Thursday, April 28, 2011

Would you really want to read this if I title it "Racism"?

Photo taken from a fellow blogger.

Lauren Stauffenger

Choosing our words wisely is something that we must master as journalists. As we discussed in class on Tuesday, the difference between the words "looting" and "finding" is enormous - especially when paired with photographs depicting subjects of varying cultural backgrounds. I say "cultural backgrounds" instead of "races" for a good reason.

Currently, I am taking a sociology course in which we learned that the concept of race is the real OR imagined physical differences between and amongst people. My point, here, is that race is oftentimes in our heads. People are all the same race; we are all just people. Yet, our imagined perceptions are sometimes enhanced, not deterred, by media portrayals, language, references and labels.

As the article from American Journalism Review points out, referring to a foreign citizen in America without papers as an "illegal immigrant" already labels him/her as a criminal. In contrast, calling him/her an "undocumented immigrant" carries less of a negative connotation. Through the use of certain labels, the media is segmenting people.

In a recent blog post by CNN's Jack Cafferty, the question is posted: Will the 2012 presidential race be the 'ugliest' and most 'racist' one in history? Cafferty says that there is a "general nastiness in the tone of our dialogue in this country that didn't used to be there" and goes on to back up this statement.

The issue of media accuracy becomes the focal point of stories regarding diversity. For instance, researchers in the UK reported that there was a lack of diversity in mainstream television advertisements. It is my opinion that although advertisers should be sure not to blatantly disregard any ethnic or cultural group, they should also not strive so hard to meet quotas that they are being overtly cheesy or insincere about their efforts.

I really think that the issue of racial depiction in media can be summed up by a quote from Kirk Johnson, an assistant sociology professor. Johnson says, "I think if people use the media, they rely on what the media tell them, particularly about race." I agree with Johnson and I truly believe that if cultural perceptions about "race" are going to change, it should start and end with the media's choice of language and portrayals.

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