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What I Read in the Waiting Room of Hell

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« JUDY, JUDY, JUDY MILLER (AND MAYBE CONDI TO0) | Main | PRESS POOL PARTY AT LEFTY'S LOUNG »

July 28, 2005

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ol cranky

I blogged about some of the coverage on MSNBC - last night's situation w/Tucker Carlson and this evening's Abrams Report. Carlson's promos refernce more coverage and two seconds ago Olbermann's teaser was for after commercial coverage as well. (I guess I'll be doing an update to that post later). Thanks for keeping this out there.

Aaron

The fact is that in America today, much like it was in the past, Black people's lives just aren't worth as much as white people's. Real life, the media and entertainment all reflect and perpetuate this underlying perception. All you have to do is look at movies produced in the United States, Hollywood has a long history of trivializing Black death. For the most part it's easier for white audiences to watch a black woman, or Black child die then it is to watch a white women or a white child die. The intellectual writer Bell Hooks has written a number of pieces about this.

The whole idea that it's easier to see someone die who you view as the "other", someone you can't fully empathize or sympathize with on the same level as someone who looks and acts like you, is constantly reinforced in our society. This kind of conditioning is so insidious that it affects the African-American population in much the same way. People are dying every day, young beautiful women and cute little kids, who just happened to have Black faces and live in places like Haiti or the Sudan. But the national and international news media only give these stories the most superficial coverage.

In the weeks and weeks of coverage about Natalie Holloway, almost a nightly show on the Fox network, hundreds of people have disappeared, been kidnapped, and tortured to death in Haiti. But we get to see none of this on the major networks, CNN or MSNBC, Fox or even BET, because those lives don't really matter to the vast majority of people in this country. And now especially in George Bush's America, white Christian people have once again moved into the top tier of those we view as valuable and worthy of concern. It's a rather disgusting commentary on our society and exposes a fundamental and tragic flaw in our morality.

Michael Gibson

You mean she first had to be Pretty- Black, Pregnant AND Hispanic?
To finally garner the attention usually reserved for precious white females?
Now mind you this is just one black female. I don’t think this lone story will start a trend of sorts. I mean God forbid black women and children should be held in the same esteem as their white counterparts.

I have been writing USA Today, CNN, and FOX News; as well as my local paper about this issue. As a black male of 47 years, no one institution in American reminds me of my position as “Minority” more than the News Media.

I am reminded on a daily bases that I have a place in society, and it rates below that position reserved for white males and females and their children.
That I am not as precious- nor am I as valuable as a white female/male child.
Even during the local news broadcast it’s like we blacks do not exist.
Unless we have done something wrong to raise the ire of white society we get hardly a mention. Our triumphs and our successes are downplayed, while our negatives are exploited to the fullest. Ask any black person about the local news and note their response.

We make the front page of the paper as “Fugitive of the week,” or if we have shot or stole from someone. While in contrast, the lighter more pleasant side of the news is reserved solely for Middle Class Whites living in the suburbs. Oh the wonderful things that are going on in the suburbs. Negative information is down-played and minimized so as not to reflect badly on the community. Whites are doing such wonderful things as blood drives, and charity/religious work of all sorts. White male sportscasters play up the latest news in the suburbs with regards to soccer, volleyball softball, and baseball scores.
As if blacks did not participate in sports at any level.

The concerns of the inner city get virtually ignored. We just don’t exist in white eyes.
Those making the decisions in the back room of the local media outlets are mostly white males. Who apparently have a world view of themselves, and apply it with a broad brush. Anything that may be of interest to their white viewers gets priority. The assumption being that when you are addressing the camera, that you are speaking to a white middle-class male.

Even stories about pets rate higher on their list than stories about blacks. Abuse a pet and you will incur the wrath of white society. Abuse a black male/female- and oh well, its probably drug-related. Let a white child perish in a car crash, or die of disease; and we will know everything about that child.

His hopes and dreams will be recalled in explicit detail. Every nuance of his life will be explored to the fullest. There will be a memorial fund set up for him. A candlelight vigil will mark the place of his/her passing. School mates and teachers will be interviewed at length.

And most often than not, a Bill will be introduced- and passed, to make sure this tragedy never happens again.

The Amber Alert- Megan's Law and other ordinances passed because a white child has been lost. For this is a loss to the community and possibly to the world. Let a black child die, and it’s mentioned in passing…but never- ever- followed up on; or treated with the same concern as his white counterpart.

Minority related topics do not make for compelling news.
White female in peril reflects what we see at the box office. It makes for compelling copy. White child in peril harkens back to the days of Lassie, and Rin-Tin-Tin.
As minorities we just don’t figure in. We aren’t worthy of the same consideration.
The Amber alert is basically just a “Be on the lookout for missing white child” Alarm.

Its not applied equally, nor fairly across racial socio-economic lines. And it pains me every time one is issued. I get mad, and then I get hurt. The assumption being that only a white child/woman is worthy of the attention reserved for Kings and Queens.

I am glad to finally see some movement, some concern for the value of our lives. But it took a lot didn’t it? Look how much sand had to be raised before it caught the eye of someone in the media. Must this be done for every black person? Do we have to go to such lengths to just be treated fairly in this country?
Fair and balanced my ass.
Michael Gibson

ol cranky

I live in the Philly area and I don't recall hearing anything about this until this past week-end at the earliest. The Inky just published it's first story on it TODAY (I'm sure the Daily News has been covering for a while - yes, even papers in the same city owned by the same company have somewhat segregated targets with PDN being the "black" paper).

I don't give a fiddlers fart if the person lives in N. Philly or Ardmore, if someone is reported missing under suspicious circumstances that news needs to be disseminated to the local general public by media that covers an appropriate region as soon as possible so if that those who may come in contact with that person during the critical period have a "lightbulb moment" in time to do something/alert someone.

The Heretik

Sadly who the news is about trumps what the news is about. How, where, and why "the story" gets told is determined by editors who treat news like a product.

Cynics will say this has always been the case. For this situation to change, we must demand more. That means not passively receiving information spit out by talking heads. The age of the citizen reporter is upon us. Info peddlers will accept the new reality and integrate it. Or reality will pass them by. In the case of Latoyia, citizens like Richard Blair have demanded coverage and equal treatment. If that is what it takes to get the job done, then we have learned the lesson.

that colored fella

Heretik,

Also speaking as a Black man, I cannot express it more eloquently than poster Michael Gibson has done! But, TCF wants to make two other points.

The explosion of 300 more cable channels, and now numerous sources of news and information, has greatly fractured the potential audiences coveted by the news media. And, the resulting competition for those ad dollars have forced media behemoths to further target the more highly desired consumers being demanded by fickle advertisers. Pretty, young White women like 'Natalee', bring in those viewers.

Second, I saw Polly Klaus' father recently on MSNBC doing a bad job of insisting this bias does not exist. TCF's point here is, to ask White folks not to get defensive, which then causes one to rationalize such prejudice. You can both condemn the practice, and feel no responsibility or connection to those of your race who perpetuate it!

Ol Cranky

TCF:

You are 100% correct. The odd thing is, it's MSMs assumption that people wouldn't be interested in stories other than of the affluent, white and generally female missing person and that they'd lose viewers. There will be some ignorant a-holes that will roll their eyes and make comments like some I've seen to my posts about Latoyia and on some righty blogs (jebus, how one can turn a missing person into a liberal v conservative debate is beyond me), but on the whole you will find the general public will be interested in compelling cases regardless of race/gender/socioeconomic class because they have some sort of compelling characteristic. A lot of people talk about Natalee Holloway and the coverage, not because they are particularly interested in that case but because it's covered ad nauseaum on just about every network. Even if the other cases didn't bring in as many viewers as the Natalee Holloway case, the cable news outlets could easily take short breaks in the Holloway coverage and cut it from 30 minutes/program to 20-25/program and cover a couple other cases in that 5-10 minutes of programming time without losing viewers. Personally, I think they may be more likely to gain viewers by branching out and appealing to a wider base. As it is now, whether they intend to or not, they are disenfranchising potential viewers by marginalizing stories that have color (since Carlson wants to make it a liberal vs Conservative issue: MSNBC is playing the same game as the Democrats and their ratings are less impressive than the Democrat performance in recent elections).

But then, what do I know, I'm just some middle class white chick who obviously has no idea what captures the attention of middle class white chicks.

The Heretik

Tragedy often at its heart comes from the presumption of one conclusion, with contrary evidence all around you. Marketing the news is itself a farce.

Ol Cranky

FWIW - I just saw a promo for next Friday's Dateline NBC. It looks like they'll be interviewing Tamika Huston's family and covering the disparity in media coverage/lack of coverage of similar cases when the victim isn't white.


Wired News online will also be doing a piece about why the bloggers pushed Latoyia's story to the national media. I went out of my way to mention that the reason I initially blogged was because I saw Richard's letter to Nancy Grace on Republic of T the day I first heard about Latoyia's disappearance (and I'm local) and it was too soon after reading Pam's post about Tamika Huston and a post by Brandon on BadChristian. I also referenced the blogswarm about Zach as an example of bloggers bringing media attention to stories that stay under main stream radar.

If the blogswarm does nothing but generate the blog PSAs we're working on, it's been worthwhile. If it actually gets the media to put some consideration into their coverage and stop assuming people wouldn't care about people of color it's proven that blogs can be a powerful tool to let the media know what the folks in the general public are really interested in.

sandra

It is not just blacks that the news media ignores. They ignore anyone that is not white pretty or rich.
Think of thr Grone kids. Two sweet litle kids that come from a seemingly poorer background, the news media paid little attention till she was found in the store with the alleged prep.

The Heretik

Agreed. Barbara Walters had the Holloway mom on her Thanksgiving most fascinating peeps show as I clicked through. The truth is there are lots of missing people missing in the news. Sad.

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