Portrayal of Diversity in the Media Essay

Portrayal of Diversity in the Media Essay.

Despite the fact that the United States is considered an ‘immigrant nation’ with people from almost all countries of the world adding value to the economy and society as a whole, a study conducted by Children Now has revealed that the “family hour” on television, that is, the shows that are aired between 8 and 9pm, are “the least ethnically diverse (“Diversity in the Media and Entertainment Industries,” 2004).”

Only one out of eight shows aired during the “family hour” has a mixed cast (“Diversity in the Media and Entertainment Industries”).

  Naturally, this sends strange messages about American diversity to the children of the nation.  What is more, the Screen Actors Guild has reported that African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos have been underrepresented in films since 1998.  In other words, cinematic roles played by non-white American people have been declining in number (“Diversity in the Media and Entertainment Industries”).

     Another issue that the media must confront with regards to portrayal of diversity is the problem of stereotyping.

  Apparently, advanced degrees in mass communication are not helping journalists and advertisers to be honest in their understanding of people and cultures.  Given the responsibility to relay truthful information to the public; journalists, advertisers and all distributors of entertainment and news across different mediums such as television, newspapers, radio, Internet, etc. should have known that all people and cultures cannot be appreciated through stereotypes.  Moreover, through mass usage of stereotypes, the media is creating a mass culture, the representatives of which consider it abnormal to step outside the stereotypes (“Media Stereotyping,” 2007).  The Media Awareness Network explains the obvious reason for stereotyping before outlining other problems associated with stereotypes:

         Media stereotypes are inevitable, especially in the advertising, entertainment and newsindustries, which need as wide an audience as possible to quickly understand information. Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick, common understanding of a person orgroup of people—usually relating to their class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation. But stereotypes can be problematic. They can: reduce a wide range of differences in peopleto simplistic categorizations; transform assumptions about particular groups of people into “realities”; be used to justify the position of those in power; and perpetuate social prejudice and inequality (“Media Stereotyping”).

According to Ungerleider (1991) there is a mechanism at play that contributes to the “misperception of minorities by the media.”  This mechanism relates to news being generally constructed into a story or narrative structure with victims, villains, in addition to heroes.  Issues are typically framed as disagreements or plain conflicts between forces of opposition, thereby making heroes and villains.  When news stories must engage minorities, they are typically placed into the categories of victims or villains.  It is rare for a person belonging to a minority ethnic group to be portrayed as a hero or heroine.  Moreover, interpretations that are often repeated become “accepted understandings (Ungerleider).”

     Ungerleider presents two examples of stereotyping in the Canadian media.  When the housing prices in Vancouver rose rather sharply, the media created news stories that portrayed minorities – in particular, the immigrants from the Far East – as the villains.  Thus, emigration from Far East Asia was linked to the problem of increasing housing prices in Canada.  Another example of stereotyping concerned the attention given by the Canadian media to criminal activities among youth gang members.  The coverage of this issue during 1988-89 entailed that only the young Asians were members of youth gangs (Ungerleider).  Obviously, this sent a message to the Canadians that immigrants are dangerous people.  Most importantly, by sending such messages to the people at large, the media is responsible for breeding hate in society.

     Another problem of portrayal of diversity in the media relates to the fact that governments happen to be the chief sources of news.  Governments play a prominent role in news stories.  However, governments are not known to be heavily represented by minority groups.  This is the reason why minority groups cannot play a prominent role in news stories anyway.

What is more, governments happen to be responsible for distributing information about minorities for news stories, seeing that governments are the “major manufacturers and distributors of information (Ungerleider).”  It is easy, therefore, for governments to convey information about minority groups the way they would like to deal with these groups.  The news stories may not always be true.  Nevertheless, the media has little to no part to play as far as news stories conveyed by the government are concerned.

     Regardless of the nature of problems related to portrayal of diversity in the media, the fact remains that diversity is an essential part of societal reality in both the United States and Canada.  Both of these countries rely on the immigrant work force to maintain high economic growth.  By allowing news stories, films and television shows to portray the minority groups as inferior, societies face the dangers of not only losing their high economic growth but also the breeding of hate.

References

Diversity in the Media and Entertainment Industries. (2004). Ethnic Majority. Retrieved Dec 17,

2007, from http://www.ethnicmajority.com/media_home.htm.

Media Stereotyping. (2007). Media Awareness Network. Retrieved Dec 17, 2007, from

http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/index.cfm.

Ungerleider, C. (1991). Media, Minorities, and Misconceptions: The Portrayal by and

Representation of Minorities in Canadian News Media. Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. XXIII, No. 3.

Portrayal of Diversity in the Media Essay