The Problems With American Media And How To Fix Them

The Problems With American Media And How To Fix Them

The media has many problems and I am going to fearlessly discuss them.
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The media is an abundantly powerful entity within the American democracy because the majority of Americans obtain their news from the media rather than from other people or other sources. Edward Murrow, the father of broadcast journalism once said, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it's nothing but wires and lights in a box." I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Murrow’s ideology of the media. The media should be one of the most trusted entities in the United States of America because of its influence on our culture. However, this is not the case due to the history of media personnel earning the public’s distrust.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the most trusted media outlets in the USA are the Economist weekly newspaper and the British Broadcasting Corporation (Mitchell et. al). This would not be a problem if these two media outlets were based in the USA, but unfortunately, they are not. They are both British-based media outlets. The fact that Americans are willing to trust media outlets that are not based in their own nation poses a problem that needs an immediate solution. There are three things that I believe cause American media outlets to be viewed as untrustworthy: the promotion of racial stereotypes, biased reporting and the presentation of wrongful or fabricated information.

In this day and age, racism is abundantly exposed and expressed in our society, more than in previous generations. This is evident in police brutality shooting young African Americans and the social media movement known as Black Lives Matter (also stylized as #BlackLivesMatter). However, the media has played a huge role in the racial stereotypes set against many ethnic groups in previous generations. An example of this is the ideology of good and evil. For many years, the media has relentlessly promoted the color “white” as pure and wholesome and the color “black” is associated with evil and immoral . The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the word white definitions like “free from moral impurity” and “not intended to cause harm” (Merriam-Webster) and the word black has definitions like “thoroughly sinister or evil," “very sad, gloomy, or calamitous” and “characterized by hostility or angry discontent” (Merriam-Webster). It is very evident that even in our dictionaries, we the people are not safe from the heavy reinforcement of racial stereotypes.

Other examples of the media’s promotion of racial stereotypes are our movies, commercial advertisements and television shows. Stephen Balkaran states that the “media have divided the working class and stereotyped young African-American males as gangsters or drug dealers. As a result of such treatment, the media have crushed youths' prospects for future employment and advancement...The media have devoted too much time and space to 'enumerating the wounded' and too little time to describing the background problems of African-Americans” (Balkaran). This is evident in movies and television shows such as The Wire, Menace II Society and Love and Hip Hop. All of these mediums of entertainment promote and reinforce most racial stereotypes against blacks in America. In the television drama The Wire, all of the main characters are African Americans portraying thugs, drug dealers and criminals. In the movie Menace II Society, black youth are portrayed as rebellious and immoral gang members. The reality show Love and Hip Hop shows an array of disturbing verbal and physical abuse in black relationships. Even though these shows are entertaining, they do no justice for the black communities because of the exploitation of racial stereotypes pitted against blacks.


These racial stereotypes are evident in our news outlets as well. In an interview with Donald Trump on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly showcases his belief in these racial stereotypes. During the interview, O’Reilly asks Trump how he would appeal to the black community, and Trump responds that he would do so by providing more jobs in America. O'Reilly proceeds to say, “But how are you going to get jobs for them? Many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads, and I hate to be generalized about it, but it's true. If you look at all the educational statistics, how are you going to get jobs for people who aren't qualified for jobs?” (Chotiner). As a journalist, this is unjust and inaccurate. Where are the statistics for these accusations? O'Reilly provides no actual sources for this information, so one could argue that he is reinforcing racial stereotypes placed upon blacks in America.

The media has a tendency to report stories with heavily biased intentions. The practice of biased reporting leads to both the erasure and criminalization of marginalized communities. In a 1964 speech, Malcolm X says “This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” (X). This quote still rings true in our generation’s media outlets. A news outlet that is known for expressing its biases is the Fox News Network. Media monitoring groups such as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and Media Matters for America, have argued that Fox News coverage contains editorializing that favors conservative values among news stories. In a study conducted over a 19-week period from January 2001 to May 2001 on the ratio of conservative guests compared to non-conservative guest on the show Special Report with Brit Hume. The study revealed that this ratio was 25:3, which is absolutely in the favor of conservative viewers (Rendall). The problem with Fox News being an openly right wing station is that they will not be trusted by Americans with different views because of the expected political biases that are continuously and vigorously expressed on the network.

Fox News has been involved in the slander of Barack Obama in 2007. On January 19, 2007, Fox News featured a segment highlighting a right-wing report that then Senator Barack Obama attended an Islamic “madrassa” school as a 6-year-old child. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy pointed out that madrassas are “financed by Saudis” and “teach this Wahhabism which pretty much hates us,” (Thinkprogress.org). This is obviously a simultaneous attack on Obama and the Islamic faith, proposing that Obama is a terrorist because of his association with Islam and that people of the Islamic faith are all terrorists. These type of propagandic attacks are highly preposterous in terms of the aforementioned Murrow’s journalistic values.

Fox News also has a history with biased reporting relating to race. On November 29, 2006, during an interview on the political show Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity gets upset with James Myart, a civil rights lawyer who represented Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. McKinney was accused of hitting a U.S. Capitol police officer in 2006. Myart said, "Most police officers are good, honest, hard-working men and women. But there is a culture of police officers out there that represents a legalized gang" (Allen). Hannity attempts to interrupt Myart as soon as he says the word “but” because he knew that the idea of police injustice was eventually to be brought up. Rather than debate this important issue, Hannity made accusations of racism at Myart in an almost berserk manner because his views are different. Hannity calls Myart’s opinion of police injustice a “national disgrace” (Allen).

The reinforcement of racial stereotypes and biased reporting is accompanied by the presentation of wrongful or fabricated information. In regards to biased reporting, an analysis released by PunditFact revealed that over half the statements made by a Fox News or NBC/MSNBC host or guest were false (Sharockman). What’s more shocking is that about only 8-9% percent could be considered completely true (as seen below). This is alarming because these two news station are our leading stations and have an insurmountable influence on our culture and political views. As an American, viewing these statistics makes me believe that these news networks are unjust and bias.

FOX NEWS


NBC/MSNBC

In regards to racial stereotyping, in the article Race To Judgement: Stereotyping Media And Criminal Statistics, Robert Entman, professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University, highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies: “Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime... [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles…” (Entman and Gross). Entman also states that “Messages continually associating people of color, especially blacks, with poverty and crime reinforce the updated form of racial prejudice known as symbolic racism, racial resentment, or racial animosity” (Entman and Gross).

An example of this is another incident involving the Fox News Network and Bill O’Reilly. On the December 4th edition of the O’Reilly Show, Bill O’Reilly offered his opinion on a silent Ferguson protest by Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin, members of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, saying the players "believe that white police officers shoot black youths all the time" (Sanders). He continues to state, “In the past 50 years, the rate of black Americans killed by police has dropped 70 percent. In 2012, 123 African-Americans were shot dead by police. There are currently more than 43 million blacks living in the U.S.A. Same year, 326 whites were killed by police bullets. Those are the latest stats available" (Sanders). However, this statistic has proven to be false in a study released by ProPublica the day before the show aired. The study reveals that young African Americans are at a “21 times greater” risk of being shot and killed by police officers (Gabrielson, Grochowski Jones and Sagara). The study also states that “1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police” (Gabrielson, Grochowski Jones and Sagara). Therefore, Mr. O’Reilly’s statistics are either wrong or fabricated to fit he and the network’s views.

Solutions

In spite of these journalistic travesties committed by the American media, there are a few solutions to these problems that could earn the public’s trust. To eliminate racial stereotypes, the media must present more shows and movies that don’t feed into these stereotypes. There could be shows, like My Wife and Kids and Meet the Browns, which are about black middle-class families that don't succumb to drinking and smoking at early ages, street life, and gang activity. Media also have to report information involving criminals and victims fairly, whether they are black or white, without voicing their biases. To eliminate biased reporting, journalists, anchorman, anchorwoman, show hosts and their news stations must be neutral in their views in terms of race, politics, and culture. The media has to be fair and balanced, as Fox News suggests in its slogan. Finally, to eliminate the presentation of wrongful and fabricated information, media outlets should carry out unbiased research on their topics. Media outlets have to be adamant in the pursuit of truth. In order to do so, the information they find must be credible and accurate. As a society, we need to know what is happening in our world. This is impossible if the media continues to block the public from the truth of certain situations with racial stereotypes, biases, and fabricated information. The continuation of this would be a national disgrace to our democracy.

Cover Image Credit: Argument Marketing

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Clocking In: The 9 To 5 Feminist

Jane Fonda, #MeToo and Fashion
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She puts the finishing touches on her makeup, so they say she is in dress code. She buttons to the top of her blouse, so they don’t stare. She smiles and asks politely, so they won’t call her uptight. She doesn’t smile too much though, so they don’t think she’s flirting. She doesn’t question her salary, so they don’t report her. She doesn’t tell anyone what her creep of a boss did, so they don’t fire her. Just another day at the office.

She is not alone. The modern woman is forced to deal with workplace discrimination and sexual harassment in silence. Even her dress code, from the makeup on her face to the heels on her feet, is designed with a restrictive double standard.

Despite past efforts to combat such inequality, this has largely remained the status quo. However, 2017 marked a turning point in the fight for a workplace equality with the viral social media campaigns #MeToo and #TimesUp, which are aimed at combating sexual harassment and sexist double standards.

These campaigns amplify the forceful rallying cries of working women and shines light on the unspoken reality of their experiences in the workplace at the hands of men. These protests echo the feminist movement of the 1970s which was in part influenced by its representation in film, an iconic example of which is Jane Fonda’s trailblazing production of “9 to 5.”

Taking inspiration from her friend’s Boston organization of female workers “Nine to Five,” Fonda sought to bring to light the untold stories women in the office often experienced in a way that was palpable to the public: comedy. The 1980 office satire “9 to 5,” starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Fonda herself, addresses the wage gap, sexual harassment and blatant sexism through the lens of three women fed up with their villainous, misogynistic male boss.

In “9 to 5,” the boss subjects the feminist trio to different aspects of the same sexist narrative. He calls the new girl stupid and incapable. He demands his secretary to turn around and bend over for his viewing pleasure. He takes the credit of the only female office manager to further his standing with the company. The sexist dynamic between him and the trio is reflected in their attire and connects the events of the movie to the feminist movement as a whole.

Stereotyped as the weaker sex, the female employees of “9 to 5” adhere to a strict dress code characteristic of 1970s workplace apparel of below the knee skirts, silk ties, blouses adorned with bows, heels and a full face of makeup. The physical restrictiveness and beauty standards imposed on women by their male superiors shows the subtlety of sexist workplace culture.

Outside the office, women of the 1970s were embracing comfort and function in their casual fashion. Denim jeans, loose-fitting shirts and flat Oxford shoes reflected the growing movement of women to make their own choices and live as they please, free from the limitations of the patriarchy. Within the walls of the office, however, it was still very much a man’s world.

The requirement that women maintain feminine standards of beauty in the office ensures that the standard of acceptable clothing for working women is decided by the men. As a consequence, men use this double standard to solidify ideas that women are incapable of a man’s job and are not to be taken seriously. Sexist ideas like these supported the wage gap and kept women from advancing, despite having the qualifications to do so.

By the film’s end, however, “9 to 5” rejects this pervasive narrative that women’s capabilities are limited by their clothing. Following a series of bumbling mishaps, the trio find themselves in charge of the company and replace the sexist status quo with a progressive and equal workplace, fulfilling the goal of the feminist movement.

In showing the efficiency and progressiveness of a female-run workplace, the film shows that women are equally capable of a man’s job (and that they can do it better). “9 to 5” redefined working women as competent and equal to men, shedding the stereotypes of how they should dress and behave to appease the sexist status quo.

Considering the current political climate of social regression, despite changes in clothing and office technology, the dynamic between men and women in the office hasn’t changed much. Women still earn less than men. Men hold most positions of power. The goals of the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements mirror the fanciful aspirations of “9 to 5.”

But what’s changed? What has made the contemporary feminist movements so much more powerful and influential than any before them? Deemed radical for its time, the progressive themes of equality and a workplace free of harassment are now contemporary feminist staples. The era of inclusion is fast approaching. Thanks to the current feminist revolt and the trailblazing of the past, men in positions of power are no longer able to use their influence as a shield to silence women or hide behind the public eye.

In a symbolic exchange of the unending struggle of the feminist movement at the 2017 Emmy Awards, Fonda reminds us that “back in 1980, in that movie, (Parton, Tomlin and I) refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Tomlin reminds us of the challenges that lie ahead in the final push for equality. “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

Cover Image Credit: Rob Young

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To The Students Walking Out On April 20th

Build the change. Push the change. Be the change.
Cali C.
Cali C.
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Dear students participating in the national walkout on April 20th,

On March 14th, you walked out of your schools for 17 minutes to remember the 17 innocent lives that were brutally taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On March 24th, you marched in one of the 800+ marches around the world to demand long-overdue change and you stood up for those who cannot anymore due to gun violence.

You may have been ridiculed for what you did. You may have received ill-mannered remarks from your peers, and surprisingly (but not really, if we’re being honest here), adults. Some of your schools’ administrations even punished you for protesting peacefully. Some people said that what you were doing "won't change anything." The list of negative expressions towards the walkout and the march could go on and on, unfortunately.

However, all if not almost every historical national movement also faced criticism. But they kept going. And their voices were heard. And change happened.

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, you will walk out again to remember the victims of that day (it’s daunting how many events correlate to that statement) and to tell the world that silence is no longer an option.

You will no longer go to school, a concert, the movies, the mall, church, anywhere and have the fear that you may not make it home that day. You will no longer live under laws that remain unchanged after far too many lives have been taken by something that should have been taken care of a long time ago.

You will no longer tolerate the cycle of “shooting...thoughts and prayers...debate...no change in anything...life goes back to normal.”

You’ve probably heard this everywhere these past two months, but do not stop after that day. Because this is so much more than just a walkout. This is so much more than just a march. This is so much more than the hashtag and the videos and photos you’re seeing on social media.

Educate yourself on issues that matter. Go to your town hall meetings. Get involved in your school, city, and state organizations. And most important of them all - register to vote. If you are too young to vote, that does not mean that your voice does not matter. Volunteer at the polls. Discuss current events in your community. Practice civic engagement. Whatever you do, do not stop contributing to this turning point in history.

You are the future. You are the leaders we need.

It's about damn time something is done to end gun violence, and it starts with you.

The world is going to be a better place because of you, and don’t you dare let anyone convince you otherwise.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram
Cali C.
Cali C.

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