Race Relations: Why America Should Begin From the Newsrooms

As America currently struggles with race relations issues, I would like to draw the attention of the US and indeed the rest of the world to an area that needs to be properly addressed if these ugly scenarios are ever to be consigned into the dustbin of history.

I take my cue from a horrible display of biased journalism that happened sometime last year, but still worth recalling in order to show the bias, distorted and inaccurate reporting of issues involving minorities in some sections of the American media.

While browsing through the Huffington Post web site one particular morning in September 2013, a picture on the web page’s right hand pane, showing some naked African kids defecating in the open, caught my attention.

The picture was a teaser for a story titled “LOOK – The Most Disturbing Investigation You’ve Seen in a While.” However, when I clicked on the link, the story that came up on display was titled, “WATCH- Lessons for the American Media from a Brave African Journalist.” The story, of course, had no relevance whatsoever to the disturbing, stereotypical picture used as a teaser on Huffington’s home page.

The fact that this story was grouped on the right hand pane along with the story on the arrest of the black artist, Gucci Mane (with 119 comments as of the time it was posted) and another story on Chicken Wings (usually used to stereotype African Americans and even America’s first black president), shows the selective editorializing and intrinsic racism sometimes hidden in the news rooms and among some copy editors (I was a copy editor so I know the psyche of some of these folks) who sometimes wield so much influence on what appears online and in print.

At the time of its occurrence I brought this issue as well as a screen grab of the page to the attention of Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Two other culprits of this type of bias, which is borderline propaganda to fit a certain script, are Fox News and Yahoo!

At the height of media coverage of the kidnap of more than 200 Nigerian girls in Chibok, the jaundiced way some western media organizations report on Africa was exposed. Thanks to my good friend, Tracie Powell of the National Association of Black Journalists for alerting members to a Fox News program where contributor, George Will, complained that those tweeting the Bring Back the Girls hash tag are doing so only to feel good about themselves. “Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, Uh-oh Michelle Obama is very crossed with us, we better change our behavior?” Will sarcastically opined while rather betraying his ignorance and stark illiteracy.

Well, Mr. Will if you bothered to do a little bit of research, you would have been enlightened about the fact that Nigerians, especially the young ones, are among the savviest users of the social media in the World. According to recent statistics, the country has the largest number of Internet users in Africa and places 11th in the world. In fact there are more Internet users in Nigeria than the entire population of Tanzania, and as of 2012 there were more than nine million social media users in the country; which has probably grown phenomenally since then from what I have seen so far.

It will be interesting to review the racial constitution of the staff of these media giants to see how diverse and representative they are of the country and the world they cover. More importantly, how many minorities sit on the editorial boards of America’s newspapers and media organizations?

I know the difference my opinions and perspectives made when the Vacaville Reporter made the wise decision of appointing me to its editorial board when I worked there.

And therein lies one of the major root causes of how minorities, especially blacks, are portrayed in the American media, which in turn, helps to fuel the current orgy of racial bias currently being displayed on the streets of America, a supposedly enlightened society.

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Ben Edokpayi

Ben Edokpayi is a strategic communications consultant with more than 25 years experience in the USA and Nigeria. His most recent corporate assignment was as Media Relations Officer with the California State Compensation Insurance Fund.

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