racial politics in media

reasons my generation is so depressed:

  • sleep deprivation due to early school start times
  • the economy
  • oppression
  • high tensions between different political/social/racial/etc groups
  • technology/social media means constant updates on bad news
  • politics, made worse by the aforementioned constant updates
  • the state of the environment
  • education as it is right now not preparing us sufficiently for the outside world
  • pressure to grow up very quickly
  • parenting/teaching/etc trends in the previous generation(s)
  • competitiveness in schools, social media and other aspects of life
  • the world in general that the last few generations have constructed for us

NOT reasons my generation is so depressed:

  • we’re weak and lazy and we can’t get off our phones uwu
From the evidence so far, it’s clear that Trump and his top advisers are trying to pull off a domestic shock doctrine. The goal is all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programmes for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a programme so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions. And, of course, it is being backed up with a massive increase in war spending, and a dramatic escalation of military conflicts on multiple fronts.

Naomi Klein

Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, one familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis. During Trump’s first week in office, when he was signing that tsunami of executive orders and people were just reeling, madly trying to keep up, I found myself thinking about the human rights advocate Halina Bortnowska’s description of Poland’s experience when the US imposed economic shock therapy on her country in the midst of communism’s collapse. She described the velocity of change her country was going through as “the difference between dog years and human years” and she observed that “you start witnessing these semi-psychotic reactions. You can no longer expect people to act in their own best interests when they’re so disoriented they don’t know – or no longer care – what those interests are.”

The Lisa Problem

I started what I thought was going to be a funny mashup blog, and the longer I posted the more I began realizing that I loved seeing bell’s wisdom interact with one of the most nostalgic, unexamined cultural texts that I, and everyone I know, had ingested growing up. 

 And you know what’s frustrating? I’m a white woman, and I would love NOT to have an overwhelming number of these posts be depicting people who look like me. But Lisa Turtle is the sole WOC in a regular role on the show, and to use her for each post on race feels like I’m dipping into tokenism.  And maybe I’ll write a research paper on this one day, but you know who can afford grad school? NOT THIS GIRL. 

Who has advice? 

EDIT: I had originally written “POC” because I had forgotten about AC Slater, that gem.

THE MEDIA does not exist: A PSA about journalism and how to improve the spread of information.

There is no such thing as “THE MEDIA.”

I’m sorry, but such a monolith does not exist.

There are millions of journalists, thousands of publications and outlets, hundreds of commentators and, of course, billions and billions of consumers of news and information.

Still, I often hear people railing against “the Media.”

“The MEDIA doesn’t want you to know the truth. The MEDIA is ignoring the important stories. The MEDIA is throwing meaningless fluff at you. The MEDIA is liberal. The MEDIA is conservative. The MEDIA is lying.”

But is it? I certainly hope not. After all, I’ve spent the last few years studying journalism. It would certainly be a let-down if I was part of an industry conspiring against the masses and I had no idea. Maybe I missed “Controlling Sheeple 101” while I was taking all those ethics courses.

This is not a defense of the industry (because it certainly has its problems), but a guide to navigating the industry as it is.

I will be speaking in the context, here, of political and criminal news stories and features.

So, without further ado, let’s address some misconceptions people have about the media they consume.


THE MEDIA is not, in itself, biased.

Individual reporters might be biased, of course, because every single person on this earth is shaped by our own experiences. Their personal views, however, shouldn’t matter.

The point of spending years in a university training as a journalist is to learn how to keep that bias out of news stories.

A news story is a list of facts; nothing more, nothing less. A good journalist does not insert themselves into a political story, does not give any speculation, and  only reports the facts. Even facts that people might not like. The facts do, however, need to be related to the news piece (we can talk more about that in a bit.)

Reporters give the facts, while opinion writers and commentators give opinions. A commentator would be someone like Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, John Stossel, Ann Coulter, etc. These are people who are paid to write their own input on news stories. You also have local opinion writers and columnists. Their opinions are valued by an audience, and they offer it. Their quotes should not be taken as news coverage, but as a perspective. They are NOT reporters.

If you read a news story with obvious opinions, overuse of strong adjectives, descriptive settings of a scene where the journalist was not actually present or any other signs of inserting bias, double check your sources.

Maybe the site you think is an impartial or credible news site is actually a  conservative/liberal commentator site, or a tabloid, or a speculatory magazine.

If it is a credible source, maybe that specific reporter isn’t the best source. You can check the name, look into their stories with that publication, see if bias is apparent.

If a reporter has a reputation for inserting bias into a story, then avoid that reporter.

Reporters need to be trained not to do that. They need to keep their opinions out of it. It’s their job.

Now, let’s put this in the context of a political story. Let’s say you read a story about Donald Trump.

  • Hypothetical sentence: “Donald Trump has a record of unabashedly honest statements against illegal immigrants.”

Can you tell the problem with this sentence?

Calling Trump’s comments “honest” is a matter of opinion. A REPORTER cannot say this. A commentator can. An opinion-piece-writer can. But a reporter needs to watch their words and the impression they give.

A suggestion? How about “strongly-worded statements against illegal immigrants”?

It conveys the same message without that connotation.

  • Hypothetical sentence: “Donald Trump has a record of racist and offensive statements against illegal immigrants.”

Can you tell the problem with this sentence?

Calling Trump’s statements “racist and offensive” is also an opinion. I may think it’s true. You may think it’s true. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a fact.

REPORTERS can NOT use statements like this. You cannot prove that a statement is racist, as it’s a social term to express an abstract concept. Yes, this concept is powerful, but, no, it is not concrete or something that can be proven. The effects of racism can be proven. The negative impacts this concept has on society can be seen through statistics and instances of events. But one cannot prove that a sentence is racist.

So how about “racially-charged” statements? Or “controversial” statements? You can use that, and then include the exact quote. Or, you can attribute the opinion to someone else, who said it, like so: “Trump’s statements are racist” said GOP operative Ana Navarro.

This way, you are not saying it yourself, but telling a fact about someone else’s comment. This is also good reporting.

But what’s the ideal instance? How about just including the quote and letting people make up their minds? Like so:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Since then, activists and protesters have spoken out against the statements.

Everything that was just written was a fact. It literally happened. Trump said that quote, and activists did speak out and call it racist. It would be even better if this excerpt included a direct quote from an activist.

Reporters don’t NEED to call it a racist statement. People can read that and decide for themselves.

Reporters don’t deliver opinions. They deliver information. They offer people the tools to make their own opinion.


Let’s say you read a news story that has no apparent opinion-based bias in the text. It’s beautifully written and only contains facts.

This does not mean that there isn’t a way for the news story to give unintentional impressions.

2a. For example, let’s think about the riots that broke out in Baltimore after the shooting of an unarmed black man.

Now, let’s think about CNN’s coverage. The helicopter watching people break into convenience stores, and the constant reminders of injury-related statistics.

This stuff happened of course, so it’s not like CNN lied. People DID loot. People WERE hurt.

But what about the peaceful protests? What about the uneventful marches and sit-ins? What about the sermons and the chants? Why did those receive less coverage?

Yes, CNN did only report facts, but they left a lot of information out, thus giving an uninformed picture. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have shown the footage of the riots, but they could have put more effort into showing peaceful protests. Then people could have seen the entirety of the story and made their own opinions of the cause.

AGAIN: Reporters don’t deliver opinions. They deliver information. They offer people the tools to make their own opinion.

2b. But what about the opposite? Let’s consider the media’s treatment of the Michael Brown case.

Here we have an instance of the media, instead of giving the story with too little information, offering extraneous information, unrelated to the news story.

The story boiled down to this: A black, unarmed teen was shot by a police officer, and protests subsequently broke out, with some calling the incident racially-induced.

Now, let’s think about the New York Times’ front-page feature, which included this paragraph: “Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case.”

Off the bat, let’s ignore the opinion-based phrase “was no angel” because we already talked about why this is bad. But what about the rest? Is it fair to include information about his shoplifting in the story?

To be honest, it depends on the circumstances. If the story is about how the police responded to the incident, you should note that they DID react by saying that Brown shoplifted earlier that day.

But what about the context of a feature story about Brown’s life, the event and the protests following his death?

I think that including this extra information does give a form of unintentional bias. Extraneous information could be dangerous and give dangerous impressions.

For example, there’s this headline: Chinese-American woman crashes car into bank

This is a real headline, slightly altered for this post’s purposes. It is also dangerous. Unless the woman’s ethnicity is meaningful to the story, which it isn’t, all this extra information does is play into stereotypes.

What about this headline: Deaf couple lose track of child at zoo

Again, the extra information adds nothing to the story but support of a stereotype. I promise you, ANY couple can lose a child at a zoo. Being deaf has nothing to do with it. Chances are, them being deaf means nothing to the facts. It’s extra information, and gives in to ableist concepts.

Reporters have two main jobs: Offering unbiased, accurate facts, and AVOIDING HARM.

3. Racial and political bias in THE MEDIA — Where it comes from

Now let’s say a racially-biased or politically-biased story makes it past the reporter, the editors, the page designers and into the paper. It sucks right? But how did it happen?

Well, there are two main causes. For one thing, that news room might only contain one demographic. The news media has historically been brought about by middle-class, white straight older men. That’s how it was for most of the 20th century.

I am one of only a dozen people of color that I have ever seen in my newsroom, which employs hundreds. Is it improving? YES. Like all progress, the change has been slow, but visible, and we are getting more diverse news staffs across the country every year.

But if we don’t hire reporters who understand the nuances of a racial experience, or who don’t know where to find the stories of people of color and the LGBT community because of a lack of experiences with these circles, then how can we expect these stories to be written or reported?


The other cause of bias in the media is confirmation bias. If we only get our news based on what we like or get fed on Facebook, we will come face to face with things that only support our already-present thoughts. This is dangerous.

“But, my stances are the right stances!” you say. News flash: Everyone thinks that.

That’s why we should constantly be challenging ourselves to find news from other sources.

That means listening to commentators who you might not agree with. Not just Stephen Colbert. Not just Bill O’Reilly. Yes, you might get angry. But you should at least try it, maybe even just once in a while, because chances are, this is what half the country listens to. If we want to start conversations with people on the other side of the divide, we should understand where they are coming from.

But that’s not all. You can also diversify your news sources and take biased news sources with a grain of salt. Fox News is known for conservative bias. Buzzfeed is known for being liberal. That doesn’t mean never read from either of these — they’re important publications with many readers, and they often break in-depth stories. All it means is to understand their backgrounds before going in, and to follow up by reading the same stories elsewhere, comparing the differences. Avoid getting your news from only one publication, even if it is credible and non-biased.

Remember to seek out signs of bias in a story, even when that bias aligns with yours. Again, avoid reporters who consistently use bias. Remember their names. Remember your favorite anchors and your least favorite writers. Try to keep in mind your favorite sources and read/watch with a keen eye. If possible, avoid reading reporter names until the end. You don’t want to go into a story thinking “This is from a woman” or “This writer is Hispanic” because that might sway your opinion, even subconsciously.

Be active toward your local news outlet! If you know of an interesting event or protest, email the editor or the reporters of your local paper! If you know of an injustice in the world or your local community, tell them! JOURNALISTS LOVE TIPS. I promise you, the NUMBER ONE reason why the news you want to hear is not reported is because the people in newsrooms have NO IDEA IT EVEN EXISTS. They aren’t purposefully avoiding these stories— they just haven’t heard them! This is because of many things; the journalism field is very networking based, so often, the same kinds of people get employed at news outlets. If these people are out of touch with their communities, HELP them! Tell them when you witness something, or hear something on the internet. Call when you have a problem or a story idea. Be involved in shaping the narrative you consume and spread.

CHECK ALL THE INFO YOU READ. Yes, there are non-credible publications online that lie. Sorry, but as long as the internet exists, lies on the internet will too. Here are some steps you can take to avoid being swayed by false info:

  • Check the story containing the info for inherent bias.
  • Check the information on at least three other publications, also read-through for signs of bias.
  • Check the URL — if you read an anti-global warming story on GLOBALHOAX.liberal-lies.com, maybe try another source.
  • Read other stories on the original site. If they have a story about a bigfoot-sighting or a story about a woman who is half-cat, maybe they aren’t the most trustworthy. News sites should have a history of doing good reporting.
  • Know the difference between news and satire/tabloids. National Enquirer is known for tabloids and unconfirmed rumors. TheOnion is known for satire. These stories are false. They might be entertaining, but they arenot NEWS.
  • Check where your story got its information. If it’s from anonymous sources, try to find out why the source is anonymous. Maybe their job is on the line, or their life is in danger. The story should SAY WHY. Anonymous sources should NOT be used often. This is what tabloids do. Tabloids run rumors. News outlets run facts.
  • If a news story links back their info to another article, read the original article. It could be saying something completely different, and it might have been interpreted wrong by the linking story.
  • Statistics and facts should be traceable to someone of importance and professional status. If a quote comes from an expert in the field, look them up. If it comes from someone with no credentials, try to find something more credible.

Finally, most importantly, there is this:


That’s the bottom line. If a news story is not helping you get your info, find one that is. Learn the reputations of different outlets. CNN is known to emphasis the more glamorous stories. This is because people don’t stop watching when they do this.

The journalism field is A BUSINESS. If a news outlet is not doing what you want, then don’t read them. Avoid them! Let them know they will lose your business! Send an angry email and make angry phonecalls! Let them know how they messed up so they could improve.

Better yet, get your info from other sources. THE MEDIA is not a single entity, but a marketplace of ideas. Avoid bad elements so that they could die out, and read good journalism, so that it could thrive. Because good sources exist, and if they don’t, you have a hand in what could make them better!

The MEDIA does not exist. There is no one body of information conspiring against you.

There are millions of journalists, thousands of publications and outlets, hundreds of commentators and, of course, billions and billions of consumers of news and information.

Just be sure to choose the right ones.