I came across another article today in what is becoming my “We” series. Previously I observed how writers instinctively refer to the poor as “them” and define people who do not have money worries as “us,” even though a large percentage of “we” the American people are poor and financially insecure. When we assume default Americans are not poor, and perceive the poor to be a special subclass of Americans, their problems are not “our” problems.
Today I read an article by Project Censored on how people of color are nearly invisible on the evening news. Women are also underrepresented.
During the month of April 2013, Media Matters examined evening cable news shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Throughout the month, they saw that only 33% of MSNBC guests, 29% Fox News guests, and 24% CNN guests were female. The other most underrepresented group were Latinos. The study found that only 2% of CNN and MSNBC and 3% of Fox guests were of Latino descent. Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, believes that a lack of diversity on TV spreads the idea that such groups aren’t making “meaningful contributions” to the country, which is far from the truth.
If the guests on the evening news programs were representative of the population as a whole 17% of the guests would be of Hispanic descent. African-Americans would comprise 13.6% of the guests. A little more than half, 50.8% of the guests, would be women.
I would go one step beyond the Project Censored conclusion. The problem is not that the people in these demographics aren’t shown as making “meaningful contributions” (Contributions to whom? To us the real Americans?) it is that they (we, for me, in the case of women) are not being shown as representing America at all. We are the white, middle class, males and then there are sub-categories of Americans. Women-Americans. African-Americans. Hispanic-Americans.
This article doesn’t delve into the question, but I wonder how often people of color or women appear on the news to speak specifically about race or “women’s issues.” (The sort of thing the Daily Show parodies by having a “Senior Black Correspondent.”) I suspect if you were to eliminate “representing your group” appearances the numbers would be much more shocking.