I didn’t know this post would have an epigraph, and then I saw the above by Steven Salaita as I made my final edits on this post.
The recent coverage of the ongoing protests at the University of Missouri have led me to reflect on how the news media covers black pain, protest, and free speech. Certainly, by weighing in on the topic now, I’m late to the game, so I draw attention to a couple pieces that I think articulate the reasons why black protesters would be distrustful of the media. Moreover, in looking at the work of one of our local journalists, I aim to look at a microcosm of the larger problem in journalism in covering black lives.
As a nation, we need to have important conversations about race. As an educator, I understand that facilitating these conversations is a significant part of my profession. I take that responsibility seriously. It represents my most significant but rewarding challenge. But one news story–or even one tweet from a local news station–will reach a far larger audience in one minute than I might reach in a career in the classroom. How the media frames events will shape the way people understand them. We need the members of the press to take their roles seriously. When they don’t, we must call them out. When they do their work well, I think they will find people actually want to grant them access. A free press is essential for the function of democracy, but a press that disseminates its bias does not help democracy. We need better.
On Sunday, a friend texted me an image of a tweet by George Brown, the web content manager for WREG, the CBS affiliate in Memphis. Brown, an on-air personality as well as the person who can decide what classifies as news online for WREG, linked to a CBS story about the University of Missouri football team’s decision to boycott football activities until university president Tim Wolfe stepped down.