emphasized to Martin the weaknesses in the case against Loggins. I suggested that it was time for a reporter (perhaps Martin?) to do a story on this.
His response revealed a total lack of interest in pursuing, or even pondering, this idea. Finally, tiring of my questions and suggestions, he cut off the conversation saying that he something else to do. Throughout our conversation, he did not bother to ask me a single question, much less inquire about how to contact me. Kyle Martin’s lackadaisical attitude about such an important (and potentially earth-shaking) story on one of the most important murders of the twentieth century is yet another indicator of how the mainstream media has lost its way.