Racism in mainstream news media and censorship

June 4, 2020

I turn on my television for the news and watch footage of looting, interviews with policemen, and hear about the violence of riots.

I turn on my phone and look on social media for news and watch footage of policemen arresting people for exercising their first amendment right, driving into crowds of people, using weapons on protestors who were begging for their lives, their safety, and their freedom. 

As journalists and reporters, news networks have the responsibility to broadcast the news to millions of Americans on a daily basis. Many mainstream companies are corrupt, however, and their flaws cannot be overlooked.

The majority of televised news companies are part of an industry that prioritize money and are built on institutional racism. Several news networks are owned by the same company, so news anchors will sometimes have the exact same script as they report stories. That was the first red flag I noticed when watching the report of George Floyd’s death on television. Almost every script read that he “died in police custody.” This seems like an overwhelming understatement, when in reality George Floyd was murdered by a policeman, with intention and brutality.

To name a few corporations specifically, Fox News, NBC, and even local news channels such as WGN are all guilty of censoring crucial parts of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and using heavy bias in their reports to sway the opinion of their viewers. 

Censorship is a huge issue in mainstream media today and has been within the realm of racism in society for hundreds of years. Deaths due to police brutality and racially-motivated crimes are often ‘swept under the rug’ due to the unwillingness to acknowledge the prevalent issue of racism in America. 

It is easy for people in my generation to know more about what is happening currently because of social media. However, there’s a significantly high population of people whose only news source is from televised news networks for a variety of reasons: preference, lack of access to social media, etc.

On social media, anyone can post photos and videos from protests and that content can be accessed simply by typing in a hashtag. These videos are unedited, there is no commentary, and it is straight footage from the BLM protests all over America. 

Getting news regarding the protests and the BLM movement can be somewhat difficult because social media and televised news show two very different sides of the story. I realized how detrimental it could be to not receive the information shown on social media that is censored from news networks. I have analyzed the content from two of the networks I mentioned prior and contrasted it to the news I receive from social media. 

WGN: 

WGN interviewed a policeman during their news segment about the protests and seemed to be sympathizing with police officers rather than the protestors who are fighting for rights. They also heavily focused on looting and car fires rather than covering the actual protests. WGN is one of many news networks that have contributed to a key issue during the coverage of the current BLM protests: confusing looters with protestors. Blurring the lines between them not only distorts the perceived goal of the protest but also paints the protestors in a negative light. Protestors are standing up for black rights and speaking out against police brutality. Looters are people who are taking advantage of the situation and do not represent the BLM movement in any way. 

Additionally, WGN broadcasted a compilation of videos pulled from various social media platforms that showed police officers showing kindness to protestors. If their news team went out of their way to find videos of police getting along with protestors, they also should have compiled videos of the extreme measures of police brutality at these BLM protests as well, like arresting peaceful protestors with force and using various weapons. Only showing positive footage of police officers misguides the viewers and completely ignores the fact that black people are still being directly targeted and protestors are being harassed, injured, and arrested for peacefully protesting.

WGN used interviews from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Superintendent of Chicago’s Police Department David Brown to shame protestors and speak negatively about the violence of riots. 

Riots have broken out during protests because the policemen present at these protests instigated the violence. No one wants to resort to violence, but peaceful protests in the past have proven to fall on deaf ears and no action has been taken by government leaders. People have the right to defend themselves against the police in these cases and rioting may be the only way for people in positions of governmental power to pay attention to the BLM movement and make the necessary and significant changes within the law enforcement system.

NBC: 

During their news segments regarding the protests, NBC often mentions how there were hundreds of arrests made by police officers. They also list how many officers were injured in this process, but they do not mention the number of injuries protestors received as they were attacked with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and the outright unjustifiable and horrific acts of violence the police showed to BLM protestors. Again, I believe that specifically leaving out information manipulates the audience and shows a clear bias towards law enforcement. 

NBC had several hours of video shown under the title of “Protests over George Floyd.” This edited footage included peaceful protests, but also included images of stores being broken into and looted. Looters are not protesting for George Floyd. It directly disrespects a man killed by the police and looting should not be broadcasted in his name. 

News anchors also claim that violence is planned by the protestors and call them ‘extremists.’ NBC has conducted live interviews with BLM activists, but that is not enough. They continue to push their own agenda and use their platform for harm.

Institutional racism within popular news media outlets is not a new discovery, however. There have been several instances of news stories being influenced by racism, like when a reporter will refer to a white criminal by name but not a black criminal. Institutional racism is just more noticeable during this time because the BLM movement is focused on racial equality. 

I’m not implying that all news stories reported by these companies are untrue or that their journalism is not valuable in some minor respects, but racism should not be tolerated under any circumstance, and especially not from companies who have such a strong influence and large platform. 

These news networks are not unbiased. They are using their power to manipulate their viewers and by implementing racism within their content. It doesn’t matter if police officers don’t want video evidence of their actions broadcasted on the news. It doesn’t matter if some of that evidence is gruesome and may be uncomfortable to watch. What matters is the unbiased representation of the events in America released to the public for knowledge and awareness of the events happening in the country. News networks disrespect the very principles of journalism in this way and need to make major changes in the way they report to be qualified in my eyes as a true news platform. 

Hopefully because of this obvious censorship and spread of harmful misinformation, people will be more careful whilst consuming news media and get their news from multiple sources in order to have a clearer understanding of the world around them. 

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