WEEK 15 – JOURNALISM NEWS THEORY & ETHICS: CRITICAL THINKING

1) When should a person or group be identified by race, ethnicity, gender or religion?

There has always been stigma around revealing the race, ethnicity, gender or religion of people in news reports. Some media organisations will avoid revealing these things about a person or group as by not mentioning them, it avoids any backlash or accusations.

A person’s race, ethnicity, gender or religion should only be revealed if it is relevant to the story. A journalist must avoid misrepresentation of groups as this can be detrimental to many. This is evidential in the media representation of Muslims as some news organisations have reported on ISIS in ways that can be inferred as tying them to Islam, which they are not. As a result, many Muslims have faced consequences of these reports through hate crimes. This is supported by Frost (2016) who argues there are certain ‘groups in society who are made particularly vulnerable to media abuse or oppression because they have had their ability to control their lives reduced by circumstances in which they find themselves”.

Moreover, a common topic around this issue is that of the reporting on black males in violent crimes. “The news media may create or cause cognitive associations between Blacks and crime by providing the viewer with a host of examples in which the criminals, and particularly violent criminals, are more likely to be Black than White”. (Dana Fonash and Mary B. Oliver. 2002) This exemplifies how the media can have a negative effect by releasing the race of an individual. However, should it be important to the story, such as in racially motivated crimes, then it is acceptable to include such information.

Overall, a journalist must decide whether revealing the race, ethnicity, gender or religion of an individual or group is important to the story or if it will just have harmful effects on both society and those included in the article.

References:

Fonash, D. and Oliver, M. B., 2002. Race and crime in the news: Whites’ identification and Misidentification of violent and nonviolent criminal suspects. Media Psychology, 4 (2), 137–156.

 Frost, C, 2016. Journalism ethics and regulation. Oxen: Routledge.  p159

 

2) What is the most appropriate language to use for transgender people and people who do not identify as male or female?

When reporting on someone who is transgender, the journalist must be careful in the language used in order to not cause harm or upset to the individual. An individual should be referred to the gender they wish or, in the cases of identifying as neither male or female, their gender should not be mentioned within the article. When reporting on transgender people, a journalist should not imply the person is not the gender they say. “It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.” (GLAAD, 2016)

The Gender Discrimination Code was changed by the PCC in 2005 to include that ‘gender and sexual orientation, two key terms that often come into play when reporting on transgender people, should not be written about pejoratively or with prejudice.’ In light of this, it is important that journalist should consider whether mentioning gender is necessary in the article. Before writing a report, the journalist should ask and not assume what terminology the individual wishes to be used. (Arune 2006) By asking, it would remove the risks of the interviewee getting upset by the article, or it affecting the transgender community as a whole.

References:

Association, O. N., 2017. Racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation references – ONA Ethics. ONA Ethics. Available from: http://ethics.journalists.org/topics/racial-ethnic-religious-gender-and-sexual-orientation-references/

Castañeda, L. and Campbell, S., 2006. News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. United States of America: Sage.

 “GLADD Media Reference Guide – Transgender”, GLADD. N.p., 2017, Web.

 

3) Does the diversity of a news staff affect the diversity of issues, topics and people depicted in news coverage?

Nishikawa et al’s (2009) study found that ‘some scholars argue that a diversified newsroom will improve media coverage of minority communities and issues.’ Their research investigated how a journalist’s ‘norms’ influence behaviour and attitudes about advocacy. They found that diversity in a newsroom and within the news staff, meant having employees with different backgrounds and different experiences in the office, which leads to a wide range of viewpoints and thus better stories.

A lack of diversity within a news staff can lead to the content of their news to be unequal in its portrayal of different groups in society. Journalist must be careful not to write stories that are only relatable to people in the same social group. This is what Hulten (2009), identified as what led to a ‘mass coverage’ of the white population in Sweden. If there is a lack of diversity, stories may become very biased and unrepresentative of all groups. This can cause harm to certain social groups as it may bring stigma around them.

Newsrooms should include diversity within gender, race and religion in order to keep an equal and representative organisation that is accessible to all. To summarise, newsrooms should remove any potential bias and stereotypical language that may occur in their reporting by employing a range of genders, ethnicities and races.

References:

Hulten, G., 2009. Diversity disorders: Ethnicity and newsroom cultures. Conflict and communication [online], 8 (2), 1-14.

Nishikawa, K. et al., 2009. Interviewing the Interviewers: Journalistic Norms and Racial Diversity in the Newsroom. Howard Journal of Communications [online]

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