Opinion: Response to BuzzFeed’s article on Michael Johnson

BuzzFeed News published an article from Steven Thrasher which included biased commentary and false claims. File photo from Flickr.

EDITORIAL BOARD

In 2015, former Lindenwood University student Michael Johnson, who also went as “Tiger Mandingo” online was found guilty in five of six HIV related charges. Now that Johnson is being granted the opportunity for parole on Oct. 9, 2019, his story is resurfacing on national publications, like BuzzFeed. 

BuzzFeed author Steven Thrasher has been covering the story since it garnered national attention and posted a story on April 9 regarding the updates in Johnson’s case. 

Throughout Thrasher’s coverage of the story, he has utilized inflammatory and overdramatic rhetoric, including statements that are simply false. 

Thrasher claims “when Johnson was arrested in 2013, he was a star wrestler at Lindenwood University, where he was also one of the only black students.” This careless wording and inattention to detail show Thrasher’s unprofessional coverage of a sensitive subject, considering that Lindenwood reported in 2013 that out of the 16,000-17,000 students that attend Lindenwood, more than 21 percent are reported as African-American, which hardly suggests that Johnson was “one of the only black students.” 

In addition, Thrasher claims that “his trial, held in the nearly all-white town of St. Charles, Missouri, featured a highly-charged combination of race and sex.” Although St. Charles reported only 5.4 percent of citizens in the city were African-American in the 2010 census data, again, it shows Thrasher’s dedication to destroying the integrity of both Lindenwood University and St. Charles city. 

Incendiary and biased commentary backed by little to no facts from “journalists” like Thrasher are the reason why journalists struggle to garner the warranted respect that many of them deserve for fair and balanced reporting. Thrasher’s attempts to insert his own opinion into sensitive news coverage is unwarranted and highly unprofessional and only adds fuel to the fire against professional journalists who work tirelessly to bring the public accurate information. 

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