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The Secret Effects of News Media

todayMarch 24, 2017

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By Kimberly Garcia
Blog Content Contributor

Tune in to national news and you might find a segment about a new immigration order. This segment might feature clips of Hispanics in handcuffs and people crossing the border. Tune in to local news, and you might see several mug shots of people who have committed “gruesome” or “disturbing” crimes. These mug shots could be people of color who have allegedly committed said crimes. Any time there is a terrorist attack, some look immediately to Muslim-Americans, blaming them and  anyone who might wear a hijab or turban for the lives lost.

Although this is news, most don’t consider that this can dehumanize an entire culture. News media is active all day, every day. The messages that are repeated time and time again affect the way society views minorities, and in turn, play a major role in how they are treated in their everyday lives. Since the news is reporting these stories, it makes it even easier for others to feel that they are validated in believing them, after all the news is meant to be unbiased right?

National news has put a spotlight on immigration and the reforms that are underway. Elected officials across the nation insist that Hispanics are to blame for anything that society has ever lost. From having to wait a little longer in line at the mall to crime spikes in areas that have high populations of Hispanics, people learn to blame an entire culture for all the problems society has ever encountered. Thinking about that on its own, it obviously sounds crazy or ridiculous, but when the same messages are hidden in everyday media, the lines of reasoning become blurred, especially for those who only watch daily news outlets. Some may not pay attention to the words that are used or the tone that is set when news stories about immigration are mentioned, but overall they contribute largely to the idea that Hispanics or immigrants are to blame for the dysfunction that the nation faces.

Perceptions of African-Americans have also been shaped by news media. In years past, they have been seen as perpetrators. Until recently, African-Americans were underrepresented as victims and “heroes” and overrepresented as criminals in the stories the media would deliver. This was most apparent during the 1990s. Although misrepresentation of African-American perpetrators has decreased, there is still a lasting impact that was created by the media for older generations that may still believe that African-Americans are criminally inclined.

Not all news sites have reports that place a negative connotation on minorities, but there are a large majority that do. Some news sites counter the stories that place minorities in a negative light with stories that try to humanize them. For example, the Weather Channel created a documentary called The Real Death Valley: The Untold Story of Mass Graves and Migrant Deaths in South Texas, which highlights the journey that immigrants take in order to seek refuge from their homelands torn apart by drugs and war. Stories like this are used in order to put a story behind the faces that are only seen as troublesome or lost in the wrong country. To learn more about the effects news media has on society’s perception of minorities, watch The Mean World Syndrome.

The Mean World Syndrome is a great documentary that connects the violence news media covers and how it correlates to the overall effect on the lives of minorities.

Featured illustration by Erin Garrigan.

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