Where We Stands Depends on Where We Sit

by Justine Dodgen

Our discussion of how race is depicted in media coverage of violent events continues. Today we hear from Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a Senior Fellow at USC Price and a long-time political analyst for NBC Los Angeles. Bebitch Jeffe lends us her perspective today as both faculty and a member of the media.

Bedrosian Center: What’s one thing we can do better to address biases in how the media portrays race and violence?

JeffeI have difficulty accepting the framing of the premise of the topic. Who, exactly, are “we”? That’s painting with a pretty broad brush…and how is “better” defined?

I think the coverage of the Mother Emanuel shooting belies the argument that, “while the media is quick to humanize and try to understand white killers, they’re just as quick to demonize and justify the deaths of black victims.” That contradiction doesn’t mean that all coverage of crime and violence is unbiased- far from it. Neither does it mean that all coverage is biased. The literature sample is very small and somewhat skewed toward a single perspective. Too often, members of the media are guilty of the same thing. And, too often, “eyeballs,” circulation numbers, and “like” totals demand it. And that is key.

David [Sloane] is right in his observation that “colorblind society is a fiction. ..we are still a society deeply divided by race and ethnicity (as well as class and gender).” And every one of those factors influences how each of us sees the world and how we evaluate both our world and the way we judge others- the media, academia, critics, politicians, etc.- and how they assess the values, norms and dynamics of society. I don’t know how we could- or if we should- move to change the results of that equation.

Perhaps it is the role of leadership- in government, politics, media, education, communities, families, civic and civil institutions, to take on that challenge, but… always, in politics, policy, in media and in life, the reality remains that “where we stand depends on where we sit.”

 

This post is part of our series on Race and Violence in the Media.