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Media Bias

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Media Bias in Reporting Social and Racial Injustices
Nakia Dale
DeVry University

Media Bias in Reporting Social and Racial Injustices June 26, 2015, gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states on the weekend of the annual Pride weekend. There were celebrations everywhere. Celebrities, politicians, and every representative of the LGBTQ community was interviewed. The media covered the opinions of those who supported gay marriage, those that didn’t care about same sex marriages, and those who felt the world was coming to an end because of same sex marriages. There were experts on the new law providing their thoughts and theories on the subject. Rainbows were posted everywhere on social media, cars, and in communities. Pictures of same sex couples getting married were flashed across television screens, newspapers, and websites. Celebrating the beauty of marriage equality was high on many people’s lists, but in the midst of these celebrations, if you had been carefully following the news you were aware of several news stories that immediately stopped getting air time and were no longer considered newsworthy.
As a viewer, you may have felt unsatisfied in the coverage of the other stories because the media left you dangling with no ending to the stories we were following. This is all too common when relying on the media for news coverage. Many viewers such as myself rely on the media to inform and educate the country on news that matters. When the same sex marriage topic garnered the attention of the media, I felt a deafening silence for stories that affect my livelihood. There was a void in coverage of broadcasts where I live for Dylann Roof, Sandra Bland, the Illinois budget deficit, the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, and the burning of the eight black churches in the South. It should be a concern for everyone when the media drops the ball regarding accurate and investigated coverage of stories that matter and they should be held accountable for imprecise, erroneous, and biased journalism.
As viewers who depend on on media coverage, we are often left wondering what happened to certain news stories such as the budget deficit that is currently plaguing Illinois, the mysterious death of Sandra Bland, the terroristic actions of Dylann Roof, and the Waco biker shooting. We are forced to look and research the progression of these cases on our own because the media will stop coverage of them, but why? As Akin stated in her article “the media thrives on conflict, it is how money is made in the industry. The bigger the story, the attraction of viewers, money is made”. News stories can be easily pushed aside in favor of new, colorful, and shocking broadcasts. However, not all stories get pushed aside. For instance, the BP Oil Spill that occurred April 28, 2010. There were 100 days of unfaltering news coverage. The media never gave up on this story. They covered the eleven workers that lost their lives for the two weeks of the disaster. In the second week, the media coverage was geared towards BP and the government’s role in the disaster. Afterwards, the media covered the impact of 4.2 million barrels of oil affecting the environment. On July 29, 2010, BP Oil Spill just went away. There was no follow up coverage. Why did the BP oil spill get so much on going and investigative coverage and why wasn’t it pushed aside like so many other stories? Few are even aware that an $18.7 billion settlement was announced on July 2, 2015. This would have been a great follow up story to those that were concerned about the effects that the BP oil spill had on the environment.
When media bias is argued, it’s not too often discussed that the language used in media coverage should be touched upon as well. For example, when the media speaks of terrorists, they are usually associated with Al-Qaeda, Muslims, Iraqis, and Arabs etc. If traveling internationally, the ethnicity of the person was an immediate cause of concern and if they were Muslims, Iraqis, Arabs etc… they are all associated as terrorists. The word Muslim became synonymous with the word terrorist. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, terrorism is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve political aim”. The definition is in no way prejudice to the cultural background of a person. So why do the media limit the term terrorism to those overseas? Dylann Roof is a racist that promoted white supremacy and the hatred of other ethnicities especially African Americans. On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof proceeded to gun down nine innocent victims in an African American church. Roof did not know them nor had they knowingly crossed paths prior to this event. The media labels it a hate crime, but what factors exactly caused the media to label Dylann Roof’s crime a hate crime and not what it truly is, terrorism? Some may feel that because he is of Caucasian descent and his victims are African American is the sole reasoning behind the media’s decisions to add limitations and confines to his crime. By mitigating Dylann Roofs actual crime, the media softened the information that he murdered nine unsuspecting church goers in worship at a place that they probably felt their safest. Most concerned citizens learned of the crime that Dylann Roof committed when he was being arrested. Media coverage was limited when he killed the nine African American church goers and when the manhunt ensued. It was later learned that Dylan’s actions were calculated based off the 2,444 page manifesto that was found, however he is not charged with terrorism and was given a bail on his gun charge but not the murders. It was also reported that Dylann Roof’s hatred of the African American race started with the Trayvon Martin case and became more infuriating as he watched the Riots happen on the news. The Baltimore Riots and the Ferguson riots are both race related incidents that have many believing that a race war is imminent. The Ferguson riots erupted after the officer accused of killing the unarmed Michael Brown was freed of any wrong doing. The media sensationalized the ruckus of the riots. As protestors grew unsettled in the decision made to not indict the officer, the city began to burn. Buildings were set aflame, officers were challenged, and protestors rioted businesses. The media was front and center interviewing and recording the destruction of the city of Ferguson. Amazingly, 212 people were arrested but only a handful was actually from Ferguson Missouri. When the media interviewed some of the protestors that traveled to Ferguson, it was reported that they were enraged by what they saw on the news. The media coverage helped to incite a riot in Ferguson. They were convinced that Ferguson needed them and they wanted to show up in support. The media failed to mention in the reporting of Ferguson that the family of Michael Brown did not want the rioting. The parents actually asked the city and anyone that was watching the riots to pray for peace and to give a moment of silence for their son. The media didn’t report this until the 6th day of the riots when the protesting started to degenerate. Similar reporting happened in Baltimore when a young black man died while in police custody of a spinal cord injury. There is no explanation currently as to how this happened and due to the media reporting bits and pieces of the story, it caused Baltimore to act emotionally. Peaceful protests days had turned violent, with stores being looted, rocks were thrown at police, and buildings and cars set on fire. Protestors wanted answers but because the media only report the stories not necessarily the truth nor do the due diligence to provide an accurate accounting of investigating journalism needed to inform the public, they provided a story that literally incited a riot. I recently watched an interview on CNN that was conducted during the Baltimore riots. The reporter spoke with a black veteran by the name of Robert Valentine who was willing to stand up to the black protestors. The media used Mr. Valentine to push their agenda of even black people think the rioters are out of control. Robert Valentine was selected from many possible people to interview. They used his interview because it told the story they wished to tell not because it told an accurate story.

In May of 2015, the Waco shootout was headlined as the deadliest and most high profiled incident in Waco since 1995. This story was reported very differently than shootouts involving African Americans or Mexicans. The Texas Department of safety issued a statement that the conflict between the bikers may come from Cossacks members refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for claiming Texas as their territory by wearing the Texas bottom rocker on their vests. The Waco incident started with a fight between rival bikers and escalated into a shootout. In media outlets throughout the country, the shootout happened between bikers but why were they referred to as bikers and not gang members? Merriam Webster’s dictionary define gang as a group of criminals or a group of people acting together to do something illegal. According to CNN, the race of the bikers/ gang members were never mentioned. Most viewers discovered the bikers were white by the pictures displayed of the bikers being arrested. There was little to no media coverage regarding the shootout although nine people were killed, eighteen were injured, and 177 were jailed on charges of organized crime. CNN used a comparison of the Freddie Gray coverage and noted, “the day after Freddie Gray died in the custody of police officers in Baltimore, not only did media coverage state that Gray was black, but also included a quote from the deputy police commissioner noting Gray was arrested in "a high-crime area known to have high narcotic incidents," implicitly smearing Gray and the entire community”. It is not uncommon for the media to maneuver or alter a story to fit an agenda or to make it more interesting. For example, the killer James Holmes.
James Holmes father was a mathematician and a scientist. His mother was a registered nurse. Some would say with this background, he was destined for greatness. Holmes had previously graduated from the University of California with a degree in Neuroscience. He was attending the University of Colorado when he went on a shooting rampage in a theater.

Theater Shooting Suspect Was Brilliant Science Student
July 21, 2012 10:27 AM

James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 in shooting rampage in a Colorado movie theatre. This was devastating to many. The fear he instilled in others caused many to think twice about attending a movie theatre for fear that someone else may try and commit the same crime. But have you noticed the headline? The picture used was a professional photograph taken from one of his class photos. The picture used of Freddie Gray was a photograph taken from his Facebook page of him standing outside with a cigarette in his hand. This is an indication of how the media reports stories based on race and subconsciously instills artificial thoughts of races or ethnicities in our mindset.

There are varying differences when news reports racial stories. The wordplay the media uses to instill subconscious racist thoughts influence the racist society that we are living in currently. Since 9/11, because the media refers to a foreign visitor that identify as Muslim a terrorist, citizens will have mass hysteria and panic attacks when a foreigner board a plane. When the police shoots an African American man, the court of public opinion will assume he had a gun or committed a crime that justified the shooting. When the word gang is used, the people will be led to believe that the broadcast refers to a group of African American men, but when the media uses the term bikers, it will be assumed that they are Caucasian. As Savali (2015) pointed out in her article that the reporting techniques often show a harsh realization that Black crimes are often committed by gang associated, low poverty, drug selling thugs, and white crimes are often committed by intelligent depressed geniuses.
The media has the ability to affect a nation whether it’s by the language used to report the news or in their broadcasts that are played to millions. The media provides regulated and calculated airing that can distract viewers from the real concerns at hand. Most news that citizens hear or see is reported by a news broadcast first. Recent news worthy stories show that there is a major under reporting and disparities of stories that provide half-truths and downplayed versions of actual journalism. Restrained and softened broadcasts do not allow for a logical and fact based reaction, but instead causing most reactions to be emotionally based. Inaccurate broadcast do not allow an informed decision for action. The media reports provided is used to gain viewership but not to educate based on the inaccuracies of the journalism. The unreliability of media outlets have been emphasized many times. The credibility of news sources and how news is reported must be assessed. The media should be obligated to accurately report stories that affect our nation so that everyone can be informed in a uniformed way.
References
Akin, J. (2005, March 1). Mass Media | Beyond Intractability. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
.pdf
The breaking news never went away. (2010, August 24). Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.journalism.org/2010/08/25/breaking-news-narrative-never-went-away-and-fact-led-coverage/

Savali, K. (2015, June 2). Throw Away the Script: How Media Bias Is Killing Black America. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
(n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrorism

Kohn, S. (2015, May 19). Waco coverage shows double standard on race - CNN.com. Retrieved August 9, 2015.

Fernandez, M., Stack, L., & Blinder, A. (2015, May 17). 9 Are Killed in Biker Gang Shootout in Waco. Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/us/motorcycle-gang-shootout-in-waco-texas.html?_r=1

Buchanan, L., Fessenden, F., & Lai, R. What Happened in Ferguson? (2014, August 12). Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html

O'Neil, A. (2014, August 22). Who was arrested in Ferguson? - CNN.com. Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/22/us/ferguson-arrests/index.html

CNN Interviews Robert Valentine In Baltimore. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://1079ishot.com/cnn-interviews-a-vietnam-veteran-during-riot-stands-up-to-kids-video/

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