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Why Representation Matters in the News: An Opinion

News agencies have a duty to inform the public about important information concerning people, events and conversations taking place around them, especially when it involves government officials or something that may impact their lives.

The news is protected by the Bill of Rights, which protects the “freedom of speech” and the “freedom of the press.” The Founding Fathers did this as a means for average citizens to have their own form of checks and balances against their government.

Without it, the people are at the mercy of government officials about what they can communicate, how they communicate it and the punishment for communicating unfavorable information to each other. The restriction of relaying communication can easily become a slippery slope to a tyrannical government.

However, when news agencies fail to relay information that matters to all citizens or fails to offer the perspective of citizens from minority groups, a disservice exists. This applies to all forms of news, whether it is broadcast through radio, TV, internet, newspaper or some other media.

If the source of the information being broadcast to its audience is biased or missing context related to culture or history, then the audience receiving the information will more than likely become biased as well. Whether this problem is intentional or not, it can have severe consequences on communities of color.

Naturally, if a news agency of any kind is failing or refusing to hire people from different cultures, nationalities or ethnicities it can very easily lead to a lack of credibility or reliability as a news agency, unless their goal is to provide information that is only meant to benefit and inform its audience from a place of willful ignorance, arrogance and discrimination.

For people of color, the failure to offer diverse journalism does not go unnoticed, leaving them to feel left out and ignored. This feeling over time grows into mistrust and a severe lack of credibility and the ability to report certain segments with the appropriate level of sympathy and compassion, especially if the news agency embraces or supports politics and/or attitudes that are against the interest of a specific minority group. Unfortunately, this is the reality for people of color when it comes to receiving information from news agencies nationwide, especially when it concerns “conservative” news agencies.

This is also the reality for black and brown people living outside of Little Rock. Communities including Pope County encourage attitudes that deny media that allows any person of color to offer their uncensored perspective. Pope County is an area with mass media that could offer a division to people of color or offer a designated space for people of color to report about news more relative to their community but refuses to do such.

Conservative news agencies are married to conservative narratives within their news coverage, even when it has been proven to not be true. When people of color are hired by these organizations, it is not done as a means to sincerely offer a new perspective, but to reinforce their conservative narrative with a representative from that community.

Mostly, these token journalists are hired for one reason only, to persuade the minds of their people by reporting misinformation and lies to condition them into believing the conservative ideology. This could easily be reimagined as a moth leading its family to a campfire to die.

For communities of color legitimizing or supporting conservatism is akin to supporting the murder of their own people. It begins with think tanks like ALEC, which transitions into policy and ultimately ends with laws and policies that allow issues like police brutality with impunity or the racial disparities concerning convictions and sentencing.

But again, without proper representation even the ideas of something like those proposed may never see the light of day. If all you can see is the shadows on the wall, you can never comprehend or realize there is a whole other world around you. For the sake of journalism diversity is extremely important for a variety of practical reasons. For a news agency to refuse to offer the perspective of minorities is a complete failure to practice journalism.

How can any news agency report anything while refusing to view the world with both eyes open?

-Cliff A. May


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