Journalism’s Impact on Race Relations in America

In Summary

This article was submitted by Kimberly Whalon. Whalon is a student at Huston-Tillotson University and a finalist in BNC's inaugural HBCU Journalism Project. 

At any given moment, many Americans have endless access to vast amounts of news and information over a plethora of platforms. Journalistic media can, and often does, influence the thoughts, actions, and opinions of consumers. Therefore, it is important that news, especially concerning race in  America, be truthful and informative. 

While journalism can be a catalyst for activism; Charles Blow, New York Times Columnist and  Host of Prime on BNC encourages writers to be careful not to blur the line between journalism and activism. “Just as doctors take the hypocritic oath to do no harm, we have our journalism integrity… we are the unbiased conduit for the information to get to people” adds Jimmy Marlo, Journalist and Host of  BNCGO’s After 6ix.  

Journalism as a profession is not without human error as all journalists are not convicted by truth. An irresponsible reporter can present news that is incomplete, a deed that often leads to misinformed people making deluded decision, and sometimes taking misguided actions. While it is up to consumers to do their due diligence to form well-founded opinions, it is the responsibility of the journalist to first report the truth.  

Throughout history journalistic media has provided a voice for oppressed people who were fighting to influenced change. Minority perspectives have helped to shape the way stories are told. From print media to digital content, black and brown reporters bring unique a viewpoint to newsrooms drawn from experiences that are nearly impossible the majority to devise. 

In 1968, the Kerner Commission issued a report highlighting the blatant racism found in news media coverage. According to a USA Today article,  

the report observed the emergence of “two societies,  one black, one white”. In 2018, just 50 years later, a  study conducted by the Ford Foundation revisited the issue and found that most people, regardless of race,  agreed that hiring more racial minorities as reports and editors would improve the quality of news. The notion of incorporating more racial minorities is still a work in progress; however, Nayyera Haq Chief  Foreign Affairs correspondent and Host at BNC,  says there is more to be done. “Cultural Competency should be required” says Haq, “[it is] a piece of the training that is important for non-black reports to do,  and recognizing the cultural influence of black media, and black culture on American culture at large.d

Ignorance to difference is a tool of a divided nation. Racism and segregation in America are not a new phenomenon, there has been a fight for equity and equality in this nation since its discovery. Journalistic gatekeeping silences an entire network of competent reporters, a clear sign of privilege for the majority. As imbalance continues in America, the viewpoint from which stories are told will continue to be distorted. “If we keep presenting it as two sides  equally positioned who do not agree about something, then we are part of the problem.” Says Charles  Blow on journalists approach power systems in  America. “As media people we have to adjust the  framing so that we are not creating a false dichotomy, which is just as dangerous as not telling [the story] at all.” He adds.  

Journalisms influence on race in America continues to evolve. In the past consumers were conditioned to accept the majority perspective as the apex of mainstream media. In the present, the demand for minority voices is proven necessary for alternative interpretation and quality story telling.

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