The history of portraying members of minorities in colonial America from the perspective of the upper-class white culture has stuck with the media through the past four centuries, said investigative journalist and author Juan Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, New York Daily News columnist, and co-host of the national independent news program, “Democracy Now!,” discussed his book, co-authored with journalist Joe Torres, “News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media,” on Monday.
Gonzalez discussed the forces at play that created the current media system, which is filled with so much content and little knowledge, and does not represent minorities well.
“The American people continue to have less and less confidence in news that they receive, and this is especially true among people of color who feel assaulted on an almost daily basis by the industry,” Gonzalez said. “They feel marginalized, misrepresented, their lives distorted and their contributions ignored.”
Gonzalez said that race has been a subject of the American press since colonial times and with the first newspapers in the country, and it has returned to the media spotlight with the coverage of the Trayvon Martin case.
“The Trayvon Martin tragedy has reignited the discussion all around the country, and one of the things that commercial media had propagated after the Obama election was that we were now a post-racial America, which is far-fetched and lucid,” Gonzalez said. “We have a long way to go in terms of being able to have more understanding about racial issues in the country, and having that in the American press was not the end-all-and-be-all of racial conflict in America.”
Associate journalism professor Maggie Rodriguez said she hopes people will start to consider the news media in a different way.
“The book that [Gonzalez] wrote turns a lot of what’s in the traditional journalism textbooks on its ear,” Rodriguez said. “Those of us who think we know a little bit about journalism history, we don’t know that much.”
Gonzalez discussed minority journalists throughout American history who have challenged racial aspects of the dominantly white media.
“All of the first generation of African-American and Latino news reporters came about as a result of this enormous pressure by local communities and by court decisions and government policy decisions that forced the media companies to become more diverse,” Gonzalez said.
Government junior Alma Buena said it was important that he covered the minority reporters in history, who were a part of the development of the media.
“He didn’t cover only African-American and Latino newspapers, but he went as far as talking about the Cherokee reporters and indigenous people who often are overseen,” Buena said. “It was important that he gave a voice to them.”