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The media's treatment of and interaction with race, like race itself, is one of the most sensitive areas hi American society. Whether hi its coverage and treatment of racial matters or racial connections inside media organizations themselves, mass communication is deeply involved with race. The Media in Black and White brings together twenty journalists and scholars, of various racial backgrounds, to grapple with a controversial issue: the role that media industries, from advertising to newspapers to the information superhighway, play in helping Americans understand race.
Contributors include Ellis Cose, a contributing editor for Newsweek; Manning Marable, chairman of Columbia University's African-American Research Center; William Wong, a columnist for the Oakland Tribune; Lisa Penaloza, a University of Illinois professor; and Melita Marie Garza, a Chicago Tribune reporter. Among the topics discussed are: the quality of reporting on immigrant issues; how sensationalism may be deepening the chasm of misunderstanding between the races; how the coverage of America's drug wars has been marked by racism; and whether politically correct language is interfering with coverage of vital issues and problems.
The contributors of The Media in Black and White hope to broaden the narrow vision of the United States and the world beyond with their contributions to the debate over race and the media. The commentary found hi this important work will be of interest to sociologists, communication specialists, and black studies scholars.
Preface Part I Reviewing the American Melting Pot 1. Seething in Silence—The News in Black and White Ellis Cose “For reporters, race can be a treacherous subject, raising questions that go to the heart of the journalist’s craft,” observes the author, a Newsweek contributing editor and former Media Studies Center fellow. “Today, though we live in a world that is increasingly multicultural, much of conventional journalism remains fixated on the lives of the white and the wealthy.” The result, he says, is tension in the newsroom, the news product and the news consumer.
2. Reconciling Race and Reality Manning Marable The 30 years since the zenith of the civil rights movement have brought a “paradox of desegregation,” contends the author, chairman of Columbia University’s African-American research center and author of numerous books on race in America. Improvements aside, “U.S. race relations in the 1990s have been unambiguously negative,” he writes. “Media, film and educational institutions have a decisive role to play in overturning America’s pervasive images of inequality.” Part II Covering America 3. Immigration, the Press and the New Racism John J. Miller “Immigrants have always made Americans uneasy,” as the associate director of the Center for the New American Community in Washington points out. That uneasiness is growing in the 1990s as new waves of illegal immigrants spill over the borders and are accused of a range of social ills. “The media can’t do anything about that. What the media can do, however, is exacerbate or ease these worries. It all comes down to the quality of reporting on immigrant issues.” 4. African Americans According to TV News Robert M. Entman “We have all heard that sensationalism and entertainment values are on the rise in TV news,” writes a Northwestern University researcher. “My studies indicate these trends aren’t simply professional embarrassments and frustrations for journalists. They may also be making urban America less governable, deepening the chasm of misunderstanding and distrust between blacks and whites.” 5. From Bad to Worse—The Media’s Framing of Race and Risk Oscar H. Gandy Jr.
Everyone knows that bad news drives journalism, but the press disproportionately frames stories about blacks as bad news, a University of Pennsylvania media scholar finds in a pilot study he conducted. “To the extent that the media emphasize the ways in which the distribution of social and economic risks breaks down along racial lines,” he suggests, “they have helped to tear us apart.” 6. Covering the Invisible “Model Minority” William Wong Things are looking up in terms of how the press covers America’s diverse new Asian community, writes the author, a former columnist for the Oakland Tribune. “TV coverage of Asian Americans remains spotty and sensationalized, but print coverage, while retaining some of the old polar good-bad images, has become increasingly nuanced, textured and true to life.” 7. In the South—Press, Courts and Desegregation Revisited Dale Thorn Forty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the fight over racial segregation has flared up again, with an ironic twist—back then, blacks sued to enter white colleges; today they are fighting to keep black colleges open. “Amid the gaffes and stereotypes by the media, there has been a real dearth of relatively simple, interpretive, what-it-means reporting on the South’s desegregation story,” complains a Louisiana State University journalism professor.
8. Coloring the Crack Crisis Jimmie L. Reeves and Richard Campbell Coverage of America’s “drug wars” has been marked by racism, contend the authors of a new book on how network television reports on cocaine. “Journalism’s discovery of crack in late 1985 signaled the beginning of a period of frenzied coverage in which the race and class contours of the cocaine problem established in the early 1980s would be almost completely reconfigured,” they find.
Part III Issues, Debates and Dilemmas 9. Are the Media Really “White”? Andrew Hacker If Ebony is a “black” magazine, is the New Republic “white”? asks a Queens College political scientist and author. White journalists and media organizations don’t see race as an essential feature of their identities, but for blacks, as the author points out, “the dominant media are most certainly white. To their eyes, the mainstream media speak for a white nation, which expects all citizens to conform to its ways.” 10. Warping the World—Media’s Mangled Images of Race Jannette L. Dates and Edward C. Pease “There is good reason for minorities to think their perspectives are at best warped by the media or, worse, not heard at all,” reflect the acting communication dean at Howard University and the co-editor. “In the year that saw a black man elected president of South Africa, there is irony in the fact that apartheid still rules the information age in America.” 11. Pop Culture, “Gangsta Rap” and the “New Vaudeville” Paul Delaney America’s image of blacks—and their own self-image—is closely tied to how they are portrayed in news and entertainment, writes the author, a former New York Times editor who now heads the journalism department at the University of Alabama. “There is strong objection to many of the roles and images transmitted—including the clown image of television sitcoms’ ‘new vaudevillians,’ but particularly the messages of gangsta rappers about women as ‘bitches’ and ‘hos,’ and about guns and violence and cops.” 12. Racial Naming Everette E. Dennis To paraphrase the poet, What’s in a name? In theory, substance should be vastly more important than labeling, but, as the co-editor points out, language questions are intensely sensitive in the arena of race in America.
“Black” or “African American”? “Native American” or “Indian”? “To the extent that nit-picking over language interferes with coverage of vital racial and ethnic issues and problems, this debate may be counterproductive,” he concludes. But it refuses to go away.
Part IV A Media Industry Status Report 13. On-Ramps to the Information Superhighway Adam Clayton Powell III So far, at least, the electronic world of tomorrow looks pretty white, reflects a former broadcaster and technology expert. “Future archaeologists, studying the documentary record of the present, would have reason to conclude that people of color were bypassed by the information superhighway,” he says. “Maybe it just passed over black and Latino communities, much as Manhattan’s West Side Highway passes overhead on its way through Harlem neighborhoods.” 14. Newspapers’ Quest for Racial Candor Sig Gissler “Race—it is America’s rawest nerve and most enduring dilemma,” reflects the author, a former newspaper editor and journalism professor at Columbia University. “From birth to death, race is with us, defining, dividing, distorting.” Few social institutions are as tormented by this dilemma day in and day out as are newspapers, he says, reporting on efforts by two metropolitan dailies to come to grips with the issue.
15. ¡Ya Viene Atzlan! Latinos in U.S. Advertising Lisa Peñaloza “In the advertising world, the representation of minorities has been a topic of interest that has waxed and waned since the civil rights movement,” writes a University of Illinois advertising professor. “Yet, so much has changed in the last 20 years that to view minorities in advertising solely in terms of inclusions in ‘mainstream’ media is to miss much of it.” 16. (Re)Imagining America John Phillip Santos “As the United States moves inexorably toward the fullness and complexity of its multicultural destiny, away from its historic Eurocentric origins, it is much easier to imagine the impact that shift will have on public institutions than to foresee what changes it holds for the ethics, standards and practices of the news media,” suggests the author, executive producer of a new multicultural newsmagazine on public television.
17. ¡Hola, América! Newsstand 2000 Melita Marie Garza As the U.S. Latino community grows, “newspapers can see the writing on the wall, and it’s in Spanish,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s ethnic affairs reporter in her survey of the explosion of Spanish-language newspapers published by U.S. mainstream newspapers from Chicago to Florida to California. “It was all inevitable in a society in which salsa now outsells ketchup.” Part V Books 18. Exploring (and Exploding) the U.S. Media Prism Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte “Although the debate is framed in terms of participation, the real struggle over diversity in the newsroom is a conflict over points of view,” observes the author, a former journalist and journalism professor at the University of Texas, in opening her critical synthesis of four key books concerning race and American media. “Eradication of racism revolves around social reconstruction and the control of representation by those denied access to media decision-making and product distribution.” For Further Reading Index