Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Covering Diversity: Our Responsibility as Journalists

Eamonn Reynolds

If you were to ask the typical college lecture class what it means to be diverse, their answer would most likely consist of a variety of different responses. To some, the term diversity applies most specifically to the ongoing relationships among multiple races, while others may see it more in regards to how one chooses to express his or herself. As such a prominent topic in today’s society, it is difficult to identify what the true definition actually is. Regardless, it is our responsibility as journalists to consider these different perspectives in our work, and to always be conscious of the message that our content may be portraying. If we do not abide by these standards, our credibility and reputation are at risk being dismantled.

Out of all three articles for this week, the Poor People in the News: Images from the Journalistic Subconscious article by Martin Gilens seemed to me the most relevant and helpful. The two areas of this article I found most intriguing were the impact that photographs and images may have in regards to minorities, as well as the psychological factors that continue to plague journalists’ decision making when it comes to covering diversity. On page 45, Gilens writes, “Processing words takes more time and effort. And even when factual information is attended to and remembered, the power of vivid examples will often outweigh the factual information” (Gilens 45). I agree with this point in that, while efforts are most likely made by journalists covering poverty and diversity to offer valuable information and statistics, the average consumer of news will undoubtedly devote his or her attention to the picture or image provided. . As a result, if the media keeps addressing the same misguided portrayal of poverty in the media, readers and viewers will continue to resort back to theses stereotypes. For information on organizations addressing this very problem, check out Media Literacy.

Moving further through the document, Gilens mentions how psychologically there are subconscious stereotypes that people possess that may be expressed in news content without us even knowing. In response, Gilens makes a great point by saying “To overcome the influence of subconscious stereotypes, news professionals, like other Americans, must consciously “monitor” their reactions to racially charged stimuli” (Gilens 48). This concept applies directly to the stimulus bill cartoon we discussed in class that pictured President Obama as a dead monkey.

As journalists, we must address this issue in whatever ethics codes we choose to adopt. A perfect example of such an ethics code is the PRSA Code of Ethics, which expresses values such as “Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information” and “Foster informed decision making through open communication.”

We can talk about this all we want, but the reality of the situation is that soon all of us, at one point or another, will most likely be faced with an issue relating to diversity as we pursue careers in this field. It is our responsibility as ethical journalists to embrace this challenge and ensure that the work we publish adheres to our code of ethics and truthfully represents the issue in question.

But hey, it doesn’t have to be all bad and serious. Laugh a little. It's good for you.

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