Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is There A Bias in Media Coverage of Celebrities?

Kayla Burke

"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 night.


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  2. I know the Taylor Swift/Ed Sheeran comments are just an example, but Taylor Swift is also known as a style icon where as Ed is not. Their are many interviews of her focused on her career, but she herself markets her style and her posse of close friends as something of big value in her life. So maybe I would have used a different example, but I do agree with you. Maybe instead, look at how a male model is interviewed differently than a female model. What kind of questions do they ask each, and is there any bias?