Media Still Lacks Minority Faces and Voices
One of the least explored forms of racial injustice can be found in the hiring practices of our American news media. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the combined population of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other ethnic minorities has eclipsed America’s white population. However these numbers do not reflect the employment opportunities shown to ethnically diverse journalists. Throughout America’s television broadcast centers, 19% of newsroom workers were of color in 2002. Radio stations across the nation employed a meager 8% of racial minorities. These numbers do not even come close to representing an equal opportunity for the employment of the component of society which is 50% non-white. Even more disturbing was the fact that both these statistics had lowered since the previous year.
In reflecting the diversity of the community it serves through more balanced racial employment, a news organization would enjoy more rounded perspectives, deeper insights and better accuracy than they would otherwise in presenting the events of the day. Put more simply, each sect of the ethnically diverse community would feel more welcomed by a broadcast that portrayed a representative from each and every racial group.
In 1978, the American Society of Newspaper Editors adopted a diversity goal to get newsrooms to reflect the country’s racial and ethnic makeup by the year 2000. However, in 1998 the ASNE pushed the target deadline to 2025, due to an embarrassingly slow growth over that 20-year period.
Many will argue that the reason our news media’s racial makeup is disproportionate is because there are simply not enough minority journalists to go around. An excitement for the profession must be aroused, and the roots of this endeavor should start in early education. As president of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, Albert R. Hunt is using his economic advantage to help make this difference. Hunt helps allocate monetary assistance to inner city high schools in order to start student newspapers, and has begun to plant a seed of journalistic interest in et hnically diverse students.
In conjunction with unfair employment practices, our nation’s media coverage continues to reinforce racial stereotypes. While a predominantly white media may not deliberately typecast ethnic minorities, the way that our source for news is controlled reinforces the idea of cultural racism. Information has been presented in a “fear-shaped package” since September 11, 2001, by representing Arab-Americans and Korean-Americans in a suspicious light. By controlling the paradigm of news by which members of our society base their informational intake, a white-dominated media outlet is able to shape the representation of our culture.
Some journalists have become aware of this situation and are pushing for change among their peers. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) opposes the stereotyping of immigrants or minorities, denouncing it for a lack of professionalism and a hindrance to society’s growth and development as a whole. The need for a worldwide governing body such as the IFJ is of paramount importance if our nation is ever going to have a media that fairly and equally represents the views and best interests of each and every American citizen.
While the problems within our news media are a detriment to the development of society as a cohesive whole, a light of hope at the end of the tunnel continues to flicker. At this point in time, groups within the news media structure like the IFJ must take charge of the situation and use their powerful advantage to push for change, and those who have the economic means need to invest in promoting journalism to our nation’s youth. When these important steps are taken, our news media will be on the right track towards a future of equal opportunity and fair representation for people of every race, color and creed.
Bob Moser is a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, majoring in Journalism with a minor in Political Science and Ethnic Studies.
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This story was published on October 20, 2003.