This blog has mainly focused on televised media, but let's not forget the print media. This could be the subtlest place to find interesting material. I conducted a content analysis (featured below) of minority coverage in the Florida Times-Union newspaper, using categories such as "white men," "white women," "black men," "black women," "Hispanic men," "Hispanic women," "Arab men," "Arab women," "Asian men," and "Asian women." I used the October 3, 2010 - October 9, 2010 issues. Before I began the content analysis, I hypothesized that white men would come out on top with the most coverage. In all honesty, I was completely surprised by the comparisons I found.
Some facts I discovered:
- Every politician pictured was either a white male or white female, except for President Obama.
- They rarely pictured extreme minorities such as Hispanics, Arabs and Asians. I gathered all of my data from those minorities through less than five articles.
- When they did picture the extreme minorities mentioned previously, they focused on group pictures from international news, rather than telling stories about Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans or Arab-Americans.
- Normally the races are pictured separately, unless the story involves a work project (with different races forced together), children, or an advertisement.
- The advertisements did a great job at picturing Hispanic women, but unfortunately most of these advertisements were either eroticized Hispanic women or ugly Hispanic women working.
- Rarely did they picture a child alone, unless the story focused on that child. Children are a part of group photos where they deliberately include all races.
- Black men are rarely shown in any context except criminal. Most of the black men photos I tallied were from mug shots in the TU's version of "Police Beat."
- Rarely do they picture ugly white women. Most white women pictured are thin and beautiful, except in the obituaries.
- Even in most of the obituaries, more white men died than anyone else. White women placed second.
Overall, these findings don't conform to the role news media--especially print news media, which is supposed to be the most unbiased and objective of all media forms. The following quote sums up my point perfectly:
"Minorities realize — supported by research — that the media influence not only how others view them, but even how they view themselves. So minorities and other ethnic groups have long attempted to convince industry decision-makers to seek better balance in news coverage of minorities and to reduce the widespread negativism in the fictional treatment of minorities by the entertainment media. Likewise, they have clamored for the media presentation of better minority role models — in news, in entertainment, even in advertising — both to set standards for minority people and to reduce the deleterious stereotypes too long prevalent in the media. While progress has occurred, the media have not been consistently responsive or sensitive." (Source)
Editors and managing editors at major print organizations need to stand up and realize how this is affecting the nation's views of minorities. Only picturing black men as criminals increases racism and racial profiling. Rarely picturing the races together only increases their cultural separation. We must stop and ask this: Are children grouped together in pictures because they're the less separated generation, or were they grouped together by the photographer in hopes of creating a less separated generation?
The media's number one goal should be to represent the truth. Editors could do something as small as stopping to double check for a group of diversified photos on the front page before sending the paper to print. That's a start. But overall, incorporating minorities truthfully into the media should begin with the reporting process. Reporters and photographers need be conscious of their own stereotypes, and work harder to break those with the goal of becoming more objective. It starts with approaching the black, Hispanic, and/or Asian participant for an interview instead of approaching the participant that matches your own skin color. From there, editors should hold their reporters accountable for this task--even if it means re-scheduling interviews or photo shoots. Once this is recognized as a problem, the newspaper's management can give the correct orders.
Unfortunately, most newspapers don't see this as a problem. It begins with recognizing it as one, and then taking the appropriate action.