“This is the press, an irresponsible press,” the civil rights leader said in 1964 to a crowd in New York City’s Audubon Ballroom, where he would be assassinated less than one year later. “It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Written by Kirsten West Savali and posted on The Root Tuesday (June 2), “Throw Away the Script: How Media Bias Is Killing Black America,” references various studies in relation to what it labeled as “media injustice” that has lead to the “erasure and criminalization of marginalized communities.” Savali claims the injustice has made a significant impact via “dire consequences for both the psyches and lived experiences of black people in the United States since at least the 18th century, when newspapers ran lost-and-found ads for runaway slaves.
Although studies have examined implicit racial bias in fields ranging from law enforcement to healthcare to the justice system, the term has morphed in recent years to what the story termed a “buzzword” that uses a broad brush to entrench racism and bigotry in a way that some folks “aren’t aware that they subconsciously harbor racist feelings, associating black skin with negative behavior.
“Put simply, their “conditioning has been conditioned,” and marginalized groups are often left to pick up the pieces in the wake of brutality and/or neglect by those in positions of power, trust and influence,” wrote Savali, who cited a ColorOfChange.org news-accuracy report called “Not to Be Trusted” that looked at media bias and how it “indiscriminately pathologizes communities of color for mass consumption.”
Savali goes on to mention the lack of a real focus on ways newsrooms are potentially infected by implicit racial bias can potentially infest newsrooms.
“Implicit bias impacts the way black communities are treated across practically all sectors of life in America, from courtrooms to doctors’ offices,” ColorOfChange.org executive director Rashad Robinson told The Root. “The media is no different, whether it be the use of pejorative terms like ‘thug’ and ‘animal’ to describe protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore, or the widespread overreporting of crime stories involving black suspects in New York City.”
The negative impact of media bias is so great that it affects the relationship black America has with law enforcement and the judicial system as well as society’s perception of African Americans, wrote Savali, who alluded to findings from Harvard’s Project Implicit.
According to the findings, “approximately 88 percent of white Americans have implicit racial bias against black people, with a racially homogeneous media industry, and the toxic environment that leads to media injustice is thrown into stark relief.”
Adding to this are comments from former Society of Professional Journalists diversity committee chairwoman Sally Lehrman, who revealed, that “Television newsrooms are nearly 80 percent white, according to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, while radio newsrooms are 92 percent white.”
Regarding the percentage of minority journalists, the American Society of News Editors that the number has remained “between 12 and 14 percent for more than a decade.”
As a result, the groundwork has been laid for an intrinsically racist media structure that means “news organizations are losing their ability to empower, represent, and—especially in cases where language ability is crucial—even to report on minority populations in their communities.,” according to The Atlantic’s Riva Gold.
For MORE of Savali’s examination of media bias, click over to TheRoot.