Equality in the Media

How media bias is harming America

Wrayna Howell, Staff Writer

You turn on the news to the buzz of yet another black man killed at the hands of a police officer. The reporter is in a town where the once peaceful protest has erupted into pure chaos. Large groups of protesters are running through the streets breaking windows, throwing anything they can get their hands on. Though these protests-turned-violent represent only a fraction of the protests that occur around the country, they get the most coverage.

The national media’s portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement has created a sense of negativity surrounding it because of the lack of diverse coverage. Though the media’s job is to cover the most relevant information happening at the time, there is no excuse for the continuous antagonism shown whenever there is a protest connected to police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gains most of its fame from the media’s portrayal of the violent protests since the movement’s birth. While there have been over 1,000 protests since 2014, the only ones covered on national news are those filled with violence. Protests in places like Oklahoma City—where over 1,000 people gathered to march peacefully on July 10, 2016—are radically different than the ones shown on national media. The protest even had police officers working with the organizers to protect and guide the large group through the streets. This scene, though most common, is willingly ignored by most of the national media.

In general, peaceful protests are only covered by local media, which helps at a local level but hurts the country as a whole. If the whole nation is watching a riot tied to the Black Lives Matter movement, then only violence will be associated with the movement. This is detrimental to the discussion of why the movement exists in the first place.

According to the Black Lives Matter website, the movement is “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” The attention of the nation is focussed on the actions of a single event rather than solutions to the bigger problem.

One of the main reasons an area has erupted into violence after an unjust killing is because of the community’s strained relationship with police officers in the area, which leads to unjust racial profiling. After continuous daily actions of police reach a breaking point, most commonly with the unjust death of a person of color, the media puts the community under a microscope. This uncovers the rough past of a creating an image of the victim as “the deviant that had it coming” rather than looking at why the police officer used lethal force.

The image created by the media of the victim furthers the agenda which says that those who are victims of police brutality aren’t really victims at all. It perpetuates the message that the concerns of a group whose purpose is to bring awareness to an unjust system are illegitimate and therefore need to be silenced.

The media’s coverage of these violent protests usually doesn’t extend into the community after the protest to see if there have been any changes. There is a limited number of days a national story can be covered before it is cut off.

For example with the Baltimore riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray, there has not been much resolution to the concerns of the angered black community. In a CNN article titled “Baltimore faces its ‘original sin’ a year after riots,” Dan Sparaco, a local Baltimore attorney says, “Everybody is looking around, waiting for someone else to do something. It’s almost as if we hit the pause button and everyone is waiting for the hard work to really begin.”

Media coverage on a national level perpetuates the negative idea that the Black Lives Matter movement is embedded in violence. This can create a dangerous idea within outside communities that, the problem is not the unjust killings but it is the rioters who destroy the city. Media’s role in unequal air time for both the causes of the riots and the riots themselves are apart of why the Black Lives Matter Movement is viewed in a negative way by a large part of America.