Race in America: Journalism, the Media and Race

The media has long confronted issues involving race. From minority ownership of media, to the marketing of racially insensitive products, media professionals have struggled to handle race in a way that is both sensitive and just. This post on Media Ethics Report is the first of a number of posts done in cooperation with Creighton University’s Kingfisher Institute as part of a Magis Core Curriculum Course Development Grant. Each post will approach different racial issues in the media.

First will be posts that examine racial issues in journalism. We will begin by viewing race from a macro perspective, looking at race and media ownership. Worth a discussion will be a 2011 interview done by NPR’s Tony Cox (as host of the network’s program, “Tell Me More”) with Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres, authors of News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. Gonzalez and Torres discuss the history of minority-owned media outlets and some of the barriers in overcoming what the authors see as a media eco-system dominated by a white majority.

Beyond journalism and media ownership, advertising is no stranger to racial problems. Not long ago, Dove came under fire for airing an ad that appeared to be racially offensive. The ad, seemingly intended to show that Dove soap was sensitive to all skin types, depicted an African-American woman taking off her brown-colored shirt to reveal a white woman wearing a white shirt underneath (see “Dove Messes Up…Again”). Such racial insensitivities have extended to the marketing of offensive products themselves, such as a line of blackface clothing produced by Gucci and sold by Prada (see “Fashion Brands Capitalize on Blackface and Nooses”).

Like advertising, public relations is not immune to racial issues. Among them is how public relations professionals have handled the Black Lives Matter movement and how they have dealt with their Black colleagues who have supported BLM. PR professional Jo Ogunleye wrote about her own experiences in a post on Medium.com. According to Ogunleye, although PR professionals may talk a good game when it comes to race, the reality may be quite different.

This is, of course, a starting point. Future posts will dive deeper into the tenuous relationship between the media and race, taking a closer look at race in journalism, advertising, and public relations. Like Media Ethics Report itself, this conversation is part of a course at Creighton University on media ethics.

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