Thursday, April 28, 2011

Diversity reporting; it is our responsibility

Sara Rice

On the very first day of class, our Journalism 412: Media Ethics class kicked off the quarter with a discussion on the very basics of ethics. After evaluating a couple of moral codes from classic philosophers, the class was challenged to apply the theories to our profession today. Whether the student practices utilitarianism advocated by John Stewart Mill, or teleology advocated by both Aristotle and Socrates, the ideas are the same. In the United States, we have the responsibility of freedom and regardless of the writer's moral code and background, this responsibility still holds true when it comes to reporting issues of diversity and varying suffrage issues.

The first reading assigned for today's class was about the push to change the termination of residents of the United States that are not legally documented. The article discussed the terms "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien." In this argument, the writer states that these terms are commonly related to the Hispanic population. Despite the fact that the AP Style book entry recommends the term "illegal immigrant," many writers and representatives argue that this entry is contradictory. However, the argument that struck a cord with me was the idea that 100 years ago every immigrant was "illegal" or "undocumented." In journalism, it is our responsibility to be sensitive to the interpretation of the terminology we chose to use. In a profession where the AP Style book is that of a reference "Bible," it is difficult to decide what is fair.

From the Society of Professional Journalists to a variety of other journalist groups, writers everywhere are deeming the term "illegal immigrant," irresponsible for reporting use. SPJ released their reasoning behind this decision in late December stating the term to be unconstitutional. If I were to come across this situation in reporting about the current events issue, I would use the accepted and sensitive term, "undocumented immigrant." If you ask me, sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.

"Research has shown that people are more likely to remember the pictures in a news story than the words," a passage from the Gilens reading for class. The idea is that many journalists do not mean to intentionally perpetuate stereotypes in imagery, but do. This subject can get heated. If there is an image to accompany a story about poverty, many times the reader will internalize the message the image sends more than that of the article itself.

When looking at this image, what would the common consumer of news gather? Is this the portrait of American poverty? Or, is this the portrait of the classic portrayal of American poverty? The only conclusion that I can come to is one of compassion and movement for change. It is not fair to perpetuate racial stereotypes in the news whether it be conscious or subconscious. It is the responsibility of the writer, photographer, and editor to be aware of the suffrage issues in the United States and be sure that reporting is done wholly and truthfully.

In other words, take the picture and write the story. However, be sure that what you are writing and what you are choosing to photograph will resinate with the consumer in a way that tells the story but doesn't portray and opinion or judgement. Being aware and cautious of the consumer's interpretation and today's issues will create a more "melting pot minded" form of reporting. Let's all get back to the mindset we had in the 5th grade.

No comments:

Post a Comment