Panel discusses representation and diversity in media

JT Lindsey

Media outlets have failed to adequately cover the issues of minority communities, journalism professors said Wednesday.

Three professors spoke in the SAC Ballroom at a panel hosted by Campus Events and Entertainment titled “Real Talk on Representation: Who’s Missing From the Media?”

Marketing senior Maya Hughley, one of the organizers of the event, said the way diversity is discussed is one of the most important issues in society, and the panel served to address that.

“We hold a panel every year, and it’s always a hot button issue,” Hughley said. “As we were discussing things that were coming up, it always came back to diversity.”

Journalism lecturer Erna Smith said minorities are covered not as equals, but as issues to society.

“Studies show over and over again that people of color are typically depicted as problems,” Smith said. “Either having a problem or being a problem.”

Smith said discrimination against people of color is not regarded as an important issue by media outlets.

“Typically in the mainstream media, the framing of the problem of racism is that there really isn’t a problem,” Smith said.

Journalism associate professor George Sylvie said modern movements by minorities, such as Black Lives Matter, are not considered legitimate when they are initially covered.

“Minorities are covered pretty much like the Other,” Sylvie said. “Many of our causes we have to go at for a while to get decent, balanced coverage.”

Sylvie said these movements do not start a discussion as intended because the media focuses on the potential for violence.

“Even when covering these issues, the framing of the protests is always ‘will there be violence?’ or ‘will there be conflict?’” Smith said. “Not ‘why are they protesting?’”

Kathleen McElroy, the associate director of the School of Journalism, said this issue of misperception began in the 1960s with the coverage of the civil rights movement.

“Everyone frames a story in a particular way, you have that perspective,” McElroy said. “It turns out the reason that you hear a lot about the violence of the civil rights movement is because that’s what the coverage by the mainstream media focused on.”