Op-Ed: A Black Journalist Inside of a White Industry
Did you know that at every news station there are news directors? These individuals get to decide what everyone else sees when they watch the news. In simpler terms, one individual controls the images and news content that the rest of society sees. The news plays a huge role in how society thinks, feels and looks, so how does it make sense to give so much power to one individual?
And, that’s only one portion of the news, which most people know as broadcast news. But there are many avenues to journalism, and the media, such as print news, or Public Relations—individuals who focus on building relationships with businesses and enhancing that business through the media. The list goes on, but my point is that every aspect of journalism is usually controlled or ran by people who don’t always represent the diversity the world has to offer.
There are only so many issues and topics the media tends to shed light on and the number one on the list is violence or negative news. The typical journalism reason for this is that “people need to know what’s going on in their community,” yet it’s been statistically proven that the more an individual pays attention to the news, specifically broadcast, the more likely they will be afraid of their own neighborhood. As a 22-year-old Black woman, native to the northside of Milwaukee, I know first hand that my city, our city, is way more than what Fox 6 and other news outlets say it is.
Almost a year ago I did a research paper for my senior year of college, where I watched Fox 6 and read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper for a week to see how Black men were represented in the media, broadcast vs print. Through my research I discovered that Fox 6 spent most of its broadcast telling stories of violence, and most of the individuals committing the crimes were Black men. When a white individual did commit the crime, instead of showing their mugshot or diving into the crimes they committed, they talked about the individual’s life. Yet, when it was a Black men, it was all about the crime.
Print was a little different. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel never used the word Black or white, so they only way to tell who committed the crime was to look at the picture, if there was one. Most crime/violence stories didn’t come with a picture, but when they did, it was of a Black man. Now, most people would be thinking “well, that only proves that Black men are violent.” Yet, have you ever thought about the ones producing the stories? Most journalist in Milwaukee are white, yet they’re always reporting on communities they’ve never been a part of.
There’s always more than one side to a story, but why is the criminal side of a Black man the image usually displayed in the news?
How many stories have you heard where a Black man, or a person of color, was literally just minding their own business, but yet a white individual comes up to them causing trouble or intruding in that individual’s life? And how many times have you seen a story written about the situation with the Black individual being the cause of the issue, when in actuality they weren’t doing anything at all?
That’s because the media is filled with individuals who don’t always dig deeper into situations. For example, back in 2016, the Black community in Milwaukee reacted to a cop killing a Black man, which ended in a riot and buildings being burnt. Every news outlet made sure to state that the city was up in flames and that the individuals, Black people, were acting a fool. But, many outlets forgot to state why the people were mad.
It ain’t no secret that the Black and Latino community suffer from poverty, violence, racism, unemployment, lack of transportation, unsafe drinking water, and more. So what does one expect when yet another member of their community is killed by the police? The people were and are angry, but because the media is filled with individuals who don’t understand the struggle, it’s hard for them to write about it because they just don’t know or care to know.
Everyday I fight with myself about being in the media. I get tired of being the only Black individual or woman when I go to cover events. Instead I see a room full of white men, usually bald, who all know each other and live outside of Milwaukee or in the nicer parts of the city, but still cover the news in all parts of the city.
They can only write the news from their perspective, but what about the people’s perspective. How is Milwaukee the most diverse city in Wisconsin, yet we only have one Black male news anchor?
These are questions you should be asking yourself because whether we like it or not, the news matters.
You know how many times I wanted to walk away from journalism because of the things I’ve experienced? Too damn many. I have been ridiculed, embarrassed, looked down upon and experienced racism while on the job.
I’ve had a CEO tell me I should change my name—in the middle of an interview—because of the industry I’m in. Or have individuals not even want to speak to me because I don’t look like your typical journalist. But, I keep going to the events and I keep writing the stories because I have something journalism is missing, and that’s a new set of eyes.
I’m from the inner city and I know what’s going on because I see it everyday. I didn’t come from wealth, but I wasn’t poor. We didn’t have it all but my family made it work. Not many know, but I have state health care because I was kicked off my mother’s health insurance at 19. I go to these events where they talk about health care, and I see leaders and individuals who believe not everyone deserves health care. Not knowing that the person writing their story is the same person they say doesn’t deserve health care. I use my platform to speak for those who can’t.
I wrote this article to express my frustration with the field I so much love. I joined journalism to switch up the narrative, and at every turn I’m fighting. But, the fight will continue because I have a lot of people behind me. And, although there is a lack of diversity in the field, we do have some amazing journalists right here in the city, no matter the color.
And the next time you watch the news or read an article, pay attention to who’s giving you the information.