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Media Representation of Minorities : Patterns of Power and Inequality

The issue of cultural bias and the legitimization of social inequality have been at
the center of the controversies surrounding media news coverage and the
representation of ethnic minorities particularly in the West. The interactions of
people from different cultures (Thomas, 2008) involve mediated forms and
practices of expression (Hodkinson , 2011) which individuals use to understand
life of a society including values, meanings, identities, traditions and norms of
behavior in the world they live in. According to Hodkinson (2011) Patterns of
wealth, power and inequality are a further core element of societies, as are social
institutions, including the apparatus of government and law, education systems,
religious organizations, commercial enterprises and smaller-scale organizational
units, such as the family. Together with established hierarchies of wealth, power
and control, such institutions form a complex set of structures through which
social relations are lived out ( ibid, p.3). This paper attempts to address the
multifaceted nature of global media cultures and the need for understanding
their relationships with the various forms of media systems that tend to
emphasize on negative representations of ethnic minorities and the legitimization
of social inequality as their normal way of covering the news.
A Social Analysis of Media Systems
The relationship between media representations and society has a long history of
intellectual inquiry in the study of media news coverage in the socio-cultural
context. In Western media culture, David C. Thomas acknowledges, National
stereotypes might also be attributed to social dominance theory (Sidanius,1993;
Smith & Bond, 1999). Social dominance theory suggests that within every complex
society certain groups are dominant over others and enjoy a disproportionate
amount of privilege. (Thomas, 2008:80). Western media liberal thought hashave
produced media mutterings and paradoxical working practices in theirits attempt
to Americanize the world. The First Amendment provision ensures citizens to
exercise a free press that serves as a watchdog on Government. What is

contradictory is, the same free press takes a more cooperative stance with giant
conglomerates when it comes to exposing their dangerous excesses and
irresponsible acts. In this regard, Giant conglomerates are stretching their power
around the world..placing increasing emphasis on the business side and less
emphasis on the purely journalistic (news-views) side. Media barons sit farther
and farther from the newsrooms, participating in the various enterprises and, in
many countries, and government itself. Journalists the world over are adjusting to
the group -related media, to the community-oriented press, and are adapting to
the proclaimed need for social responsibility and national development. Stock
prices and social restraints are dictating the editorial policies of media
everywhere, and even in the libertarian countries the older concept of the press
as a watchdog on government is being transformed into a lapdog of
government (Thomas, 2008 : 11-12).

In a much serious note, Timidity, spawned by a growing sense of political
correctness, will emasculate authentic journalism. Politics and journalism will
further merge their interests, and the people will cease to recognize credible
information even when it periodically appears. Education for journalism and
communication will become ever more political and biased in its progovernment
stance. In the West, giant corporations will make further inroads into academic
enterprises, building their edifices and giving them grants, and this financial
largesse will discourage impartial classroom teaching. The same will be true of
increased government grants tied to specific expectations. If the trend is not
reversed, journalism education will be directed by big business and big
government, and the students, indoctrinated in paternal/patriotic dependency,
will inject this philosophy into their media (Merrill in De Beer & Merrill, 2009:19).
While the Public perception about media credibility and their negative
representations of ethnic minorities as low cultured group continue to persist in
their everyday news coverage, some people still believe that Technological
change presents a fundamental challenge to notions and models of news and
media content and storytelling. The significance of this content transformation is
that it has the potential to engage journalism audiences and the media.
Audiences have become disengaged from traditional news forms and have turned
to social media and mobile communication to learn about their world (Pavlik &
Bridges, 2013:5). As Victoria Alexander shows (2003), the belief that media
reflect society has prompted some analysts to try and learn about changing
structures, cultural norms or politics within real society by studying media
Comment [KS1]: Im not sure if you are talking
about media conglomerates or the conglomerates
that tie themselves to media. You probably need to
make this clearer.

contentthe media- as- mirror approach is useful in reminding us that,
rather than being invented out of thin air, media content often relates closely to
real events and prevailing social trends and cultural values. Media content does
not reflect these perfectly or neutrally, however, media producers are highly
selective with respect to what they include and they present the elements they
do include in very particular ways. They do not, then, offer us a mirror but a
selective, manufactured set of representations (or re-presentations) of the world.
As Stuart Hall (1982:64) explains representation is a very different notion from
reflection. It implies the active work of selecting and presenting, of structuring
and shaping. (Hodkinson, 2011:5)

Reporting the news and the Portrayals of Ethnic Minorities and Nationalities

The concept of news reporting and the portrayals of ethnic minorities and
nationalities in US media has been a contentious subject for quite sometime.
Trends in regards to the portrayals of minorities in media such as immigration,
terrorism and national rivalries pose new challenges as the democratic, social,
and political challenges brought by globalization continue to raise national
security and public safety concerns. In fact, a growing global tendency in the
media today is caution in exercising great freedom. In the present atmosphere of
terrorist activities, or uncertainty in personal and group safety, the ideal of press
freedom is hardly flourishing. Wars, military skirmishes, destructive incursions,
constant threats, suicide (homicide) bombings, nuclear dangers, biological and
chemical attacks, and other horrors are looming on every side. (Merrill, 2009:8).
As a result, media excesses, ambiguity, and skewed media reality began to get
hold of everyday news reporting as the media encourage controversy within a
narrow range of opinion, in order to give the impression of open debate, but do
not report on news that falls outside that range. (Chomsky, 2013:
2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media bias in United States.). Under the guise of
national security and public safety, the media seem to place less emphasis on the
purely journalistic reporting of news and views with fairness and accuracy.
According to Pew research, in one of the most telling complaints, a majority
(54%) of Americans believe the news media gets in the way of society solving its
problems, while just over one-third (36%) say the news media helps society solve
its problems. This is, however, an improvement over previous years: in 1994, 71%
felt the media was hindrance and in 1995, 57% felt that way. When asked the
Comment [KS2]: I think what you are getting at
here is framing. Perhaps you need to discuss the
issue of framing and agenda setting (its close
cousin) and how issues are framed by the media as
well as companies who try to frame themselves in
the best light.
Comment [KS3]: Im not sure this is the right
heading for this section. This section deals mostly
with the fallout from the publics growing
dissatisfaction with the media in general and less
about how news is reported and the portrayals of
ethnic minorities and nationalities
Comment [KS4]: Perhaps some citations that
back up that point?

most important reason why they believe the media gets in the way, most
respondents in recent Pew Poll said it is too sensational or biased. Other reasons
given were distortion of the truth, over-emphasis on negative news, invasion of
privacy, shallowness, and a tendency to stir up problems without offering
solutions. (Pew research, 2013:2).

Cultural bias in the media, and the negative portrayals of minorities particularly in
television programming have a long history of creating negative perceptions,
beliefs and attitudes that are culturally embedded within the American public. In
a much serious note, the bias of American mass media has an international
implication when it comes to reporting foreign news and the portrayals of certain
nationalities and cultural groups (OConner, 2013). In the US Media, people use
race and gender to help identify with a person and how they should relate to
others. This way of identifying peoples characteristics is highly susceptible to
falling into stereotypes. That is why media coverage can have such a profound
effect on peoples views of other races and cultures. (Omi, 1989:1). Likewise,
DeMott acknowledges that the mass media play plays a crucial role in white
Americas views of other cultures and races, and that the medias interpretation
of cultures and races is what people are shown . Sadly, however, that
interpretation is often skewed and racist. (DeMott, 2013:1).

To make matters worse, the distribution of power and social inequality in western
media are in part to be blamed by giant conglomerates that are stretching their
power around the world placing increasing emphasis on the business side of
news. Consequently, as some argue, the concentration of media ownership by
these giant conglomerates leads to a concentration of culture and ideas-that
instead of engaging with a diversity of competing perspectives and innovative
forms of expression, populations are subject to a narrow and monolithic set of
messages. the significant concern about such patterns of ownership , argues Bob
Franklin, is that they diminish pluralism and choice, stifle diversity and empower
owners to defend and advance their economic interests and political power
(1997:207). In particular, some argue that the corporate interests of
transnationals prompt them to support right-wing, pro-capitalist political ideas
and that the content they distribute around the world can be expected to reflect
this (Bagdikian, 2004; Herman &Chomsky, 1998).

Coverage of Foreign News and Issues
Comment [KS5]: Citations?
Comment [KS6]: This sentence is not clear to

The Bbias in American mass media is systemic. As Louw, (2005)
contends, the news we receive about foreign places is the outcome of
multiple decisions by journalists, cameramen, editors, government
spokesmen, and political spin doctors. Those concerned with the
production of foreign news need to unpack the way journalists work;
consider how foreign correspondents are enmeshed within the
newsmaking agendas of their home organizations; grapple with how
foreign policies of home countries can impact upon the news agendas
of the journalists home organizations; understand how journalistic
stories are constructed within preexisting worldviews and discourses;
plus explore the role played by journalism within the political process
(Louw, 2005; chapter 1). Such systematization of foreign news
reporting is built upon a rigorous application of a carefully devised set
of parameters, definitions, techniques, and procedures
(Hodkinson, 2011;75) designed to sway media viewers and readers.

As Hodkinson argues, the way American media report foreign places
can a have a far reaching impact on non-Americans around the world.
Because U.S. power underpins the new world order, the process
whereby Americans, make sense of distant places now have real
consequences for non-Americans. To great extent, Americans form
impressions of distant places, issues and events from their news media
(ibid). This is why in a globalized world, American news media continue
to depict distant places, minority races, and nationalities in a sadly
negative light (Omi, 1989). The coded terms, fair and balanced in news
reporting are used as a self-described label that television broadcasts
and newspaper outlets use to promote the perpetuation of negative
images of minority races at home, nationalities and distant places

Silverstein (2008) better described the misconceptions behind fair and
balanced in this way. balanced coverage that plagues American

journalism and which leads to utterly spineless reporting with no edge.
The idea seems to be that journalists are allowed to go out to report,
but when it comes to write, we are expected to turn our brains off and
repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid we should attempt fairly
assess what we see with our own eyes. balanced is not fair, it is just an
easy way of avoiding real reporting..and shirking our responsibility to
inform readers(Siversein, 2008:108).

Transnational Media Corporations and Economic Incentives

The profit-driven questOne of the characteristics of transnational
media conglomerates is the quest for profits, which is essential for
funding most media activities that are linked to news coverage.
Jamieson and Hudson (2000) described
private U.S. media outlets as profit-driven. For the private media,
profits are dependent on viewing figures, regardless of whether the
viewers found the programs adequate or outstanding. The strong
profit-making incentive of the American media leads them to seek a
simplified format and uncontroversial position which will be adequate
for the largest possible audience. The market mechanism only rewards
media outlets based on the number of viewers who watch those
outlets, not by how informed the viewers are, how good the analysis is,
or how impressed the viewers are by that analysis. (McKay, Jamieson
and Hudson, 2000:20).

The recent economic downturn worldwide and its impact on transnational media
conglomerates has a ripple effect on domestic media conception here in the
United States. Network television channels that focused most often on world
news from which local channels draw their international news have suffered
serious cut backs that severely reduced their foreign bureaus and correspondents.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center for the people and the press
revealed that during the last decade, all three networks have slashed their
foreign bureaus and correspondents. ABC News had 17 foreign bureaus 15 years
ago. Today, it has seven. CBS has said it had similar cut back , and NBC said it

maintained a presence in 17 foreign sites but have significantly reduced its
overseas staff.. with so many international bureaus shutting down, it is no
wonder that international news is becoming sparse (kher,2007:1).

Although as some critics contend network television channels in the U.S. focus
most often on world news that has a distinct American orientation, the sparsity of
news items in international coverage of events has an adverse effect on the
average American that has little desire to keep abreast with general knowledge
from around the world, a necessary task for understanding the relationships
between places, peoples, and cultures that give context to world events.

Contesting Global Discourses : The Forces of Globalization &

With the current pace of change sweeping across the globe, major
contending forces are transforming our world where the challenges of
society are becoming more and more complex (Baudrillard, 2003). The
forces of globalization and universalization are pressing. More serious is
the fact that the rapid combination of international financial markets
and the development of transnational businesses have not been
matched by a corresponding development of our social, educational,
and political institutions. Globalization is about technology, the
market, tourism and information. It is first and foremost the market,
the profusion of exchanges, and of all sorts of products, the perpetual
flow of money in a world that is interconnected and globally
interdependent (Jean Baudrilled, the violence of the global, 2003
http:www.ctheory.net/text file. asp?pick=385).

In contrast, Universalization has to do with human rights, liberty,
culture, and democracy. It is a value system that originated in the West
and developed in the context of Western modernity that is unmatched
by any other culture (ibid). This value system, despite its claim of being
universally valid as the only viable and culturally appropriate value for
all humanity to follow, globalization brought the urge for equality

among nations in the exchange of goods, material wealth, and
resources through free trade marked by a new world trend
homogenization and inclusiveness(diversity) of all peoples and nations.
What this means is that, universalization is vanishing or at least
declining as the forces of globalization attempt to bring an end to one
dominant value and/ or culture over the other. Furthermore, because
of the spread of globalization and technological advances such as the
Internet, social media, and mobile communications people began to
disengage from traditional news forms seeking a much more accessible
and engaging media systems. Volkmer (1999), for example,ties global
news to an emerging world society structure. In her study of CNN
International, she argues that global political communication constructs
a global public sphere, from which emerges global civil society. This
global platform, she says, supports the communication needs of
worldwide movements and their corresponding worldwide political
organizations. She further argues that the global public sphere is a new
political space, with the capacity to pressure national politics and
provide communication not otherwise possible on a national level
(Volkmer, 1999).

As Reese comments regarding the public sphere and spaces for political
discourse, the intensification of social connections through digital
technology, the Internet, and mobile media is enabling global
connections support new forms of journalism , which create politically
significant new spaces within social systems, lead to social change, and
privilege certain forms of powerjournalism at its best contributes
to social transparency , which is at the heart of the globalization
optimists hopes for democracy (e.g. Giddens, 2000). The insertion of
these new logics into national communities, especially those closed or
tightly controlled societies, can bring an important impulse for social
change ( seen in a number of case studies from China, as in Reese and
Dai 2009) P.345). The political wind blowing across the Middle East
and North Africa is a case in point. The interconnectedness of online

media, cellphones, laptops and many forms of digital technology is
creating global consciousness by bringing people together to discuss a
shared set of expectations and concerns in an environment of diverse
dialog of cultures (ibid). What this mean is that, a global public sphere
is creating a global platform for worldwide movements and political
organizations in which global networks connect local settings,
bypassing official state channels, and introducing their own logic into
national spaces, including with local journalistic cultures and media
systems (ibid, 349).

The current state of journalism in a globalized world is creating new
roles for journalists and journalism practice by creating new sphere and
spaces for political discourse. The new global connections support new
forms of journalism that in turn is creating politically significant new
spaces within social systems that lead to social changes worldwide. The
new global connections reflect the current social world in which we
live. Social interest in cyber space is increasing and so is the trend in the
participatory nature of society empowered by technology and social
interraction everywhere. Worldwide movements and political
organizations accelerated by unbridled technological innovation are
dramatically transforming the content and storytelling possibilities of
journalism and other media forms. (Pavlik et al, 2013, p.5). The
political upheaval and the winds of change that we witnessed during
the social uprising in North Africa and the Middle East areis a case in


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