Representation in the news

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

-Malcolm X

In this case, Malcolm X was of course speaking in the context of the civil rights movement and the media biases that were present in the media at the time. What of todays media? What sort of representational biases are present in contemporary news stories today?

Lets take a quick look at a recent news story:

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 6.35.28 PM

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/25/us/louisiana-boy-kills-grandmother

The above is a recent headline (i have also provided the link which i strongly recommend you follow to get the full written brief which provides some valuable context in understanding the way the issue has been framed).

The wording of the headline as well as the actual news content point the finger accusingly at video games as the root cause of the incident. However, read the news story further and other questions arise:

Why was an 8 year old allowed to play Grand Theft Auto unsupervised?

How and why was the 8 year old able to access a firearm so easily?

The caregiver in question was the childs 87 year old grandmother. Would she have been able to competently keep an eye on the child?

Where are the 8 year old parents?

Most certainly video games were a factor, but the manner in which the news story has been framed and written seems to pin video game violence as the sole culprit.  Reading through the news story, isnt bad parenting the bigger issue here?

More importantly, this raises interesting issues about media and media news reporting, particularly with such a large and influential body as CNN. Are contemporary news media outlets such as CNN presenting news stories in fair and objective manner?

The article goes on to draw parallels between this story and the Deadly Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in which the shooter was also said to be influenced by violent video games. It seems apparent that what is happening here is what Bill Kovach and Tim Rosenstiel have called a “journalism of assertion”, which de-emphasizes the validity of a claim and instead encourages putting a claim into the arena of public discussion as quickly as possible.

This sensationalism and selective framing of a news story is clearly in contradiction to basic journalistic standards. In this case, it is easy to read between the lines and discover the “real” issue. However, what of news stories with which we have no point of reference, where we are reliant solely on the journalist and news media outlets to provide us with accurate, reliable and objective information such as the ongoing conflicts in Syria or the drone strikes in the Middle East? In other words, can we really trust our news sources?

Your thoughts below… and in the meantime, you stay classy Rethinking Media class of 2013

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One thought on “Representation in the news

  1. I think the selective framing of this particular news story is a great example of writing for the masses and to generate hype or traction. Who could resist the temptation to find out more about the gun wielding 8 year old who shot his grandmother in the head after playing Grand Theft Auto (GTA)? What if it was framed as “8 year old had access to loaded gun and shot grandmother in the head?”. Certainly the focus would shift to parenting issues and the long debated gun control issue in the United States.

    Having a loaded gun within reach of a child, is amidst to having “sharp utensils” and “medication or drugs” within their reach, already proving to be a possibly fatal mistake.

    Allowing an 8 year old child to play a rated M game (aged 17+), is a terrible mistake by the parents or the grandmother; granted the grandmother probably did not know about GTA and how violent it can be. At 8, definitely before the age of reason, the child would not have been able to distinguish fact and fiction, much of the good and bad, and a real gun from a toy gun.

    I think that the story was indeed depicted in a slandering manner towards violent video games and the apparently direct effect it could have on everyone, and to sensationalize the news story to garner a following. Or possibly to avoid the “real issues”, I mean, who would want to read a rich well discussed news story anyway?

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