Finding Focus

For my blog this semester, my intention is to focus on the media coverage of race issues in America, with an emphasis on language. Having taken a previous journalism course with Northeastern professor James Ross (Covering Conflict), I spend a fair amount of time reading into the coded language used to weave bias into articles and scripts. Most outlets have some form of bias, whether it’s coming from personal beliefs and prior experiences of the writer, or coming from an adherence to corporate interests. It’s not always easy to see the bias as a journalist, but readers—especially those involved in a story—often perceive bias (even when it’s not actually biased against them!) This is known as the hostile media effect, which we’ll go into in another post.

But at other times, it’s not an explicit bias so much as a belief that this event is simply not newsworthy. Every day, producers and editors have to make quick decisions before press time or to make changes as an anchor goes live. Maybe there’s an inherent bias from the director telling producers how to angle their story, or maybe the scriptwriter didn’t think about how the term for protestors winds up being different between Blacks and Whites. Many consumers don’t think about the nuances in our language when it comes to reporting the news, until reporters “mess up” and “bias”—of whatever sort—becomes apparent.

Given that my hope is to examine media bias of race-based issues, I recognize that I’ll need to consume news from numerous outlets, with a variety of political and social stances. As a basis, my intention is to seek to balance out “news” coverage between media giants Fox, CNN, and NPR, as well as utilizing some other networks such as Vox, Fusion, and Mic, that tend to be more left-leaning and, in the case of the latter two outlets, that target mainly the 18-34 demographic. Vox, Fusion and Mic have all examined the way that “main stream” media outlets cover race issues, so while there may be a separate bias inherent to more left-leaning outlets, they are more critical about the language itself.

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