Kathleen Cleaver, Communications Secretary for the Black Panther Party at the time of the Kerner Commission panels, spoke to “the electronic stimulus for revolution” that was beginning to emerge in the civil rights movement. “Today,” she clarified, “black people are in a position to have instantaneous information about what’s going on and are in a position to react to that” (quoted in Documenting Social Issues, Tommy Lee Lott p.80). This statement is even more true today with the importance of the internet and its accessibility. Now, mass media is not dominated by the voices of traditional media outlets like television. Rather, everyone has access and opportunity to voice their opinions. The internet can be a great rallying tool. But how, with so many voices, can people know who to trust? And, with these calls to action, will people respond?

In “Documenting Social Issues”, Tommy Lee Lott discusses the ways in which Black Journal fought the “social amnesia” taken on by our country in regards to civil rights issues and African American representation in mass media. He discusses the need for their decolonizing agenda, one which resists the corruptions of capitalistic gain and works for the people rather than against them. By providing non-commercial programming with a focus on, essentially, what normal people are interested in (i.e. news that would be discussed in a barbershop, p.75), Black Journal did not profit off of the audience in the way popular television channels do. I think this is a great step in the direction of news acknowledging their bias. Black Journal was very aware of their audience and purpose. Meanwhile, other news outlets claimed to be universal, while only focusing on a white perspective. The question of how to deal with bias in news is a really interesting one.


One response »

  1. nlredmond says:

    I think your questions about bias in an era where so many are able to broadcast their opinions on social issues is very interesting. “Nothing is neutral” is a statement that is constantly brought up in my classes, especially those in which I study media and representations. In relation to bias, it is hard to completely eliminate. One reason I think the Black Journal was particularly good at representing black people is because there were not alternate and hidden agendas to represent black people in a negative way, which dominant media has done for the majority of its existence. Also, having been used to being those negatively affected by bias, it seems like it would become easier to pinpoint ways to avoid biased representations (by presenting truths). I also talked a bit how social media especially allows for instantaneous information, and while this era has allowed for so many more voices to enter mainstream “consciousness,” I do think that mass media in still dominated by certain images and tropes that are very biased and continue to lead to violence. There are more voices that point these out, but it is still possible to drown these out, or construct them in a way that invalidates them. I thinking about reporting of protesting as “rioting” and “looting” as an example, and also simply the presence of militarily armed police men and what this signifies for viewers.

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