Like other media in the area, the site’s coverage of the case has dovetailed with the release of police information. The site’s first piece on the shooting appeared on February 29th, three days after Martin was killed. Longmore explains the delay: “Sanford Police Department first alerted on the shooting on February 26th. There were no names of the victim or shooter. On February 27th, Sanford PD sent the names and ages and described Martin as a black male and Zimmerman as a white male. We wrote back on Feb 27, asking the police, ‘Has George Zimmerman been charged yet? And if so, has he been booked?’” By February 29th, the police responded to Longmore’s requests with this: “He has not been charged with a crime as the investigation continues”; it was then that West Orlando News Online began its coverage. A week went by before the site posted its next update, on March 8th.

Gillian Nanton, senior editor at West Orlando News Online, says being a smaller outlet can be a challenge for access. “It’s problematic when the town and police department tend to defer to the big networks, like ABC and The New York Times. These large networks have had the best access and been given priority,” writes Nanton over e-mail. “Of course, it’s a small police department and they are overwhelmed. We do not detect any intentional blockage.”

“We have had to prioritize in terms of briefings, conferences, marches and rallies that have been covered,” writes Nanton. “We have stuck to covering the larger events and more significant briefings.” She adds that “the story has dominated locally, since it gained a life of its own, and has overshadowed local government elections.”

As the Martin case continues to unfold, Longmore says they will continue their coverage, though “at this point it’s dribbles and drabbles of information,” says Longmore. “At the end of the day, we’re waiting to hear what the grand jury is going to do.”

 

Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.