Thursday, April 28, 2011

Breaking the news through diversity and sensitivity

Lane Robbins

It is important that media be sensitive to issues of race, class, gender and sexual orientation when reporting the news, so reporters and editors do not let their unconscious biases get in the way of professional reporting. We are reporting the news for all kinds of people and as media specialists we must strive to bring independence and objectivity to our stories.

What's in an immigration status?
The debate is still raging about the rights of new immigrants to this country, especially immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. Words like "alien," "illegal" and "undocumented" fill media reports. Some people find the words "alien" and "illegal" offensive and dehumanizing, while others feel like they are the most appropriate linguistic signifiers for non-citizen immigrants to the United States. The term "illegal immigrant" is preferred by the Associated Press Stylebook.

Personally, I don't believe any human being is "illegal" or "alien;" we are all immigrants to this country. Immigrants deserve open and easy pathways to citizenship, if that is their desire. If governments and corporations are so intent on the free-flow of global capital, they should also allow the free movement of people across borders.

Less blacks on welfare than Americans believe
Poverty and race in America is also something media has struggled to cover accurately and without prejudice. African-Americans have traditionally been overrepresented in photographs depicting poverty, especially as members of the "underclass:" "those associated with crime, drugs, out-of-wedlock births, and 'welfare as a way of life,'" according to academic Martin Gilens, in his article Poor People in the News.

Maybe that is why so many white Americans do not believe in welfare for the poor, yet do not question corporate welfare.

The prejudicial trend has improved as news outlets have become more aware of their publishing patterns. In 1988 the Seattle Times began to count photographs of minorities appearing in positive, neutral and negative contexts to offer a more accurate societal representation.

The president is black and white
Race is a complicated issue into which media does not often delve. An article in Quill Magazine discusses President Obama's biracialism -- Obama is half-white and half-black. Yumi Wilson, author of the article, "Why the race debate is far from over," is half-black and half-Japanese. She feels that reporters should avoid giving people one-word labels and instead ask subjects how they want to be identified.

The nuances of race should not be relegated from the front page to the op-ed page, Wilson said. I agree: let's stop ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. News media must be conscious of race and class and examine the lingering unconscious stereotyping and prejudice in news reporting. Newsroom should be diverse and cover diverse communities. This also includes the voices of women and the LGBTQ community.

"Diversity only gets represented in a diverse newsroom," Bob Ferrante, executive producer of the syndicated radio show The World, said.

No comments:

Post a Comment