Media Bias

May 30, 2011
Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media as they pick and choose which stories and events are reported.

An example that helps explain media bias is “Missing White Woman Syndrome” or “Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome,” according to Reporters cover such cases on television, in radio, in the newspaper, and magazines. These outlets most often report missing person cases that involve a young, attractive, white, middle-class or above female. The difference of coverage differentiates with cases concerning male or females from a lower economic class or ethnicity.

The president of the National Center for Missing Adults, Kim Pasqualini said, “The media tends to focus on damsels in distress – typically, affluent young white women and teenagers.” When a person who fits the criteria of damsel in distress disappears or gets killed the media, according to CNN correspondent Tom Foreman, creates storm. That means the media goes into a frenzy to get that story out to the public. White beautiful women who are in danger draw viewers; black, Latino, Asian, fat, ugly, old women or males in danger doesn’t.

Evelyn Hernandez disappeared on May 1st with her 5-year-old son and soon to be born child. On July 24, 2002 her body was found floating in the San Francisco Bay under the city’s landmark Bay Bridge. Then five months later, Laci Peterson, who was also pregnant, disappeared. She was later found in the San Francisco Bay. Hernandez’s case barely peaked any interest in the community, but Laci Peterson who was white, had the nation fixed on her.

I think the reasons why Peterson received more media attention are obvious. She’s white, has money, and has a family who is advocating for her. Hernandez was a single, ethnic, low income, woman with nothing in the way of family advocates.

Danielle Jones and Hannah Williams were both murder victims. Even though they were white females. Jones received more media coverage. Sources suggest that Jones received more media coverage because Williams was from a working-class family, had a nose piercing, and estranged parents. Jones fulfilled the criteria for a model middle-class schoolgirl, while Williams had a history of running away and being in foster care. According to various news reports, a police spokesperson described Williams’ mother as “not really press conference material.” Meanwhile, Jones’ parents were pressing the media.

The National Missing Person’s Helpline noted that the news media would often ask for cases where the victim are female, within a specific age range, and of a particular social or economic background. This demonstrates that media bias is not solely about ethnic backgrounds. This makes me believe that media bias is about income and the looks you have.

But is it just a coincidence that one of the victims has family that advocates for them and the other doesn’t?

I think media bias happens because whoever covers the story has his or her own opinion on things when they should remain neutral. The media should not formulate an opinion on, or judge, a story. Reporters and editors can have a personal opinion but they can’t incorporate that into their story.

Another reason media bias occurs is due to pressure. Reporters have to appeal to a large audience and when there are a lot of people, there are a lot of wants. Reporters have to cover sports, entertainment, weather, crime and human interest stories. Also, they have to commit some time to advertisements. When you have so many people to please with many different agendas, it’s hard to have a real thoughtful discussion of complicated or serious issues. They have to make a decision to report what will get ratings and bring in more readers.

I am all for equality no matter what but media bias just shows that prejudice still exists in the world.

All murder cases and rape cases deserve the same media coverage. Media coverage could be the difference between finding a missing person and not finding them.

People shouldn’t be treated a certain way because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference and everyone should be aware of that since we live in America, a free country.

I don’t think media bias happens on purpose. We are humans and it’s in our nature to form opinions about things. Sometimes we may let our opinions interfere at the wrong time but not intentionally.

My expectation of reporters and journalists is that should always careful about mixing their opinions and judgments with their stories.

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