Journalistic Responsibility: Coverage of Minorities

By Diara J. Townes. February 4th, 2017.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/07/19/exp-rs-0719-chattanooga-muslim-media-coverage.cnn

The rise of minority-owned newspapers, publications, television shows and so on since the 1960s is greatly attributed to the failure of mainstream media’s ability to fully and responsibly cover these social groups (Cory, Center for Media Literacy).

By only reporting and producing specific, negative stories and representations of various groups, so have the masses believed, whether intentionally (or even consciously), or not. I believe this, in turn, has affected how journalists report on various ethnic and cultural groups, including Muslim and Arab peoples.

A preconceived impression of any social group based on negative misrepresentations in mass media have altered the viewpoint of the children who later become reporters, again, not necessarily consciously or intentionally (Clark, 2017), but evidentially.

The Muslim and Arab global communities are now facing a dire crisis. They are being targeted, not just implicated or misrepresented, by the current White House administration and its supporters.

The media must do everything it can to present the facts about the people that this impacts, and not just the intentions of these false accusations and executive actions. The entertainment industry has a huge opportunity to alter the views of this falsely demonized social group through the perspectives of Muslim and Arab writers, producers, filmmakers, actors and more.

“If the press….does not police itself, others will step in to do the job.”

The news media has also failed to socially and ethically hold itself accountable, even though Hutchins pointed this issue out nearly a century ago. Clark states that “if the press….does not police itself, others will step in to do the job.”

Self-regulation has slowly declined over the last few decades, where stories that were once well-prepared and verified before publishing, are now posted so quickly, thanks to technological advances, that theres little time to fully verify its information and assess its true point. This has resulted in the regurgitation of reports from the government, rather than a fact and source-checked story.

“Malpractice by the press undermines its freedoms.”

Mistakes, like the calls for Gore rather than Bush on election night 2000, coupled with the inability of the news media to admit and express regret over these errors, has resulted in a shift in how society perceives the news (and people) outside their interpersonal spectrum (Tenore, 2010). And as the Poynter article states, “malpractice by the press undermines its freedoms.”

The infringement on the rights of journalists and whistleblowers by the federal government has steadily increased over the last ten or so years (Bojanowski, 2017). I believe that the haste to publish an article, the misrepresentation of social, religious and cultural groups, and limitations on the freedoms of the press are all contributing factors as to why news organizations have been unable to fully commit to the five requirements for responsible and ethical mass media.

“We must educate ourselves on the experiences of people different from us to truly understand and respect that culture, to become better citizens and journalists.”

Social networking is having a small but positive impact on how the Muslim and Arab communities are being viewed across the United States. As reported in Vogue, “the wonderful thing about social media is you can control, to a huge extent, the content that appears on your feed instead of the media dictating what you should see,” (Carlos, 2017). This has empowered people in these marginalized communities to share what the mass media has so pointedly failed to do.

There are, of course, a great number of people who are still indoctrinated in the exaggerated expressions of the religious and cultural groups, but the tide of change is slowly rising, again thanks to technology and social media. We must take time to educate ourselves on the experiences of people different from us to truly understand and respect that culture, to become better citizens and journalists.

I have friends and coworkers who are Muslim and/or Middle-eastern. I am fortunate enough to live in a diverse city where I get to have day-to-day interactions with people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I learned to respect the diverse people I met as I grew up, and I use my experiences and perspectives on social media and in-person to discuss the importance of inclusion and diversity. I make it a point to treat people with the respect they deserve as fellow citizens and humans.

I strongly believe that the news media must recommit to the standards declared by Hutchins. We must properly represent the people in our society as they live, in all facets of their lives, in order to truly end the wrong and uncivil scapegoating of Muslims and Arabs.

Sources:

Clark, Roy Peter. (Feb 1, 2017) Rounding out portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the news. Poynter. (http://www.poynter.org/2017/rounding-out-portrayals-of-arabs-and-muslims-in-the-news/447504/)

Cort, Carlos. A Long Way to Go: Minorities and the Media. Center for Media Literacy. (http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/long-way-go-minorities-and-media)

Tenore, Mallary Jean (July 7, 2010). Why Journalists Make Mistakes & What We Can Do About Them. Poynter. (http://www.poynter.org/2010/why-journalists-make-mistakes-what-we-can-do-about-them/104195/)

Carmen, Bojanowski (February 3 2017) Arresting American Journalists May Not Be as Rare as It Once Was. Paste Magazine. (https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/arresting-american-journalists-may-not-be-as-rare.html)

Marion Carlos (January 31st, 2017) How This Young Muslim Poet Uses Social Media and Clothes to Challenge Stereotypes. Vogue. (http://www.vogue.com/article/riya-hamid-muslim-women-islam-bangladesh-resistance-instagram)