This is interesting both politically and in the context of country music’s ongoing battle to adjust to changing demographics, as the format has historically targeted a predominantly non-Hispanic, white audience. Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus Media told the NY Times, in discussing his company’s rationale for making this format change: “We’re not just talking to people on the Upper West Side.” The subtext … “We’re not just targeting liberals” as the presumption is Country is a format that appeals to more conservative listeners, so why launch a country format in a liberal city? Indeed, country will appeal to non-Hispanic, white suburban listeners as it always had, but New York City radio is big business and historically, if you can’t get a good listener base in the City as well as the suburbs, station owners will usually balk.
Photo: Charlton McIlwain, Associate Professor, Media Culture and Communication at New York University
How did media policy and gun policy merge? POLITICO’s Mike Allen (@MikeAllen) reports Vice President Biden will meet with former Sen. Chris Dodd of the Motion Picture Association of America; National Cable Television Association CEO and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell; Comcast lobbyist David Cohen; National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian; Directors Guild of America Executive Director Jay Roth; and National Association of Broadcasters CEO and former GOP Senator from Oregon Gordon Smith at 6PM tonight.
When we add race to the mix, the whole issue gets even more confusing. Take Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Django Unchained.” Here’s a clip:
The film has received mixed reviews on its portrayals of African-Americans and of violence against whites. Spike Lee, in an interview on VIBETV, called the movie “disrespectful.”
Commentary about Django and the gun control debate stemming from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have together underscored a chilling relationship between racism and gun control. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Small Arms Survey, even though the United States makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, it is “home to 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.” The U.S. also has the highest gun ownership rate worldwide, averaging 88 guns per 100 people.
Despite a spate of gun violence in recent years, including the Sandy Hook shooting, Pew Research Center for People and the Press reports only a modest change in how Americans view gun control policy. While more Americans favor gun control (49%) compared to those who believe protecting the right to own guns (42%) is more important, this rate has barely changed from the rate of 49% and 45%, respectively, in April, 2009—before the shootings in Tucson (January, 2011) and Aurora (July, 2012).
Still, the Sandy Hook shootings led to widespread public outcry for tighter gun control laws. In response, National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed Hollywood and the media industry for gun violence. Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, equated gun laws with racism, suggesting that, similar to Jim Crow laws, gun laws are about preserving preferred “cosmetics.” In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Tarantino said blaming Hollywood for gun violence is “disrespectful.” Reverend Louis Farrakhan said the film was a “preparation for a race war” by creating fodder to justify gun ownership by whites who fear a backlash by African-Americans. Interestingly, according to Pew, African-Americans favor tighter gun control laws over protecting gun rights at a rate of 68% to 24%, while the rate among whites is 51% to 42%.
I sat down with Professor Charlton McIlwain, Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU to demystify some of this …
Me: Can you help us understand a little bit more about the racial frame of gun control and the way the issue has historically been presented in the media?
CM: What comes to mind are two dominant and different sets of images when it comes to race, guns and the media. I think of the Blaxploitation films of the seventies and the gangsta films of the late 1980s-1990s, both express the prevailing association between African Americans and guns. In the first instance, they are the feared, gun-toting, brutal black buck looking to kill “Whitey” (as an aside, “gun control” and other kinds of weapons prohibitions were common in the post-slavery era because of fears of violent retribution). In the second, they are violent, murderous thugs shooting up their own neighborhoods and own “kind.” On the other side of the color line is the image of the Cowboy. He’s white, rides alone, is skilled with a six-shooter and associated either with upholding the law, fighting the law on the behalf of wronged citizens, or fighting the law to get his just due (which is whatever he wants; he is entitled to it all).
These two racially divergent media images I think frame the way we think about race, guns and gun control in the U.S., and the way that gun violence gets reported in the news media.
I walked into my favorite coffee shop a couple of days ago, and a guy that always likes to engage me in political discussion showed me a headline about the recent spate of shootings in Chicago. He showed me the paper and said,“no amount of gun control is going to stop that!” His assumption reflects the broader sense that black (and brown) gun violence is simply the expected outcome of a deficient culture, one that couldn’t be helped by any form of legislation. But it also reflects the sense that such violence is restricted to “those” people, “those” neighborhoods, and therefore there is little for those outside of those neighborhoods to fear. The fact is that gun violence, tragic gun deaths, and the senseless killing of innocents in these neighborhoods do not attract broad media attention.
However, because the association between whites and guns has historically been a positive one, it is gun violence against white victims that draws more media attention and cries of “tragedy.” More importantly however, the perpetrators in those instances are always – like the rugged Western individual – reflective only of their own individual problems, such as mental illness. We don’t talk about white-on-white crime; we talk about a solitary individual whose acts are an aberration.
Okay, so what does this mean for gun control? Well, for one, it means we see gun control as a necessity primarily to protect white citizens and white neighborhoods. It also means that people oppose gun control by evoking the historical association between whites and guns, not non- whites. Guns and gun owners are seen as essentially law abiding and patriotic. Thus, limiting access, the argument goes, is an affront to patriotism.
Me: You’ve written about the role of the media in using race to affect the national dialogue about Barack Obama’s candidacy. You noted that the infamous New Yorker cartoon casting Michelle and Barack Obama as militants invoked imagery associated with white fears rooted in terrorism and the black power movement. How does Django trigger some of that same imagery?
CM: I believe it does, though in a way that is perhaps more real than even that New Yorker cartoon. The Imagery in Django – the storyline itself – speaks to and triggers what is at the heart of white people who fear of blacks. It is that thought that black people – black men especially – hold a simmering grudge against white people because of slavery. The perpetual fear is that any black man, at any time, might act on that. And so even though Django tells the story of a man who justifiably goes after the woman stolen from him, the prevailing image is still of a black armed man looking to do violence and repay the white man for the horrors he inflicted on him. It is consistent with, and reinforces what we already think about black men in particular.
Me: Pew Research Center has also reported a rise in the number of people who get their news from social networking sites, as opposed to newspapers. They also reported that 69% of Internet users in the U.S. use social media and 45% of adults own a smartphone, so the landscape has changed very much in terms of how media is consumed. So do you think the effect of the film industry on the way racial issues are perceived is offset in any way by the use of social media? Or do you think our use of social media exacerbates a largely negative national dialogue about race?
CM: Well, I think that social media technology and those who use it have the potential to challenge these prevailing images and associations. But I believe it’s an uphill battle. For one, the science behind implicit associations demonstrates that these racial associations – particularly between black and violence – are extremely strong, so much a part of our psyche that we often aren’t even aware of it. And so it will take much to ameliorate decades of collective racial conditioning. Second, I think the prevailing pattern with social media thus far shows that those with the biggest megaphone wield the most influence. Hollywood and traditional media still have the biggest megaphones, the greatest reach and the loudest voice. If you look at Twitter, for instance. Who dominates Twitter? Celebrities and big television and print media outlets. And so those same images are likely to still be dominant in their circulation. But social media, digital media tools are probably the most democratic tool that citizens have at our disposal and so I think we can use it to challenge those images. But to do so often and effectively will take a concerted effort by citizens to both produce and circulate counter-images and critiques at the same rate and volume as traditional mass media have and continue to do.
Me: Thanks for joining me.
CM: Thank you.
Abby Rogers over at Business Insider, citing several employment statistics, questions the value of going to law school.
With all due respect, I’m not sure if Ms. Rogers went to law school and is dissatisfied with where it has gotten her. If she is dissatisfied, then I suppose she is not happy with her alternative career as a journalist. If that is the case, there is nothing stopping her from doing something else.
However, if she is not a lawyer, then this article is the best form of flattery for lawyers because it means it is coming from someone who a) did not have the guts (or interest) in going to law school themselves, AND b) is unhappy about the fact they did not have the guts (or interest) in going to law school themselves. This is not a knock on people who do not have law degrees—mature people without law degrees are too busy managing their own careers to be able to find time to belittle the careers others have chosen.
This is not a defense of law schools. The tuition they charge is unconscionable. But so is the tuition of undergraduate institutions. For example, Sarah Lawrence costs over $60K per year to attend. This is for an undergraduate degree. Why does the tuition at Sarah Lawrence seem so much more palatable?
Is it a veil of meritocracy that forecloses criticism of schools like Sarah Lawrence? That notion is unworkable, since law school graduates who become lawyers are required to pass the mother of all standardized tests: the bar exam.
So law school may or may not be the best investment to make—that depends on each person. But we certainly don’t criticize entrepreneurs for taking risks. I would venture to say the success rate for entrepreneurs is even lower than the success rate of new lawyers looking for a job Business Insider thinks is legitimate. Why aren’t lawyers who don’t get a glamorous job right out of law school considered to be more like entrepreneurs than poor saps? It seems to me the answer lies in the ego’s need to tear people down to satisfy one’s own feeling of inferiority rather than any objective difference between the entrepreneur’s mindset and the mindset required to embark on any difficult journey toward personal and professional growth.
Responsible media policy isn’t about protecting the status quo for the stodgy interests of Columbia University, FCC alumni, and newspapers that, for years, have done quite well. It is about serving the public interest. And for the same number of years newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Sulzbergers have been fat and happy, advocates for media ownership diversity have fought for better policies to reduce discrimination against women and people of color who have sought to own stations.
Other advocates have fought for newsroom diversity, but newspapers like The New York Times (a Columbia Journalism Review backer) have and continue to routinely discriminate against women and people of color working in their newsrooms. Policymakers have sat on their hands when it comes to new entrants and equal opportunity. But when it comes to deregulation, now there’s something that has to be done RIGHT AWAY!
Deregulating the media industry is just another strategy to protect the interests at the very top of the food chain, while everyone else can wait. That is why the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, whose membership is comprised of 200+ civil rights organizations and unions, including the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America, NAACP, and the American Civil Liberties Union, has opposed the FCC’s proposed relaxation of the media ownership rules. And they did not need the blessing of the ivy league, FCC alumni, or even Free Press, to do so.
Here’s CJR’s post.
Photo Credit: “One Call” by abardwell via Flickr
Talk about convergence. Not only has the Internet changed the way Americans consume content, it is also changing the criminal justice system.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. According to the 33-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. incarceration rate is 760 prisoners per 100,000 population. Only 3 of the remaining OECD countries have incarceration rates above 250 per 100,000. These include Israel (325 per 100,000), Chile (317 per 100,000) and Estonia (273 per 100,000). African-American and Hispanic men (3,074 per 100,000 and 1,258 per 100,000, respectively) comprise a disproportionate share of American prisoners, compared to just 459 per 100,000 of white men.
Policymakers should continue to monitor how the ways law enforcement officers use technology may perpetuate flaws in the criminal justice system. Several developments over the past month shed light on these considerations.
The Fourth Amendment states “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” The warrant requirement for law enforcement officers conducting investigations in the physical world is well settled, even as the law surrounding exceptions to the warrant requirement is more complex. However, the extent of Fourth Amendment protection online and on devices is murkier.
The New York Times published an article discussing the patchwork of confusing, and often contradictory, laws around the country governing law enforcement’s warrantless use of cell phone data, including New York City’s practice of keeping cell phone theft victims’ phone data beyond the data needed to investigate and prosecute the theft. The New York City Police Department is also notorious for its “Stop and Frisk” practices. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, black and Latino New York residents “made up close to 90 percent of people stopped and about 88 percent of those stops were of innocent New Yorkers.”
To address the challenges of privacy and Fourth Amendment policy in the digital age, policymakers are considering legislation to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA, enacted in 1986, was designed to restrict the ability of the federal government to use computer data and stored electronic communications in investigations. But ECPA currently requires no probable cause and no warrants for law enforcement to obtain things like stored photographs, data from Facebook pages, and draft documents shared with third parties like Dropbox and Google.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment to ECPA that would require police to obtain a warrant before searching suspects’ emails. The Senate is not anticipated to vote on the ECPA amendment until next year, but this is important progress toward ensuring the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement applies to data and devices.
Recording Police Activity
The past month has also seen an important development in the role personal audiovisual recordings might play in documenting police misconduct.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review a Seventh Circuit ruling that the First Amendment includes the right to record the actions of police officers while they are on duty and in public. Illinois’ eavesdropping law had made recording police officers a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The Seventh Circuit held that “the act of making an audio or audiovisual recording is necessarily included within the First Amendment’s guarantee of speech and press rights as corollary of the right to disseminate the resulting recording.”
Earlier this year, the City of Boston agreed to pay $170,000 in damages and legal fees to a man, Simon Glick, who was arrested for recording police officers in public. The settlement followed a First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimous ruling that Glick had a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.”
Prison Phone Justice
The families of inmates are silent victims. Incarceration removes a reliable source of household income and separates parents from their children. One aspect of the effect of incarceration on families is the stratospheric rates telephone companies charge for collect calls made by inmates.
One study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center of prison phone rates in Louisiana found these fees to be 15 times higher (30 cents per minute versus 2 cents per minute) than they are for collect calls made outside prison walls. In September, FCC Commissioner Clyburn urged FCC Chairman Genachowski to cut prison phone rates. On November 15th, the FCC announced at a rally led by the Center for Media Justice that it would seek public comment on prison phone rates. Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) attended a screening of a new film entitled “Middle of Nowhere” on the Hill earlier this week. The film depicts the inner conflicts a mother encounters while her husband is serving an eight-year sentence.
Far too many people of color are in prisons in the United States. That makes the use of information and communications technology by law enforcement a matter of particular interest to people of color. The developments discussed here show policymakers taking constructive steps to improve how the criminal justice system uses technology. But information technology—and its uses—evolve rapidly, which means we need careful oversight of how these tools are used in the criminal justice system.
Photo Source: “Batur Volcano and Lake” by Jessy Eykendorp on Flickr
California’s legalization of marijuana has led to steep declines in violent crime arrests among all racial groups, especially among African-American youth. It is at its lowest rate since 1979, shortly before the “War on Drugs” commenced, which resonates today as police disproportionately target communities of color, even as inner city youth show less propensity to sell and use drugs than their suburban counterparts.
Some say, “hot chocolate.” Others say, “hot cocoa.” In New York, the way you pronounce it also means a lot. Here’s a list of the pronunciations you need to maintain your street cred.
Really important stuff, guys. Take note.
Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr
Deregulatory initiatives seem to move much faster at the FCC than efforts to improve media ownership diversity. The FCC is expected to relax its long-standing blanket ban on the ownership of a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market even though minority and female media ownership data on how it will affect “viewpoint diversity” is sparse. Relaxing the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule (NBCO) seems inconsistent with federal case law requiring the agency to gather enough background information on minority and female media ownership before changing other media ownership rules.
Congress has mandated that the FCC must review its media ownership rules every four years (i.e.“quadrennially”), to ensure enforcing the rules remains in the public interest. The current Quadrennial Review began in 2010 and the Commission issued proposed rules last December. Among these proposed rules is a relaxation of NBCO.
This is not the first time the FCC has attempted to relax NBCO. In 2008, following its 2006 Quadrennial Review, the FCC went so far as to issue an order relaxing NBCO. That time, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Prometheus II, sent the new rules back to the Commission because the Commission had not complied with Administrative Procedures Act (APA) provisions requiring federal agencies to notify the public that new rules have been proposed and allowing the public to comment on the proposed rules before issuing a final order.
The current proposed rule from the 2010 Quadrennial Review to relax NBCO would end the complete ban on owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market by allowing exceptions to the rule in instances where owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market would “carry public interest benefits.” The FCC would assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether proposals to own a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market affect “viewpoint diversity”. This time, the rule underwent the APA-mandated notice and comment process, and the FCC is expected to vote on the final order before the end of the year. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski sent a draft of the NBCO order to the 4 other FCC Commissioners on Wednesday.
But the Court in Prometheus II also ruled that the FCC failed to “examine the relevant data [on broadcast ownership by minorities and women] and articulate a satisfactory explanation” for defining a term in a different proceeding. In its 2008 Diversity Order, the FCC defined the meaning of the term “eligible entities” to give effect to several rules applying to prospective buyers of broadcast stations. In enacting these rules, the FCC claimed they would increase the number of stations owned by minorities and women. But the Court reasoned that the FCC provided no data on minority and female ownership that would support its claim that its eligible entity rules would lead to an increase in minority and female station ownership. In fact, the Court held, the FCC’s eligible entities definition was not likely to have an effect on minority and female media ownership at all. The Court thus concluded that the eligible entity definition was “arbitrary and capricious” and remanded it, along with the APA-deficient NBCO rules, back to the FCC.
It could similarly be argued that the FCC has not used minority and female audience data to satisfactorily explain the effect that relaxing NBCO would have in improving viewpoint diversity, since minority and female ownership data is an element of viewpoint diversity. As the Court noted in Prometheus II, the FCC has itself maintained that “diversification of ownership would enhance the possibility of achieving greater diversity of viewpoints.”
It has taken nearly two decades for the FCC to release a 16-page report on minority and female media ownership. Also on Wednesday, the FCC issued a long-awaited minority and female media ownership report showing that white media ownership increased while minority media ownership decreased. Blacks own just .7% of commercial television stations, compared to the 69.4% of television stations owned by whites. Latinos own just 2.9% of commercial TV stations. Whites also own 80% of AM and FM stations. But this report comes 17 years after the Supreme Court decided Adarand v. Peña, in which the Court held that laws including racial classifications must satisfy “strict scrutiny.” This standard requires the FCC to exhaust race neutral alternatives before considering race conscious initiatives to improve minority media ownership. The short report the FCC released on Wednesday is but a small step toward fulfilling that mandate. Indeed, the report suggests that revising NBCO would actually hurt viewpoint diversity even further by bolstering large newspapers and broadcast outlets even as minority and female ownership has stagnated and, in some cases, declined.
Why should the FCC be required to develop such a robust database on minority and female ownership to support its eligible entities definition but not its changes to NBCO? More than 200 civil rights organizations had the same question, which is why they filed a letter at the Commission last week urging it to consider minority and female media ownership when it revises any of its media ownership rules.
This is no time for the FCC to procrastinate even further in developing a reliable database on minority and female media ownership. It should begin to do so immediately, before it relaxes anymore ownership rules and further dilutes the weight of minority and female ownership data.
[Photo Credit: “Colourful Viewpoint” by Michael Gil on Flickr]
Media advocacy has always focused on the shortcomings of regulators and media giants. Although the faults of both regulators and the media industry are significant, advocates rarely discuss the role candidates for national office might play in rousing interest in media diversity among the electorate.
How long should we wait for a regulatory or industry-led initiative to improve media diversity? Despite its mandate under Section 257 of the Communications Act, the Federal Communications Commission has failed to collect and aggregate minority ownership data in a form the public can use. With the exception of tiny glimmers of change in newsroom diversity, hiring, retention and promotion diversity at top media companies is dismal. Among Diversity Inc.’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity 2012, Cox Communications (#25) and Time Warner (#40) were the only media companies listed. Factoring in companies that are more relevant in a converged media industry, AT&T (#4) and Verizon Communications (#39) were also featured. But there is really not much need to look further than the senior management teams of top media companies, which are overwhelmingly white (see Disney, Comcast , Time Warner, News Corporation, Viacom) despite the fact that minorities comprise 27.6 percent of the U.S. population, to see the lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity among those who control so much of what we see and hear.
But the most daunting challenge for policymakers is not to confirm whether these disparities exist—everyone knows they do—it is to address the underlying reasons for the lack of a political impetus to address them.
Why don’t we care? Despite the central role of the media in democratic politics, made clear by the record amounts of money the Obama and Romney campaigns have spent on political advertising, media diversity is frankly not that high up on the average American’s priority list. A recent Time Warner Cable report finds that, while subscriber survey respondents were willing to pay $25 more per month for general, “opinion” diversity, they were willing to pay just $7 more per month for any improvement in “information that reflects the interests of women and minorities.”
The demographics of most media companies’ senior ranks bear little resemblance to the demographic cross-section of the public media executives work tirelessly to reach. According to 4th Estate.net, which evaluated front page stories from 38 different newspapers between January and mid-October, 2012, non-white reporters wrote a paltry 9% of stories on the economy, 9.2% of stories on social issues, and 7.3% of stories about foreign policy. Most startlingly, 98.2% of stories on immigration—an issue that is most contentious with respect to U.S. policies toward Latino immigrants—were written by white reporters. Why is the state of diversity in the media so discouraging? Do the media lack diversity because there is a lack of consumer demand for it? Or is it the other way around—has the media industry suppressed demand for diversity to preserve its control by non-minorities?
This is more than just a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the media is a consequence of post-racial politics.
If a candidate perceives a particular initiative will secure a substantial number of votes from a powerful racial constituency, historically that candidate will make the issue resonate with voters. For some, the race appeal is made using racial code language. Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, famously noted: “[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” Thus, while the Supreme Court has encouraged states to pursue race-neutral policies to achieve diversity, politicians have actually turned that doctrine on its head: some politicians have advanced racial-neutral initiatives—such as the “War on Drugs” or the fight against “Voter Fraud”—to perpetuate inequality.
Ohio State Moritz College of Law Professor Michelle Alexander has done extensive research on the means by which some policies without a specific racial component have actually perpetuated the same disparities that were so prevalent during the Jim Crow era. Specifically, Ms. Alexander has argued that, despite the fact that drug crimes were actually declining, the Reagan administration decided in 1982 to pursue Nixon’s idea of a War on Drugs to garner the votes of whites who felt threatened by the advances of the Civil Rights Movement. President Bill Clinton carried the torch, trying to convince white voters that he would be even tougher on drugs and crime than his Republican predecessors.
The current fight against “Voter Fraud” is another campaign some believe is racially-encoded and designed to suppress minority votes. These kinds of race-neutral campaigns leave their opponents in the unenviable position of being on the defensive having to assert a racial impact in an environment in which the mere mention of race is frowned upon.
The post-racial nature of today’s political discourse precludes politicians from addressing race head-on. Politicians are unlikely to explicitly address race in their campaigns as there is a fair risk that doing so would be considered taboo—or, at best, impolite—and alienate voters. Accordingly, media diversity has been relegated to the bottom of the pile of campaign initiatives candidates are likely to advance. This is unfortunate since politicians play such a powerful role in legitimating even the most dubious platforms.
New York City has been undergoing climate change for at least 75,000 years, when vast sheets of ice began to give way to an ecosystem we do not recognize. This passage from “Gotham” by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace vivifies how extensive that climate change has been and continues to be (note Adriaen Van der Donck’s skepticism about climate change in the 17th century):
“Travelers spoke of vast meadows of grass ‘as high as a mans middle’ and forests with towering stands of walnut, cedar, chestnut, maple, and oak. Orchards bore apples of incomparable sweetness and ‘pears larger than a fist.’ Every spring the hills and fields were dyed red with ripening strawberries, and so many birds filled the woods ‘that men can scarcely go through them for the whistling, the noise, and the chattering.’ Boats crossing the bay were escorted by schools of playful whales, seals, and porpoises. Twelve-inch oysters and six-foot lobsters crowded offshore waters,
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