With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum in social media and news stories of police brutality against black men becoming more prevalent, there comes the need to address racial representation in the media.
“Having more people be aware that there needs to be different voices. You need to have gays, you need to have women, you need to have different religions,” Joy Henry, a junior journalism major, said. “You need to have all these different things. It’s important because that’s the world we live in.”
“The world is changing,” she said. “They say in 2042 the minority’s going to be the majority. This is getting people ready for that world.”
Henry made these comments at an open mic event hosted by the Diversity Committee of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, held Wednesday evening.
The event allowed students to share their thoughts about racial representation and diversity in the media. It was held in Eaton Theater in Knight Hall and co-sponsored by the Maryland Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
There was a severe storm warning in effect, but that didn’t stop students from engaging in a lively and interactive discourse. The topics discussed included whether or not races are equally represented in the media, the idea of reverse racism and how to improve racial representation in the media.
Brittney Shaw, a graduate English student, said she appreciated the discussion included students from diverse backgrounds.
“I think it’s important to represent the diverse population that we have in this country, so it’s important to have diverse backgrounds in these types of forums,” she said.
Impassioned students talked about recent events, like the Super Bowl, as well as the contrasting news coverages of Cam Newton and Peyton Manning.
Newton was criticized for giving curt replies in the post-game interview after his team lost the Super Bowl. Manning displayed similar behavior at the 2010 Super Bowl when his team lost when he ran off the field without shaking his opponents’ hands. The only difference was Manning did not receive much criticism for his unsportsmanlike conduct.
Beyoncé also made her way into the discussion. Her halftime show received backlash, some called it “reverse racism” against white people for promoting the Black Lives Matter movement during her performance.
On a related note, students debated the All Lives Matter movement, a public response to Black Lives Matter and whether it belittled black empowerment.
Participants also talked about past media coverages. One student recalled Time magazine’s O.J. Simpson cover, which darkened Simpson’s skin and made him appear more sinister.
Another topic was the difference between a mass shooter who is white and a black victim of police brutality in terms of how they are portrayed in the media. The students agreed white criminals generally have more respectable pictures shown in the news, whereas black victims have pictures that put them in a more incriminating light.
Attendees discussed Dylan Klebold, one of the high school students who committed the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, and Michael Brown, who was shot multiple times and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
News sources used Klebold’s high school portrait for their stories featuring him. The photos of Brown, however, featured him in an intimidating posture.
Brooke Giles, a sophomore journalism major, said the event made her more aware of racial representation in the media.
“Especially as a young, minority student in journalism, I’m part of an emerging group, and I know that when I get into journalism I will be setting a precedent every time,” Giles said.
“When you go out there, your responsibility is not only to tell the story and keep it unbiased, but also stay true to yourself,” Giles said. “Sometimes you’ll get a story that really matters to you personally, and you have to do that story justice.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Parker Anderson.
Rosie Kean is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.