The U.S. media failed in its coverage of the Trayvon Martin case and many other race-related events and issues, a panel of journalists recently acknowledged at a W.K. Kellogg Foundation gathering.

Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org, said the mainstream media “is just ill-equipped” to report on many complicated race-related factors in our society. “It’s embarrassing to watch the coverage.”

Gregory L. Moore, editor of The Denver Post and moderator for the panel, questioned whether the pressures of a hyper-competitive, 24-hour news cycle contribute to the mistakes in coverage. For example, in the Martin case, the media initially reported that George Zimmerman was White—perhaps feeding into an expected stereotype.

Lovato and other panelists warned however, that the media’s role in perpetuating stereotypes can foster racially-charged situations that lead to violence.

Dr. Gail Christopher, the foundation’s vice president for program strategy, called on the media to be more responsible in its reporting, especially as it pertains to vulnerable children and people of color.

“We want the media to play a major role in helping to heal racial wounds, rather than contributing to the divisiveness,” she said. “There is an important role for the media to play.”

Evelyn Hsu, senior director of programs and operations at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said one solution is to ensure more diversity in newsrooms and to allow more citizens to report on their communities.

Shirley Sneve, executive director of Native American Public Telecommunications, concurred, saying people of color need to utilize available technology such as the Internet to tell their own stories. For example, she said, Native Americans have high rates of suicide, obesity, violence against women and a high school graduation rate of 60 percent. And while those may be “horrible news” stories, they must be told.

“We believe that Native Americans can tell Native American stories the best and so we spend a lot of time training Native Americans and allowing them to speak and be heard on the Internet,” she said.

The meeting, held in New Orleans, was part of the Kellogg Foundation’s America Healing effort that provides grants for organizations to promote racial healing and racial equity to improve the lives of vulnerable children in communities.

For more information about America Healing, visit www.AmericaHealing.org.