Q&A on the News

Q: The Associated Press has provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with stories about the trial of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Every story contains the sentence: "Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic." What is the significance of Zimmerman's ethnic background that it gets mentioned in every story? — Paul Morley, Lithia Springs

A: Race is an important aspect of the trial because Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic on both his driver's license and voting records, according to media reports. News organizations have been struggling with how to identify Zimmerman. The New York Times called him a "white Hispanic" in its initial 2012 stories because Zimmerman's mother is Peruvian and his father is white. Phil Corbett, the Times' standards editor, wrote that the paper mentions "race or ethnicity if and only if it's pertinent to the story. Given that this is being investigated as a possible civil-rights case and has stirred protests in part because of concerns about racial elements, it seems clear that race and ethnicity are pertinent, for both people involved." The Times has since decided to identify Zimmerman as Hispanic in its stories, Corbett said, "especially since by now most readers are familiar with him and the case." The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel has referred to Zimmerman as a "light-skinned Hispanic," and the Miami Herald identifies him as "half white, half Hispanic." Zimmerman is on trial for the shooting death of Martin on Feb. 12, 2012.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).