Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Eye of the Beholder

Diana Taggart

Our subject matter this week is racism and how it is portrayed – consciously or not – in the media. We also read a bit about the media becoming the story. Here is my take on the story.  As long as there are two sides to every story, there will be biases (racism). It is human nature and permeates our lives.

That is not to say that we cannot change a bias, only that we will always have them. Most of us were taught a race bias in our childhood by our first teachers – our parents. Mine were rampant racists. “You can go to school with them (meaning blacks) but don’t you ever bring one in this house!” said my lily-white, Southern mother.

Some were made into racists by an experience or maybe multiple experiences. I was ‘cured’ of most of my prejudices against other races by my three year stint in the U.S. Army, where I bunked side by side with blacks, Hispanics, and others. We ate together, worked together, and hung out together. 

There is no one reason why someone would despise or look down on another. Consciously or unconsciously it has become a part of the American psyche. Blacks often feel the same way about whites. The problem is (or at least ONE of the problems is) that the media is supposed to be unbiased, impartial, and refrain from becoming part of the story or to slant their stories to support a particular bias.

In the Nieman Reports, “Why Newsroom Diversity Works” article, it states: “The 2014 Newsroom Census conducted by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) found that only 15 percent of daily newspapers surveyed in 2013 had a person of color in one of their top three newsroom leadership positions.” That is an abysmally low percentage when one considers how many newsrooms there are across America. 

It is hard to have unbiased reporting when the majority of the reporters are of one race. The same article quoted Anna Holmes, founder of feminist blog Jezebel and an editor at Fusion, as saying, “I think that the problem is that racial issues still make more people uncomfortable than women’s issues.” How can we fix something if we can’t even discuss it without feeling uncomfortable or threatened?
One of my personal favorite ‘celebrities’ is Lester Holt of NBC News. Lester is a man of color who has “made it” in the media, commanding over a million dollars as an annual salary. Not everyone has worked so hard and gotten the rewards of his labor as has Lester. “You know, I’ve never identified myself professionally through a racial lens, but I recognize it’s important,” said the 56-year-old journalist, whose mother is Jamaican and father African American. “It’s important that people turn on the TV and see people who look like themselves.” ( article by Courtney Connley)  Lester does not look anything like me, but I trust him to deliver the news in a no-nonsense sort of way.

As long as we have mostly white men and women reporting, and mostly white men and women photographers and camera operators, we will have mostly white sided stories. It is frustrating that the daily local news shows the suspects in crimes and most of them are black. When they do show a white perpetrator, everyone seems surprised. It’s all in one’s perception. What is yours?


  1. Diana,
    I was reading the posts and yours caught my eye. I took the readings in such a broader context and found your perspective so interesting. My parents did not have had a bias or spoke of one, growing up because there wasn't anyone in my hometown to "teach" me that viewpoint in regards to race. As I was getting ready to go to college, I just knew that from comments made (that I finally could "get" )that I had not truly been privy to a full upbringing about other cultures. There were stereotypes and warnings about what I was/should/ do about other people. But it wasn't just race. It was a diverse group. As shows and media progressed, my family made comments of what was acceptable to watch and what was not. I have a much broader definition of the word "diversity" and when it's applied to the stories that are presented on mass media, it certainly is struggling to get a full picture. Everyone wants to be politically correct. The internet and the news online seems much more progressive and it is slowly influencing the networks.
    Thanks for sharing your point of view!
    Tracy Brewer

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