Why have the protests and riots lasted so long in Ferguson?

Why, 12 days after Michael Brown was shot to death by a policeman, do the good people of Ferguson who want to see a fair and just investigation into the facts surrounding Brown's death still have no peace?

It's the national news media, stupid.

It's the ratings-hungry, pot-stirring, sensationalizing TV media that never misses a chance to milk — and perpetuate — a white-on-black news story.

Ferguson is not just big news on network TV and in the Washington Post. It's become a nightly action-packed reality show on CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

The images of tear-gassed protestors squared off against militarized police make for great TV. So does the tension and drama.

Jake Tapper, Chris Hayes, Steve Harrigan will be there on the sidewalks of Ferguson to capture it live for CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

Obviously, no one can or should stop the news media from stampeding in a herd to Ferguson. We need and want the national print and electronic media to thoroughly cover tragic events like this.

But we need the news media to do its job right — and with restraint.

We need journalists to dig up accurate new information, challenge the authorities, debunk rumors and lies and provide perspective, thoughtful analysis and commentary.

At this point in Ferguson the TV media's saturation coverage — and saturation commentary — is only making things worse.

Its round-the-clock presence is not only attracting publicity seekers and troublemakers who give Ferguson's good people a bad name.

What's worse, the media attention is encouraging residents of Ferguson to continue the unnecessary daily protests that are destroying daily life in their town.

The people of Ferguson deserve to learn the truth. The investigation should be done properly, and state and federal agencies have come in to make sure that happens.

But the process of determining whether police officer Darren Wilson was justified or not in shooting Michael Brown is going to take months, if not years.

Instead of standing around on sidewalks in the dark waiting for something exciting to happen, the TV news guys should do everyone a favor and back off for a while.

That will never happen. But if it did, overnight Ferguson's streets would be filled with cars again, not protest marchers, riot police and Al Jazeera camera crews.

The shooting death of a young black man like Michael Brown is an American tragedy. Unfortunately, it happens all too often.

Too many unarmed citizens of all races are being killed each year by our cops. No one knows for sure how many. But in a handful of highly publicized cases, it's a white cop killing an unarmed black man without justification.

Maybe that's what happened to Brown, maybe not. We'll see.

Meanwhile, while the national media herd waits for all the facts about Brown's death, they might want to spend some quality time in Chicago.

Last year 500 murders were committed there. As in most inner cities, most of the victims and the perpetrators were young black men engaged in gang warfare.

Chicago's permanent murder spree is not as sensational or as racially charged as a white cop killing an unarmed black teen. But its causes and cures could use a lot more media attention.

 

Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant.