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The Media in Black and White

By Everette Dennis Copyright 1996
    184 Pages
    by Routledge

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    by Routledge

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    The media's treatment of and interaction with race, like race itself, is one of the most sensitive areas hi American society. Whether hi its coverage and treatment of racial matters or racial connections inside media organizations themselves, mass communication is deeply involved with race. The Media in Black and White brings together twenty journalists and scholars, of various racial backgrounds, to grapple with a controversial issue: the role that media industries, from advertising to newspapers to the information superhighway, play in helping Americans understand race.

    Contributors include Ellis Cose, a contributing editor for Newsweek; Manning Marable, chairman of Columbia University's African-American Research Center; William Wong, a columnist for the Oakland Tribune; Lisa Penaloza, a University of Illinois professor; and Melita Marie Garza, a Chicago Tribune reporter. Among the topics discussed are: the quality of reporting on immigrant issues; how sensationalism may be deepening the chasm of misunderstanding between the races; how the coverage of America's drug wars has been marked by racism; and whether politically correct language is interfering with coverage of vital issues and problems.

    The contributors of The Media in Black and White hope to broaden the narrow vision of the United States and the world beyond with their contributions to the debate over race and the media. The commentary found hi this important work will be of interest to sociologists, communication specialists, and black studies scholars.

    Part I Reviewing the American Melting Pot

    1. Seething in Silence—The News in Black and White
    Ellis Cose

    "For reporters, race can be a treacherous subject, raising questions that
    go to the heart of the journalist's craft," observes the author, a Newsweek
    contributing editor and former Media Studies Center fellow. "Today,
    though we live in a world that is increasingly multicultural, much of
    conventional journalism remains fixated on the lives of the white and the
    wealthy." The result, he says, is tension in the newsroom, the news product
    and the news consumer.

    2. Reconciling Race and Reality
    Manning Marable

    The 30 years since the zenith of the civil rights movement have brought
    a "paradox of desegregation," contends the author, chairman of Columbia
    University's African-American research center and author of numerous
    books on race in America. Improvements aside, "U.S. race relations
    in the 1990s have been unambiguously negative," he writes. "Media,
    film and educational institutions have a decisive role to play in overturning
    America's pervasive images of inequality."
    Part II Covering America

    3. Immigration, the Press and the New Racism
    John J. Miller

    "Immigrants have always made Americans uneasy," as the associate director
    of the Center for the New American Community in Washington
    points out. That uneasiness is growing in the 1990s as new waves of
    illegal immigrants spill over the borders and are accused of a range of
    social ills. "The media can't do anything about that. What the media can
    do, however, is exacerbate or ease these worries. It all comes down to the
    quality of reporting on immigrant issues."

    4. African Americans According to TV News
    Robert M. Entman

    "We have all heard that sensationalism and entertainment values are on
    the rise in TV news," writes a Northwestern University researcher. "My
    studies indicate these trends aren't simply professional embarrassments
    and frustrations for journalists. They may also be making urban America
    less governable, deepening the chasm of misunderstanding and distrust
    between blacks and whites."

    5. From Bad to Worse—The Media's Framing of Race and Risk
    Oscar H. Gandy Jr.

    Everyone knows that bad news drives journalism, but the press disproportionately
    frames stories about blacks as bad news, a University of
    Pennsylvania media scholar finds in a pilot study he conducted. "To the
    extent that the media emphasize the ways in which the distribution of
    social and economic risks breaks down along racial lines," he suggests,
    "they have helped to tear us apart."

    6. Covering the Invisible "Model Minority"
    William Wong

    Things are looking up in terms of how the press covers America's diverse
    new Asian community, writes the author, a former columnist for
    the Oakland Tribune. "TV coverage of Asian Americans remains spotty
    and sensationalized, but print coverage, while retaining some of the old
    polar good-bad images, has become increasingly nuanced, textured and
    true to life."

    7. In the South—Press, Courts and Desegregation Revisited
    Dale Thorn

    Forty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the fight over racial
    segregation has flared up again, with an ironic twist—back then, blacks
    sued to enter white colleges; today they are fighting to keep black colleges
    open. "Amid the gaffes and stereotypes by the media, there has
    been a real dearth of relatively simple, interpretive, what-it-means reporting
    on the South's desegregation story," complains a Louisiana State
    University journalism professor.

    8. Coloring the Crack Crisis
    Jimmie L. Reeves and Richard Campbell

    Coverage of America's "drug wars" has been marked by racism, contend
    the authors of a new book on how network television reports on
    cocaine. "Journalism's discovery of crack in late 1985 signaled the beginning
    of a period of frenzied coverage in which the race and class
    contours of the cocaine problem established in the early 1980s would be
    almost completely reconfigured," they find.
    Part III Issues, Debates and Dilemmas

    9. Are the Media Really "White"?
    Andrew Hacker

    If Ebony is a "black" magazine, is the New Republic "white"? asks a
    Queens College political scientist and author. White journalists and media
    organizations don't see race as an essential feature of their identities,
    but for blacks, as the author points out, "the dominant media are most
    certainly white. To their eyes, the mainstream media speak for a white
    nation, which expects all citizens to conform to its ways."

    10. Warping the World—Media's Mangled Images of Race
    Jannette L. Dates and Edward C. Pease

    "There is good reason for minorities to think their perspectives are at
    best warped by the media or, worse, not heard at all," reflect the acting
    communication dean at Howard University and the co-editor. "In the
    year that saw a black man elected president of South Africa, there is
    irony in the fact that apartheid still rules the information age in America."

    11. Pop Culture, "Gangsta Rap" and the "New Vaudeville"
    Paul Delaney

    America's image of blacks—and their own self-image—is closely tied to
    how they are portrayed in news and entertainment, writes the author, a
    former New York Times editor who now heads the journalism department
    at the University of Alabama. "There is strong objection to many of the
    roles and images transmitted—including the clown image of television
    sitcoms''new vaudevillians,' but particularly the messages of gangsta
    rappers about women as'bitches' and'hos,' and about guns and violence
    and cops."

    12. Racial Naming
    Everette E. Dennis

    To paraphrase the poet, What's in a name? In theory, substance should
    be vastly more important than labeling, but, as the co-editor points out,
    language questions are intensely sensitive in the arena of race in America.
    "Black" or "African American"? "Native American" or "Indian"? "To
    the extent that nit-picking over language interferes with coverage of vital
    racial and ethnic issues and problems, this debate may be counterproductive,"
    he concludes. But it refuses to go away.
    Part IV A Media Industry Status Report

    13. On-Ramps to the Information Superhighway
    Adam Clayton Powell III

    So far, at least, the electronic world of tomorrow looks pretty white,
    reflects a former broadcaster and technology expert. "Future archaeologists,
    studying the documentary record of the present, would have reason
    to conclude that people of color were bypassed by the information superhighway,"
    he says. "Maybe it just passed over black and Latino communities,
    much as Manhattan's West Side Highway passes overhead on its
    way through Harlem neighborhoods."

    14. Newspapers' Quest for Racial Candor
    Sig Gissler

    "Race—it is America's rawest nerve and most enduring dilemma," reflects
    the author, a former newspaper editor and journalism professor at
    Columbia University. "From birth to death, race is with us, defining,
    dividing, distorting." Few social institutions are as tormented by this
    dilemma day in and day out as are newspapers, he says, reporting on
    efforts by two metropolitan dailies to come to grips with the issue.

    15. !Ya Viene Atzlan! Latinos in U.S. Advertising
    Lisa Penaloza

    "In the advertising world, the representation of minorities has been a topic
    of interest that has waxed and waned since the civil rights movement,"
    writes a University of Illinois advertising professor. "Yet, so much has
    changed in the last 20 years that to view minorities in advertising solely in
    terms of inclusions in'mainstream' media is to miss much of it."

    16. (Re)Imagining America
    John Phillip Santos

    "As the United States m


    Everette E. Dennis. a widely known author and media critic. Is executive director of The Freedom Forum International Consortium of Universities, and senior vice president of The Freedom Forum of Arlington. Virginia. Among his books are Media arid the Environment, Understanding Mass Communication, and Media Debates. From 1984 to 1996 he was founding executive director of The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University. Edward C. Pease Is chairman of the Department of Communication at Utah State University, Logan. and a former editor of the Media Studies Journal. He previously taught at St. Michael’s College In Vermont and at the University of Dayton In Ohio. He Is the author of a number of scholarly articles and co. editor with Everette E. Dennis of Roil to—The Forgotten Medium.