Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Racial Bias within Reporting on Crimes

Tyler Jordan

Photo by Eric Paddock

Mass Shooting Coverage

At this point in American history, I think we are all familiar with mass shootings whether we like it or not. Whether it be from mass shootings, terrorists massacres, or just mass shootings in general, it’s sad but true to say that we’ve almost become desensitized to hearing about these things. However, one thing people may have not picked up or ever noticed is the type of rhetoric the media likes use when comes to describing the mass shooters. Following the Las Vegas shooting a lot of media outlets were quick to humanize the shooter, 64-year-old Stephan Paddock, as opposed to going with what the masses were saying he should be called, a terrorist. However, the issue isn’t that the media wanted to take this route in how they described the shooter, the problem is that when it comes to other mass shooters of a different race the media seems to be a lot less quick to point out some of the personal factors related to the shooter.

Terrorist Argument

One of the big issues brought up immediately from the portrayal of this case is how white men are covered when it comes to violent crimes within the media. In this article by Kelly Macias of Daily Kos she talks about how the media’s farming of this tragedy reflects the bias towards white people when it comes to reporting on huge crimes. One the best quotes from this is when she talks about how the Las Vegas police tiptoed around the terrorist claim. “Despite the scale of the attack and Paddock’s being armed with more than 10 rifles, Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo immediately dismissed any ties to terrorism, classifying Paddock, a white male from a rural town 80 miles from Las Vegas, as a “local individual” and a “lone wolf.” We have yet to determine whether Paddock was motivated by anyone or anything, so many are tiptoeing around terms such as “terrorist.” But if Paddock were Muslim, his status as a local individual would be entirely irrelevant, and the motive of “Islamic terrorism” or “jihad” would likely be immediately assumed, even without any evidence.”

Portrayal of Black People

A good contrast to look at would be how some media sites covered the shooting of Mike Brown. Notice how the media has some weird need to look for a reason to almost justify Brown being killed. Notice how in this article they are quick to acknowledge that Mike Brown was committing a crime, again relating back to that justification some people try and make. In another article it was reported that the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, said Mike Brown could have avoiding being shot if he had “behaved like something other than a thug” Now think about if Mike Brown were white and how this might have been covered different.

Based on just that small example you can see there is a bias in how these things are covered. And there needs to be more acknowledgment of this behavior, because there’s no room for demonizing and humanizing especially when comes to professional journalism.


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