Researcher Mejia ‘frames’ students
Media class guest explains various ways of viewing news presentation
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 15:03
Researcher Pamela Mejia “framed” 23 Laney journalism students on Feb. 12, and not one of them attempted to stop her.
Mejia, a research associate for the Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG), presented
these students with an unusual call to action: apply reporting techniques to help cure Oakland’s epidemic of violence. Mejia outlined successful media advocacy topics that have gained national traction in the media.
“Journalists shape what [issues] people do or don’t think about by how they introduce them in the media,” Mejia said. “This is what’s called ‘framing.’ Most stories frame individual situations, but the best stories go on to address why this situation’s occurring.”
Mejia told the class that frames provide the bigger picture for what could originally be thought of as an isolated incident. To minimize outrage from readers who have differing opinions, reporters have a duty to remain objective, telling only the facts with little speculation.
However, in 2012, the year of Occupy Oakland’s prime, news stories and editorials often used suggestive words to describe the encampment. Was Occupy a “nuisance” or your community, or was it an “inspiration?” Mejia explained that Journalists have the power to color their readers’ opinions, with just a few choice words.
Given that just six companies own 90 percent of America’s mass media outlets, many are beginning to rely less on big media and more on each other to get their news. Thanks to the Internet and “citizen journalism,” everyone can investigate issues faster than ever before. After all, Mejia notes, if not for an average person with a smartphone, thousands would never have rallied for Oscar Grant.
“Unfortunately, the issues that are challenging to talk about [in the media]—like violence or sexual abuse—really only pop up when there are big stories, whether it’s Jerry Sandusky or Sandy Hook,” Mejia said. “What are we talking about when Sandy Hook isn’tin the news?”
Mejia pointed out the presence of media advocacy in cases like Oscar Grant or Trayvon Martin, asserting that the media—and the average consumer—is learning to dig a little deeper. Even as journalists investigate and present their findings via large news outlets, consumers themselves are doing the same on popular blogs like “38th Notes” and “Oakland Local.”
Dedicated bloggers work as tirelessly as full-time journalists, cranking out the same quality of information to the point where we could safely call them “citizen journalists.”
According to Mejia, journalists and bloggers are a lot alike. Dedicated bloggers throughout America are making moves in advocacy around violence prevention in the community, and helping others to do the same.
“Blogs have a tremendous amount of power to speak to the kinds of changes that you want to see, whatever you’re passionate about,” Mejia said.
Mejia encourages activists and advocates to consider citizen journalism. Because journalists have access to broadcast media, they have an even wider range of influence of the community around them.
The main difference between a blogger and a journalist is advocacy, the abilityto actively favor a cause. In that respect, despite all of the journalist’s connections and media outlets, the citizen journalist is free not only to frame an opinion, but also to provide resources to readers that favor their cause.
Journalists, citizen journalists, and bloggers alike often frame their stories by assigning what Mejia calls “personal” or “institutional” responsibility. For example, who is to blame for the recent murder of Kiante Campbell the night of February’s Art Murmur event? Is it simply the killer himself? Was he deranged or holding a grudge? Did Campbell somehow “have it coming?”
Or are institutional influences at play? Were the killer or the victim involved in gang warfare or drugs? Were they impoverished or disadvantaged? Did society somehow contribute to the unfortunate event that Friday night?
Pinning down responsibility helps guide readers, and the community, towards finding a solution to problems like localized violence. “There’s still room for improvement,” Mejiasaid, “but [media advocacy] is a really powerful way to get that issue in the spotlight, and use it to reach out to other resources.”
Mejia hopes that, as citizen journalism and media advocacy continue
s to rise, citizens will gain the insight they need to raise awareness and approach policymakers with confidence.
The Berkeley Media Studies Group researches public health and social justice issues and provides media advocacy training for communities and journalists. To see their findings, visit www.bmsg.com.