Sunday, November 15, 2015

Distrust in the 4th Estate

Eben George

Following Watergate, a staggering
75 percent of people said that they trusted the media. The noble investigative work done by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post is celebrated as one of journalism shinning moments and the quintessential example of the media operating as the fourth estate.

In 2004 the relationship between the public and the media took a serious blow. Decades removed from the courageous investigative journalism depicted in the 1976 film "All the President's Men," only
44 percent of Americans trusted the media as a reliable institution.

Many of those who distrust the media are members of minority groups, in particular black youths. Blacks in this country are fed up with being marginalized in news coverage and sick of the existing double standards in the coverage of the stories in their communities and who can blame them?

"It is hard to trust an institution that ignores you unless you are perceived as causing a problem for 'the rest of us.'"
Said Catherine R. Squires, a professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Race has a direct impact on how a story is covered. If an amber alert is announced about a little white girl being kidnapped, the media firestorm of coverage is roaring. Images of search parties tirelessly working, candlelight vigils, and teary-eyed footage of heart-felt messages from the missing girl's parents fill the airways.

There is a sense of urgency to find the perpetrator and bring them to justice. Tragedies like this are not limited to just middle class white neighborhoods. It just seems the scores of black youths being killed, kidnapped, and abused are being forgotten and their stories being placed on the back burner.

In recent weeks one of the biggest stories has been the resignation of Tim Wolfe, the now former President of the University of Missouri. What is really interesting about this story is the
timeline. Two months of campus protest and cries of outrage by students charged by racial tensions received minimal national news coverage. These protest even included a hunger strike.

Tim Wolfe, former president of the University of Missouri

The protest initially did not get as much coverage as deserved, that is until 31 members of the University of Missouri football team announced on Twitter they would be boycotting all football activities until Wolfe resigned. Just 36-hours after the football players announced their boycott, Wolfe did just that.

The fact that it took the possibility of canceled football games to drawn more attention to a campus full of racial tensions and a faculty that is willing to turn its cheek to it is just one example of why the public has a shared sense of distrust towards the media.

The Missouri Tigers are members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), where football is a more of a secular religion rather than a sport. College football is a cash cow, and serves as the biggest revenue generating entity at many universities across the country. With almost one-third of the Tiger's roster boycotting all football activities, the University of Missouri would have missed out on some significant cash.

“The issues at Missouri are far more important than college football, but the Missouri athletes showed that the color that matters most is green.”
Andy Schwarz said.

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