Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Is There A Bias in Media Coverage of Celebrities?
"Call Me Caitlyn"
In our readings this week, we learned a little more about
the ethical side of journalistic reporting, specifically diversity and bias in
reporting, or in the media in general. While reading our articles this week,
one particular news event seemed to stand out to me more so than others, this
being what could be called the headline of the summer – Bruce Jenner
introducing the world to Caitlyn Jenner. While many media outlets and reporting
stories were very welcoming to Jenner’s transition from male to female, some
were not so kind. The cover of Vanity Fair that Jenner used to officially come
out, clearly stated “Call Me Caitlyn”, yet clearly some outlets did not listen.
CNN Money touched on this, mentioning various instances where reporters clearly
used male pronouns (he, him, his) rather than female pronouns, even if they
were referring to Caitlyn instead of Bruce. The article even mentions that
Jenner’s mother is having a hard time getting used to calling her Caitlyn,
because it’s such a habit to state otherwise.
Diversity & Representation in the Media
The fact that so many people and reporters were so unwilling
to abide by Jenner’s request and use the proper gender pronouns as requested is
a great example of just how little transsexual representation and diversity is
in the media. While being transsexual is something that has occurred for many
years, many media outlets are only just now acknowledging the orientation
because it has been brought to light in the recent years by people such as Laverne
Cox (Orange is the New Black) and Caitlyn Jenner. If there was more
representation of trans individuals in the media, I truly believe that these
reporters would be more mindful of how they are wording their opinions.
One thing that stood out as I was researching the media
coverage of Caitlyn’s “Coming Out” was how many reporters didn’t hesitate to
quit talking about Bruce Jenner’s various athletic achievements and were quick
to begin judging Caitlyn’s appearance and wardrobe, as is the norm for many female
celebrities. It’s rare that we hear about a female celebrities’ personal
accomplishments or charity work, because in the media, it seems more important
to figure out what designer they’re wearing, or who their latest romantic
conquest is – things that are rarely asked of men on red carpets. One example
that comes to mind is the following clip of Taylor Swift, where she is asked whether she will be taking awards or men home from the ceremony.
You can see in
the clip that the reporters tend to focus more on Taylor’s friends, her social
life, and her appearance, and focus very little on her personal and
professional achievements. There is a definite bias between how men are
represented in the media versus women. As we can see in this video, an
interview with Ed Sheeran, the conversation is focused much more on Sheeran’s
music career, rather than his style or appearance.
The Future of Bias & Diversity in Media Coverage
Over the past few years, the media coverage does seem to
have taken a turn towards focusing more on women’s appearances and male’s
successes, people like Taylor Swift, who help “shun” this type of stereotyping,
greatly help the media coverage become a little less biased. We can only hope
that in the future, everyone can be valued equally for their successes rather
than only being recognized for what they were wearing to dinner the previous