Newspapers are down and will soon be out, destroyed by the internet.  Next to follow them into the sewer pipes of history will be TV network news—first broadcast, then cable.

In the meantime, there’s still a lot of money to be made gluing eyes to the page or screen the old-fashioned way: by stirring up wars or riots.  The 1960’s riots across America and the 1992 Los Angeles riots spiked newspaper sales and TV viewership.  Enter Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American shot to death on February 16 by George Zimmerman, an Hispanic-American, in Sanford, Florida.  Zimmerman told police that he shot in self-defense after Martin attacked him.  At first Zimmerman wasn’t charged with a crime.  The story lay dormant for nearly a month.

Then the racial ambulance-chasers got wind of it.  The Rev. Jesse Jackson charged that “blacks are under attack. . . . I hope that this will be a transformative moment.”  The Rev. Al Sharpton declared that, unless Zimmerman was charged with murder, “We’re going to have a full blown occupation of Sanford with tents and everything over Easter weekend.”  Although both had been proved mendacious demagogues by the Tawana Brawley and Duke lacrosse team hoaxes, their new rants were broadcast without qualification.

Next, the New York Times played up the white-kills-black meme.  It called Zimmerman a “white Hispanic,” a locution almost never heard in modern America.  Zimmerman, as his last name suggests, has a white father.  But his mother is Peruvian.  He reportedly identified himself as Hispanic and a Democrat on voter-registration forms.  So the media’s desired black-white race war took a hit from reality—not that many were noticing.

The incitement was ignited to a hot pitch by NBC, which broadcast part of a call Zimmerman made to local police.  On the NBC tape, Zimmerman is heard saying he’s following someone who “looks like he is up to no good.  He looks black.”  It later came out that Zimmerman had really said, before NBC doctored the audio, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good.  Or he’s on drugs or something.  It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy—is he black, white, or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

Quite a different thing.  NBC blamed the doctored tape on “an error made in the production process.”

Sharpton hosts PoliticsNation on NBC’s sister network MSNBC.  When asked by the AP whether Sharpton’s deep involvement in the Martin case was a conflict of interest, network president Phil Griffin replied that he “didn’t hire Al to become a neutered kind of news presenter.  That’s not what we do.”  Only weeks before, Griffin, justifying MSNBC’s firing of Pat Buchanan, had declared that “The ideas he put forth aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC.”

A tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call surfaced.  Some said they heard him say “f–king coons.”  On March 22, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a columnist for The Atlantic, wrote, “When I listened, I heard it immediately.”  Prosecutors would later admit that Zimmerman had said “punks,” not “coons,” but the damage had been done.

Meanwhile, weeks into the controversy, the media kept showing pictures of an innocent-looking, diminutive Trayvon in a football uniform, about 12 years old, while ignoring how Martin presented himself on his Twitter feed in a more recent picture: as a six-foot, two-inch, tattooed, gold-toothed gangbanger flipping the bird to the camera.  That picture was more in line with Martin’s Twitter handle: “NO_LIMIT_NIGGA.”  Martin was suspended from school five days before his death.

Meanwhile, the media kept showing an old mug shot of Zimmerman in which he looks chubby, instead of the trim, married insurance underwriter he is today.

President Obama weighed in: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  That set the course for the media, whose sycophancy to Obama is so obsequious it was parodied on Saturday Night Live.  The President did not express comment on other murders of blacks.  As black talk-show host Larry Elder pointed out, “The media are intensely interested in covering white-on-black violence. . . . But the media are far less interested in reporting about the No. 1 cause of death of young black men age 15 to 24: homicide by other black men.”

Despite the media’s almost unanimous conviction of Zimmerman before the trial, public opinion divided largely along racial lines.  A USA Today/Gallup poll released on April 5 showed that “73 percent of blacks said they believe George Zimmerman would have been arrested if Trayvon was white, while 33 percent of whites agreed.”

On April 11, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, postponing any riots until after his possible acquittal (should the case even go to trial).  That was the pattern of April 29, 1992, when a jury acquitted one Hispanic and three white police officers of beating Rodney King, sparking riots that ended only when U.S. Marines rode up from Camp Pendleton.  What a media circus.  Wouldn’t the media love to see it again?