With stories like Ferguson and Michael Brown making National news, the media needs to produce more effective conversations about race relations in today’s society. Although everyone has their own objective, diversity in mainstream reporters covering this case has been minimal.
At the root of both the Brown and Garner cases is the treatment of unarmed black men by police forces. In both circumstances the respective grand jury’s verdict was to not indict the police officer; the verdict caused major controversy among blacks and whites.
While both sides of the issue raise viable arguments for why the decision was right or wrong, the real message for society is that national well known media outlets cannot be objective. Moreover, mainstream media is more biased towards whites and the black view is underrepresented.
To begin, we must look at long going disputes about lack of diversity within newsrooms. A study conducted by American Society of News Editors (ASNE) in 2013 found that ethnic minorities make up roughly 12% of all newsrooms. With 88% of the newsroom representing the white demographic, clearly there is an unprecedented bias towards the white community.
Now we must consider that the town of Ferguson, like the media, is lacking representation from all social demographics. The population of Ferguson 67% black, while its police force is 94% white. In addition, only one out of the six city council members is black. So while the media presents a white-bias on the story, Ferguson’s own system of government does not represent the diversity of its citizens.
With this knowledge what can I, a white caucasian living in a predominately white community do? I do not know what it is like to black. I do not know what it is like to live in a community where I am underrepresented. And I do not know what it is like to live in society that claims to not have an issue with my race, when it is clear some people still do. So what can I say or report that will accurately and impartially cover the stories at hand?
The answer is that I can not accurately depict what the black community thinks other than trying to understand the facts and listening to the black community’s voice. While journalists have tried to provide facts, most stories provide them in a biased way, to either support the underlying opinion of the author. Despite reading article after article I remain unsure whether I agree or disagree with the grand jury’s decisions. I can be swayed either way depending on what I am reading.
Although we need a national debate concerning issues of police brutality and the misrepresentation of minorities in the penal system, the media focus on better diversity in its reporting and do a better job articulating all the views of each social demographic. Every media outlet, regardless of its political leaning should be able to write an article that gives an unbiased account and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusion. And until the media can fathom how diversity in reporting issues will be resolved, there will not be unbiased and neutral coverage of very complex social issues.
(Celia Golod ’17, Photo Editor)