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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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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10 Microaggressions That I'm Completely Over You Saying

No, you're not being sensitive, that was actually kinda rude.

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I have always noticed little phrases that make me tick a little bit. You know, the ones that make you tilt your head a bit and think "Did they really mean that, like I think they meant that?" but then you just brush it off. However, the other day I was having a conversation with my best guy friend. He was explaining to me a funny story involving his older brother and at one point I said "I relate" to which he responded, "it's different for girls."

Wait, what?

Here are some subtle, everyday micro-aggressions that are getting a little old:

1. "You don't get it, it's different for boys."

Honestly, you're right. It is different, and that's why this comment bothers me, because it shouldn't be different for guys. We should be held to the same exact standards and experiences.

2. "Is it like... that time of the month?"

What if it is? That shouldn't be any of your concern. You mean to tell me you wouldn't be a happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine if it felt like there were jackknives playing hopscotch in your uterus? That's what I thought.

3. "Don't be such a girl."

That's exactly what I'm going to be. Partially because I am a girl, and partially because whatever it is you're trying to force me to do, I genuinely don't want to do. Leave me alone.

4. "Lol am I totally being friend zoned right now?"

Hahahahaha... yes. Just because you're a boy, I'm a girl and we have struck up a conversation does not mean there are butterflies going crazy in my stomach, nor will I reconsider my "friendship" status simply because you have verbally stated it. Sorry, not sorry.

5. "Are you sure you want to wear that?"

Oh, this? You mean the article of clothing I purposely picked out of my closet and have put on my body and not taken off? No, I'm actually not sure if I want to wear it yet. I'll let you know at the end of the night.

6. "Why don't you smile more? You're cuter when you smile."

And you're cuter when your mouth is shut and you're not telling me what to do. Also, I always look cute.

7. "You're being dramatic, it's not that deep."

Fun fact: It's actually as deep as I want it to be. Everything you say is up for my interpretation. I don't know how you're thinking or how you want me to process what you're saying... so if I think it's that deep, it's that deep.

8. "Well, you do this better than I do anyway."

First of all, you're most likely not even trying. Second, I don't know what I'm doing half the time and I asked you to do it for a reason. So, just do it.

9. "How could you possibly not want children?"

By not wanting them. See? That was easy to understand.

10. "There's no way you guys are 'just friends'."

There actually is a way. By being friends. The same way you're just friends with your bros and with that girl in your math class that sends you the notes. Friendship is very much possible.

* * *

To be completely honest, I've said some of these phrases. Some of them even to men. Every day I try to stop myself, even if it's mid-conversation, from saying phrases like such because every little step is another one towards a society that doesn't need to demean one gender in order to be "funny" or "relatable."

I don't expect there to be a magical day in the future where none of these phrases are spoken, but the less they're heard, the better.

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