There’s a critically important point being made on Twitter this week. And news outlets across the country should be giving it serious thought.
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown is a social media campaign prompted by the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday. The campaign protests the media’s portrayal of Brown with a negative image rather than a positive one. The photo most circulated appears to show Brown flashing a gang sign (actually a peace sign); it would have been just as easy to circulate a less ambiguous, more neutral photo.
Individuals, mostly young black men, are posting two photos of themselves and asking #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which photo would the media use? It’s a fair question. One need only think back to the Trayvon Martin shooting and remember the photos that were published then. Negative images of Martin in a hoodie appeared far more often than those of a bright, smiling teen.
One could make arguments about the media grabbing and circulating the first photo they come across, period. But given a little time, a chance to find or ask for a neutral or positive image, editors have a choice to make. Aside from time constraints, other considerations include size and quality of the photo, appropriateness (Is the photo obscene? Too graphic?), composition (Which way is the subject facing in relation to the page layout? Are there other people in the photo that can be cropped out?), and age (How representative is the photo?).
Then, of course, there’s the matter of what the editor wants to portray. Does he want a serious mood? A joyous mood? Does he consciously or subconsciously want to portray a young black man as a thug?
The photo is important. It’s the first thing people see. Instantly it sets the tone. Often it tells the whole story. The choice of photo requires — demands — attention and thought. And if it transmits a message that is biased when it shouldn’t or needn’t be, then the editor has been negligent. Or worse.
13 thoughts on “#IfTheyGunnedMeDown takes media to task”
Aching head and heart. It has all gone so wrong.
The increasing violence, deepening divide … I fear for the country and its future.
Reason to be concerned. The last well educated group is aging. Left will be those used to being prompted/cued for answers and used to multiple choices with answers provided – and plenty of excuses for all problems.
Someone said history seems to show all democracies commit suicide (excuse the phrase at this time) by being too kind, too lenient and “accepting” of what shouldn’t be excused or accepted.
The increasing division, the escalating of violence to solve problems and the total lack of willingness to agree to disagree and get along will be the end of us.
That someone’s assessment of the history of democracies is the gloomiest I’ve ever heard.
Apparently it has been going wrong for a very long time. Check out tonight’s Rachel Maddow…
Not sure I can stand any more depressing news right now …
I hear ya my friend. I just found out that Lauren Bacall died today…
Yes. Does anyone report good news anymore? Maybe there’s none to report …
You know, I was thinking that same thing. But the I remembered Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher from Philly. I’ve also been watching a lot of ‘distracting’ sports… 😉
What a great story. Thanks, I needed that!
There is a firm basis for this concern in the science of psychology. This is a paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on confirmation bias:
While individuals can indulge/ignore this effect as much as they want, those who disseminate information to the masses have a responsibility to be aware of it and make a conscious effort to approach each situation as new and unique. They should exercise some judgment. Unfortunately, the rise of advocacy journalism (versus the balanced neutral approach I was taught) seems to say it’s okay to put your own personal slant on your stories. Dangerous, considering so much of the public fails to exercise any critical thinking and accepts every report as unbiased truth.