Monday, October 3, 2016

What would happen #IfTheyGunnedYouDown ?

Raquel Devariel

We’ve all heard about it, we’ve all thought it was wrong, but why does it keep happening?

The media is on this vicious cycle where those who are underprivileged lack of accurate representation. In recent years that the audience, our stakeholders, have brought to our attention the phenomenon of character assassination.

Character assassination, as defined by Farlex Dictionary, is the malicious denunciation or slandering of another person, especially as part of an effort to ruin the reputation of a public figure. When this term is used, we often find it in stories that cover the comparison of white and black subjects and their appearance through the different media outlets.

A recent case that sparked this debate was when former Stanford athlete, Brock Turner, was accused of raping an unconscious and intoxicatedwoman after a fraternity party. His picture was all over the news, but some say that the media coverage was biased and showed Turner’s white privilege. Another factor that contributed to this public controversy was that his picture was pulled from Stanford’s yearbook and that it took 16 months for different mediums to release his mugshot.

However, even though these outlets had failed to release an accurate image of Turner, the community was proactive and decided to make comparisons.  The photo used seemed to portray him as an innocent-college student that only made one bad decision on a casual night out, while other black and minority offenders in the past years had been portrayed as delinquent, inhumane attackers for the same reason.

Another case in recent years that started this debate was when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot in Ferguson, Mo. When the news broke, a picture of Brown unsmiling and supposedly doing gang signs was used, giving us another reason to believe that many journalistic approaches have been biased when reporting about certain racial groups.

Picture taken from Twitter user @CJLawrenceEsq,
creator of #IfTheyGunnedMeDown
Although it is terrorizing to hear about these cases, this has allowed the community of minorities to express how they feel through social media. The hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown was created by Twitter user @CJLawrenceEsq to make a statement about this current problem.

“It was a brilliant media critique, and while Twitter and other platforms may have no magical power to stop shootings or catch warlords, one thing they are very good at is catching the attention of the media,” said James Poniwozik in his article, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and What Hashtag ActivismDoes Right.

This effort made by the community to reach out to journalist has been extremely powerful. Is it true that we have let down those who want to be informed? Have we forgotten that we are advocates of justice and transparency?

The answer should be no. As journalist it is extremely crucial to remember and be aware of our personal biases and step down if we can't report objectively.

We cannot forget that we are the voices of our communities and that the information we are passing down is meant to encourage them to act in a positive way; Rather than sparking a controversial debate because we have failed to exercise the values our job requires.  

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