How Two Fathers Charged With Murder Are Covered By Media

A white man and a Black man were both charged with murder, but the media portrayed them two different ways.

Chris Watts is white father from Colorado who is charged with first-degree murder for killing his pregnant wife and his three and four-year-old daughters. Their bodies were found on an oil site belonging to a company he worked for. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
The photos used in the media coverage of Watts are often stylized shots of him and his family. Reporters also created headlines for the case that stated that he “seemed like ‘he would die’ for his daughters” and that he was “Hailed a ‘hero’ by the daughter he allegedly killed.”

However, coverage for Melvin Harris III, seemed drastically different. The Black father from Arizona is charged with second-degree murder. Police say he fatally punched a man who Harris says followed his 16-year-old daughter into a public bathroom and tried to enter her locked stall. In response, witnesses say Harris approached the man and began to beat him. The man later died after sustaining brain swelling.

Most outlets represented Harris with his mugshot and featured headlines like “Police Say Arizona Man Who Followed Teens Into Restroom Was Beaten To Death By Girl’s Father” and “An Arizona Father Is Behind Bars For Murder After Police Say He Beat A Man Who Followed His Daughter Into A Gas Station Bathroom.” There also are no photos of him and his daughter, who he was defending.

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