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Ideology versus Discourse on Affirmative Action

A. Johnson. Reyte on Publishing 2012.

The fact that ideology is first based on society and politics in today's media is fairly easy to understand. The role of the journalist is to suspend their viewpoint and remain autonomous in constructing the angle offered by the story. Though most media news outlets newspapers, journals, magazines and such claim that the viewpoint of the journalist reporting is unbiased, this will depend on how the information is presented. Ideologies are defined as a system of thinking that is the basis of society's interpretation of news presented by groups or individuals. Through the news and media they can share and/or control the prevailing views of society. The following discussion will discuss the role of how journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, American Prospect, and examples from other leading news publications construct ideology and discourse to present news. Examples from articles relating to Affirmative Action will provide a context of understanding. The language used often makes it clear whether or not a viewpoint implies the ideas, judgment or values of either the organization, the contributing source, or the reporter themselves remarks Graham CEO of Washington Post News (2012). News coverage based on discourse is the process of getting the news out based on the context of the public's need to know and the writers obligation to tell what they know. This differs in each society and political framework. In certain countries there are more restrictions or controls on what news is released to the public. Some nations value truth

while others esteem propaganda. The ideology or beliefs within these guidelines offer the journalists the ability to present the news. In the west there may be more information that is distributed and this can be a useful or destructive thing. Causing entire groups of people to experience the consequences. In the case of Affirmative Action if the public decides against it based on news that has been spread in opposition, this can result in less opportunities for certain minorities affecting future generations of citizens. The first concept is that ideology is based on cognition. The ideas and beliefs of the news reporter or source are based on belief systems. The role played by the author and the source is to share that cognitive thought process with the audience in a way that gains support, antagonism, or appreciation. Looking at the issue of affirmative action in America for example, consider the following views from Starr a news reporter with The American Prospect. He states it is not a reasonable claim that the issues pointing at the economic downturn are due to unemployed minorities. Especially when minorities often benefit the least from a recession or high unemployment rate (1992). This comment is based on an article designed to present an ideology meant to inform the audience of a view by an opponent to Affirmative Action. The role of the author is to present the idea of the source then deciding to add support that refute the author's comments. The news reporter in this instance inserted their own cognitive theory which argued against the report by the source. This is clearly identified by the reporter taking the time to respond to the source's claim with documentation stating how a high rate of unemployment benefits minorities the least (Starr, 1992). A second concept involves the social context of ideology. When groups of advocates

support the same ideology, they can use the news media as a medium of spreading their views and attitudes throughout a society. This is called dominant ideology. As this group informs multiple media outlets at all levels of society of their agenda, this becomes the prevailing attitude of the majority of readers. For a political source, use of the media in this way is key to gaining partisan support. At times this type of ideology in the news media can lead to the political group spreading a partisan view that places blame on another dominant group. For example an article by Sacs and Theil states that politicians are using Affirmative Action (AA) as a reason for job loss (2010). This remark is definitely politically motivated as it will cause readers to side with the politician against AA if they have suffered job loss. This is ideologically motivated by playing on emotional and social situations to gain political support. With unemployment across the board being as high as 10%, politicians need to place blame somewhere since they have found no solutions to the problem. This ideological view ignores obvious issues of mandatory wage decreases, attrition due to misplaced resources, and general layoffs in all business sectors according to Leonhardt from the The New York Times in his article on 'The New Affirmative Action' (2007) . The media source may attempt to counter reporting on this type of news by including input from sources that highlight political comments related to outsourcing of jobs (Leonhardt, 1992). Leonard Downie once an editor with The Washington Post states that the publication is one of the strongest proponents of impartial reporting. Stating that the journalists at the Post are among the most devoted to remaining neutral in reporting (2011). The social context of ideology is definitely based on certain groups or interests that lobby for their cause by sharing through the media 'dominant ideologies' according to

Abercrombie in The Dominant Ideology Thesis (1980). In this light the views of the dominant group are thought to be the views of the vast majority of the society and presented as such whether this is a true representation or not (Abercrombie, 1980). In order to further their cause, these 'groups' attempt to dominate the media in order to force feed their viewpoints to society claiming in this way claiming legitimacy. In the case of Affirmative Action those politically opposed will divulge ideology that is presents an argument to gain supporters. The media reporting such a view is hard pressed to give an accurate account without appearing to legitimize the political theory. Generally most journalist will attempt to find an expert on the topic or present opposing views to balance what is presented by the media outlet. Understanding how groups are defined which play a role in spreading ideologies and discourse that becomes a dominant view of society. Some roles are based on membership based on race, national views, country, culture, feminism, or another identity that the group uses to categorize themselves. belongs to the group and who does not, Another dominant role is based on tasks that are similar in nature by all members. Examples would be journalists, auto makers, professors, teachers who all share similar type of work or professional activity. When a group does actions based on playing a role in society, this is a goal oriented role or group. Journalists view themselves as news reporters and writers that share information with the public at large. Other examples would be a group that promotes a health practice, researching or investigative work to gain support for a cause such as fighting discrimination, ending unfair treatment, etc.

Roles with a group that determine Norms or societal values such as corporate governance, enforcing laws, or political partisan definitions for example. Roles based on position toward another group in society. Teachers and students, feminists and women, Journalists and the reading or viewing public, etc. This can also present various ideologies on opposite sides of an issue. Resources in terms of informing the public about services such as social services, employment, welfare, health, housing, human rights and so on. This is apparent in the presenting of instances of Affirmative Action that did not target the desired outcome. For example there are cases where reporting showed that opponents of AA have found that admission to college based on racial ethnicity alone does not necessarily mean the underprivileged receive admission reports Starr (1992). Instead there are reports that the minority that receives AA admission is often from the middle to upper middle income rather than low income within the minority (Starr, 1992). This being an inaccurate application of AA benefits designated for low income minorities including low income white and Asian students. Here it is apparent that social status plays a part in who gets the benefit of AA reports Sacks and Theil from the Stanford Magazine (1996). However from a media standpoint, this shows how a group set against AA can gain support by supplying this type of information on several media fronts simultaneously to sway a politically motivated agenda. Ambercrombie states that these dominant groups can come from many types of social backgrounds for instance professors, activists such as Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, environmentalists, Corporate Lobbyists, activists, and GLBT proponents. The ideologies of such groups are often brought to media attention when decisions related to furthering

their causes are imminent (1992). The concept of ideology is not necessarily based on moral definitions of right and wrong. They are simply ideas presented by the media source reporting the story according to Eagleton in 'Ideology an Introduction' (1991). As a journalist reporting information, they are merely presenting beliefs of the source. These are left to the judgment of the reader and should not necessarily place a burden on the journalist to report both sides of the story. Instead they should be open to reporting both sides if the opportunity presents itself, but not an obligation (1991). A comment related to Affirmative Action that supports this claim is The minority group that has received the most aid through AA are white women states Sturm and Gunier (2005). Such a remark reported by a journalist does not require a rebuttal unless one is presented according to Eagleton (1991). Another example from former President Lyndon Johnson who instituted AA gave the following discourse on the topic, there are unforeseen forces, at work in educating our young people. The ability is stretched or stunted by your family background, the culture you live in, the school you attend and the poverty or richness of your environment. The product of a multitude of unseen forces playing on the infant, a child, and a man. Discourse is the discussion of a topic by a source to share information. It is designed to inform rather than persuade. Discourse can be ideological in context if presented by a dominant group for example. However a dominant group can inform the news media of information that is purely news such as reporting the outcome of an event. An example would be the Supreme Court ruling that determined AA actually improves the number of minorities admitted to colleges reported by Sturm and Gunier (2005). It was discovered by both investigation by news journalists and the courts that a diverse

campus presents the optimal environment for learning according to State Supreme Court Judge Lewis Powell in a discourse on advantages of a diverse campus. Comments from his discourse remarked how issuing quotas for admissions is not acceptable, but universities should consider race as a desirable factor much like art, athletics, or other contributors to a well rounded education. In Conclusion Amazingly ideology is often based on experience of the source and relationship with society supporting similar beliefs, goals, or actions. The role of news reporters is to share the source views and report what they see, hear, or learn. Sometimes ideology can be very biased while at others very self less and supportive of societal needs. In learning there is a great opportunity that is gained by sharing information and listening or reading others views. The news media has a huge responsibility that gives them power over societal trends of behavior. Political and social decisions and views are often shaped by what is learned from various forms of media from print, audio, and video formats. It is important for journalists to recognize the tremendous responsibility placed in their hands to inform the public. The media can influence the lives of many people based on what they report. It is hoped that those that report the news are aware of this power and will use it to benefit others.

Works Cited Ambercrombie, N, Turner, B.S. and Hill, S. (1980). The Dominant ideology thesis. Eagleton, T. Ideology an introduction. Reed Business Information. Leonhardt, D. (2007). The new affirmative action. The New York Times. Sacks, D. & Theil, P. (2010). The case against affirmative action. <
http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/1996/sepoct/articles/against.html >

Starr, P. (1992). Starr, P. (1992). Civic reconstruction: What to do without affirmative action. The American Prospect, 8, 7-14. Sturm, S. & Gunier, L. (2005). The future of affirmative action. Boston Review.