Are people saying things like ‘TV shows too black’ because they’re racist?

Amid last week’s show business diatribe upon Martin Luther King Jnr., we have a moment in time that no one is celebrating, according to a recent article by media writer Phil McCarroll in The Cut. McCarroll, who has written about the media industry for more than a decade, specifically mentions the negative effect that nominees and winners of awards are having on the public perception of the media they work with.

The argument is that public interest is being destroyed because the media doesn’t pick and choose which groups they cover — or, in fact, interview at all. This may be an unfortunate disservice, but it’s not because members of the media in the US are too stingy to vote for people who write for them; instead, as the New York Times’ profile of Lynda Tran explained last year, the bias is more rooted in a union contract that has members who are part of certain unions — like TV and film writers — should vote.

Martin Luther King Jnr., Thanksgiving, media: America’s Tribal Nations

Image Credit: CBC/ The Sun

This is not to say that McCarroll’s argument is wrong, but rather it’s unfair to simply trot out a villain without explaining why. There is a biased mindset in the media, just like there is in society, but it’s not because of cultural bias, or myopic belief that the ideal way of working the media is to ignore or demonize certain groups, just to bask in the spotlight for a while before looking behind the curtain at your fingers. It’s not actually about cover bias, it’s not even about evil capitalists. It’s about employees who want to belong to a union but don’t have the freedom to vote for that union. And as more and more journalists buy into the concept of collective bargaining as a way to gain better contracts, I don’t see why they would want to cover some that aren’t those.

A smaller pool of people covering some groups of people – and these stories don’t end well for some

Image Credit: The Skinny

The only credible argument against union’s and collective bargaining is that it causes prejudices and that could make some stories “problematic”. However, no one knows for sure just how true this is, and as more journalists start writing about issues in which their organizations do not have a voice, they’re more likely to come across stories that don’t exactly excite them, but would if filtered through a more well-rounded lens.

So the question that remains remains: why are members of the media unwilling to vote for and celebrate certain people, or how many of them vote for individuals who aren’t real, or are just pulling your leg for a casual magazine profile? According to McCarroll, it’s because the American public believes they are being manipulated and “parroted.” While it sounds reasonably good, it’s hard to say where McCarroll gets this information, whether it’s public opinion polls, surveys from the Census Bureau, or personal anecdote. He then goes on to add, “the larger cause lies with cultural biases,” but again there is no definitive proof that writers are misinformed, even if some readers claim otherwise.

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