Friday, October 7, 2016
Representation in Mainstream Media
On October 5, 2016, Lilleana Cavanaugh spoke at Ohio University. Cavanaugh is the Executive Director of Ohio Latino Affairs. Her job is to help bridge communities together and create a sense of unity. She chose this job because she wanted to create constant, positive change for the Latino population living in Ohio. She talked about the importance of representation for Latinos in the United States. There are roughly 500,000 Latinos living in Ohio and that number continues to grow. However, there is not adequate representation for Latinos. It is important for journalists to give adequate, accurate and respectful representations to communities that are being overlooked.
The United States has always been known as a "melting pot." However, mainstream media does not accurately depict that. According to an article in Huffington Post, 17 percent of the United States is Latino, but "mainstream media, including movie and television programming, fails to reflect such national diversity." Latinos make up about two percent of movie and television talent. This lack of representation leaves room for stereotypes and inadequate representation. Latinos and other minority groups deserve accurate and fair representation in the media. It would create jobs, eliminate inaccurate stereotypes and be more true to the United States' ethnic composition.
In a New York Times article, Luisita Lopez Torregrosa further examines the misrepresentation of Hispanic and Latino people in American media. Torregrosa reports that a study done by the National Hispanic Media Coalition shows "many Americans believe the media portrayals of Latinos, largely as maids, gardeners, dropouts, and criminals." This is a misrepresentation of Latinos that can negatively impact the United States because people can use these media portrayals to make inaccurate assumptions that hurt the Latino community, along with the United States as a whole. If people believe the stereotypes about Latinos expressed in the media it leaves a huge portion of the United States population untapped. Making these assumptions and limiting people to a handful of roles in society is unethical.
As journalists, it is our job to accurately and fairly represent all the people we serve. Instead of creating an inaccurate representation of the United States' population journalists should show the rich diversity that exists. If journalists and the media and only show Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans and other groups in a negative light it will divide the population. The SPJ Code of Ethics states, "boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear." It is journalists' ethical duty to give voices to people that are underrepresented. If journalists and other members of the media chose to inaccurately or unfairly represent people it is unethical.
The best way to solve this problem is to make a conscious effort to interview and report on all types of people. However, that does not mean just report on specific groups during a special event. It means always being aware of who has a voice in a story. If a story only has one perspective and could benefit from another side journalists should find that other voice. Journalists work in a colorful world and it is their duty to show that.