Ferguson: Is the Media to Blame?

Something that came across my stream of news headlines recently was a public opinion poll done on St. Louis County.

The Ferguson situation has obviously been going on for a long time. But what does ‘going on’ really mean? To the average American it means that they see it on television or the internet a lot and it has not yet ceased. So basically the media is still covering the issue. According to the people of St. Louis County the same media is the ones to blame for their predicament.

“In your opinion, has the media made the situation in Ferguson, Missouri better or worse?”

73% of the 604 county residents polled thought ‘worse’. This question and one about Governor Jay Nixon’s inadequacies were the only questions in the entire list where races agreed.

I tried putting myself in their shoes. The community is not in the best of conditions and any description of how high the racial tensions are would be insufficient. To blame the media sometimes has merit but in this case not so much. The media is still talking about this issue because it simply has not been resolved. If the events were downplayed and disappeared from the airwaves would protesters still be active? Of course. This Tuesday months after the incident, a group of local protesters stormed a city planning meeting to show their dismay.

The media did not bring outsiders into the area to protest and loot. The media did bring in some people to report on arrests, only to be arrested themselves.

Personally I think the residents got this one wrong. These same residents when asked who was directly responsible for the violent actions, 41% said gangs, 35% said community activists and 23% said police or local government. I understand the gangs answer but the rest are lost on me. They’re frustrated, I get that, but just because the media is an easy target doesn’t make it the right one.

The coverage has led to discussions on institutional racism as well as the militarization of police. For that, I applaud the media for not downplaying or giving up on coverage. I recommend reading the entire poll. The racial breakdown of answers are astonishing.

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One Response to Ferguson: Is the Media to Blame?

  1. seafeezle says:

    Thanks for posting on Ferguson and especially for sharing this poll with us, Cade. You said it right: the racial divide in the answers is incredible. It shows a painfully obvious separation of realities between white and black individuals. It begs further analysis of the larger racism issues not only under Ferguson’s surface but at large throughout the nation. To quote New York Times Op/Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, it’s “not a black problem or a white problem, but an American problem.” Ferguson has demanded a slice of American consciousness to pay attention and/or participate in a wider discussion around racism and violence in our country.

    That media coverage of Ferguson still remains vigilant is as surprising as it is necessary. In a fast-paced whirlwind of information online, where breaking news is no longer relevant by the end of the day let alone after an hour, it is important that Ferguson stay significant. It has gotten a lot of people to talk about hard issues, which raises awareness of them. To let Ferguson slip into the shadows of the 24/7 news cycle would diminish its importance. It would also maintain the dominant tradition of media coverage inequality by letting the story and discussions on race easily fade away from the public discourse and into oblivion. And from this, the past is bound to repeat itself. From the same Kristof article, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” Kristof reports that back in August a majority of surveyed whites said they thought race was “getting more attention than it deserves” in Ferguson coverage. Now another month later, they must be exhausted.

    From our outsider’s perspective, I agree with you that coverage of Ferguson should continue until there are answers. For there still to be such extensive coverage and intense public discussion around the story and the underlying issues, I am grateful. It will soon disappear until the next cocktail of tragedy and media/ public interest explodes. I am curious about the explanations behind the residents’ opinions that media coverage has made the situation worse. Would make for an interesting article.

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