[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
Host, Maria Armoudian:
How is it that Americans—consumers of the most media in the world—remain so misinformed about so many fundamental issues? How much does this phenomenon relate to the content offered by the news media? How much of mass media’s content is related to the political structures such as ownership, the law, and the organizations’ own goals? News for All The People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media examines this issue within two contexts – history and race.
Mass media—both its operations and messages—in American history has been a battleground itself, fought between the politicians, the corporations, and the democracy entrepreneurs, the latter fighting for a more informative and fair mass media. And with that battleground as the basis of dialogue in the public sphere came many others, including the meanings attached to race and ethnicity. Rife with stereotypes about “us” (usually, those of Western European origin) and “them” (the other ethnic groups), racial stereotypes filled the early US media. Publications framing described Native Americans as “barbarous” and “sculking” to be countered by the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin who explained with great insight and detail the plight of the Native American. Similarly, newspapers like the Boston News-Letter regularly stereotyped people of African descent as murderous, rebellious and rapacious with a few editors willing to counter those depictions.
It’s a history that repeats itself—journalists media that perpetuate stereotypes and status quo thinking and journalists and media who challenge those thoughts for deeper understandings of each other within our changing sociopolitical contexts.
Authors Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres demonstrate this important role of US news media throughout American history. Their book, News for All the People, shows with great detail how in the struggles to live up to our credos (democracy or “justice for all”), US media have been at the center of public thought—informing and misinforming their audiences about what these things mean with respect to ourselves and our brothers and sisters. And just as important as the narratives and portrayals, the authors help us to see how the changing media structures, such as ownership and control, and advancing technologies affect our very capacity to fulfill these lofty goals such as justice, equality and democracy.
Today with the vast reach of the Internet and layers of media, these battle lines are again drawn—and those lines are influencing our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, emotions, and as an outgrowth of those, they are influencing our activities. How we move forward in our media landscape will help to shape the future of the US. And in an increasingly globalized world, our decisions today, will affect us beyond borders.