Models, Media, and News Coverage

Last month, model Cameron Russell gave a TED talk titled “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.” In the aftermath of that talk, Russell’s idea that models are just individuals who won and capitalize upon a genetic lottery gained a lot of attention.

In a way, this is a good thing. We live in a society where looks are given a lot of attention, and this attention can have detrimental side effects: eating disorders, self-confidence problems — the list goes on. However, as Russell herself says in an editorial published through CNN after her talk, is it right that journalists only started this conversation after a model herself brought the issue up?

Suppose, for a moment, that we look away from the issue of societal beauty standards. Do journalists measure up in that regard? Possibly not.

Colin Powell gave a talk at the same TED conference as Russell, but only got a quarter of the attention (if you consider views of both talks online). Russell is the one who has been on morning shows in the past month, not Powell.

If we look at the Pew Research Center’s data for most discussed issues of 2011, we find out that this is actually a common occurrence. Journalists tend to cover some topics to a great extent (like the economy) but then leave other — possibly equally important — issues and either disregard them or give them little attention.

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Foreign Policy was even able to compile a list of major issues that weren’t discussed in the news in 2011 — and some of them are rather important (Indian military growth, US immigration issues, and drug wars in Mexico, to name a few). At the time of the article, they supposed that many of those issues would show up with greater frequency in 2012. In hindsight, though, did that happen?

So, what does this say about journalism in general? Are journalists, knowing full well that agenda setting is a reality, doing their jobs? Does it really take a model to start the conversation on how well journalists are doing? Is a change necessary? If so, what can be done?


Homicide Victims are People Too

Media stories of homicide victims have encouraged more individual connections to the public versus victims seen as a death stat.

When 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was murdered just a few blocks away from President Obama’s Chicago home just a week after performing at his inaugural events, it was a story that pulled at the public’s heartstrings as it covered the airwaves.

The story of Hadiya Pendleton is being pegged as a guide for journalists to use for future reference on how to cover homicide victims equally and fairly.

The media recognized the teen as a young and popular honor student who was full of life, well known for carrying around a gorgeous smile. A picture of innocence that displayed her as more than the 42nd homicide victim of 2012 in Chicago, but as a person that was taken away too soon to senseless crime.

Hadiya’s case gained media attention into what is usually the quantity of homicide cases compared to the quality of the individual they were as a person.

This story showcased how the media may be getting better on how murder cases are handled in a public matter when victims are not regarded as a number added to the death toll but as people. Journalists are making it their job to pick up where connections have lacked in value on relating to the humanistic side that a fatality has a name, a life, and is more than just a victim. Media outlets such as The Redeye and DNAinfo Chicago are websites that report on homicides in Chicago on a local level but relate to an issue that is national.

Journalists as well as the public need to treat all victims and families in the same way; doing so by going that extra mile to make all victims just as known and sympathized for as Hadiya Pendleton and her family. The media needs to continually grasp that all victims of violence are human and that each crime, murder or massacre is just as significant as the last.

The nature of media and the public can sometimes be subjective on homicide victims and what is selected on the image of that person. It was the “good child” image of Hadiya that garnered the media attention the way that it did, while also bringing to forefront the horrific number of homicides that Chicago faces yearly. Not all homicide victims are a teenage honor student who was heavily involved in school activities; however, that is what draws focus to cases such as this in particular. President Obama did not publicly address the other 41 homicide murders of Chicago this year, but it is that type of notable prominence involved that attracts heavy media coverage.

How did the media handle the Hadiya Pendleton murder in your perspective, were there any attention given to her story that was not given to others? Are journalists doing a good job on showcasing victims more as people rather than a stat? Are there any politics when it comes to homicide stories that gain public attention compared to others that are overlooked? Do the good and bad victims equally deserve just as much media attention?


Fox News Wants a Bigger Hispanic Audience

Fox News Spanish network, MundoFox, hopes to increase their viewers by adding more Spanish language local programming to a greater bilingual Spanish demographic.

President of the Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes, considers featuring more local Spanish programming as a “tremendous business oppurtunity.” More and more of the United States Hispanic population are tuning in for local Spanish programs, making it visible for TV networks to see how this growing audience is becoming more profitable. MundoFox is hoping to compete with the likes of Univision and Telemundo, who dates back to 50 years of serving the Hispanic community. How is MundoFox, a station that was launched in August 2012, plan to go up against broadcast networks that are rank no. 1 and 2  in their viewing auience, the answer–robbing Univision and Telemundo of their viewers.

Fox News knows that they are new to the Spanish language programming game and are pulling out all the stops when it comes to getting those high numbers, currently their Hispanic viewers during prime time average less than 100,000 according to Nielson. Ailes plans to make the station more Hispanic-friendly by giving a softer side of republican views, and putting political issues such as immigration on defensive by seeing it as sovereignty on the path to citizenship.

Here is a broadcast network that is known to be harsh and blunt when it comes to the messages conveyed about immigration on television. Fox News has their work cut out for them if they want to be seen as a trusting network to Hispanic viwers. Their Fox News Latino website launched in 2010, was a good start in bringing in Hispanic traffic to the site; Hispanics spend 68 percent more time watching video on the Internet compared to non-Hispanics. Fox News Latino is making it their mission to aware Latinos that they are a part of America’s framework.

Hispanics have access to media just as much as non-Hispanic whites and account for one-sixth of the U.S. population; by year 2050, one in three  Americans will be Hispanic. Even though media outlets can capitalize on the growing number of the Hispanic population, these are people and their role in the U.S. is just as important as native citizens. Hispanics need to have just as much as Spanish television programming that caters to their cultural needs as English programming. Hopefully Fox News and other newcomers can erase the media border between Spanish and English programming.

What is your view on Fox News; do you find that it is a republican-charged network that has enticed their audience to be discrimatory and prejudice towards immigration? Is there an equal balance of Spanish programming for the U.S. Hispanic community, why or why not? Is it going to take more than a Latin based website and a few more stations from MundoFox to satisfy Hispanics needs? What other broadcast networks besides Fox News needs to be more open to minorities?


Inauguration Day Doesn’t Bring in Diverse Crowd

African Americans, Latin Americans, women, and the gay community were among the most social minorities represented at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21.

It seems that  a mass of President Obama’s 93 percent of African American voters attended his inaugural ceremony this year than compared to last. The rising numbers of Blacks on this day can not only be attributed to another historic moment, but inauguration day was held on Martin Luther King Day as well. Latin Americans in support of a better immigration policy were full front and large in numbers on the president’s second inaugural but it leads many journalists to wonder why other social minorities of this county lacked in numbers on this day. Yes there was a Cuban inaugural poet, Hispanic Supreme Court justice, and an African-American activist who opened up that day with the invocation speech, but that really does not show the genetic makeup this country has to offer.

Women were among the masses out there that Monday morning to see provision from Obama on bridging the gap with discrimination and equal rights to their male counterparts, as were the gay and lesbian community who received public support by Obama backing for legal same-sex marriage.

There is strength in numbers and frankly those numbers were low when it came to other minority groups such as Asian Americans, Native Americans, or Pacific Islanders being present on inauguration day.  President Obama won the votes 73 percent of Asian Americans, yet their attendances in inauguration festivities were low. There were even comments from the Jewish community by readers on a blog post that expressed disappointment in the so called Jewish values that took place during inaugural week. It seems that mainstream media only acknowledged the diverse crowd that participated in the inaugural events and what actually reached only the surface of faces seen or religions touched.

This country is not made up of just 1 of everything: 1 ethnicity, 1 religion, or even 1 language; so when only 2 ethnicities are accounted for on one of the biggest days in American history, it contradicts the metaphorical nickname of the U.S. being considered a melting pot. Instead of how many faces you saw like yours on inauguration day in the crowd or even on the inaugural platform, how many faces actually stood? What did diversity look like to you on inauguration day and if there was any how did mainstream media portray it to be?


Religion’s most talked-about in 2010

In the year 2010 Islam was the most discussed topic in religion covered by the U.S. press, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

They study showed that this is the first time Islam has been the most covered topic since the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has been recording statistics on the subject of religion coverage in the news. These statistics from previous years showed the Catholic Church as the number one discussed topic in news coverage of religion, but the increased Islamic controversies of 2010 caused a shift.

Discussion on the topic of Islam in 2010 were dominated by the possible building of a masque and Islamic center near ground zero in New York City, one Florida minister threatening to burn the Koran and the recounts of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Despite the 2010-midterm elections, religion’s role in American politics was still overshadowed by Islam as the number one topic of religion coverage in major news.

The amount of time and space dedicated to religion in the major news media doubled from 2009 to 2010—raising total coverage from a meek 1% to 2%. Although this can be seen as improvement, it is still apparent that Americans do not place religion as high priority in the media.

On the other hand, religion was one of the most blogged-about topics throughout 2010, according to the Pew Forum.

How much time and space should the American media delegate for the topic of religion?

What does the coverage of Islam say about America’s view of the religion? What kind of emotions arise from new most-covered topic in religion?