Health and the Media

Helping reporters do a better job covering health issues for men and boys of color.

In his book Whistling Vivaldi, Columbia University Provost Claude Steele recounts how New York Times editorial writer Brent Staples whistled Vivaldi when he walked down city streets in an attempt to reassure white pedestrians that they had nothing to fear from the tall black male.

Staples’ solution may have been creative but his situation, provoking anxiety in strangers walking by, is one that many black men report experiencing.

Studies suggest that media coverage of boys and men of color plays a role. As content audits have shown, coverage of boys and men of color tends to center around crime, sports and entertainment. Not only does this present a distorted image of this population, it also serves to instill fear in the wider society.

Recognizing that training budgets have suffered in the past few years, the Maynard Institute is launching an online project to help journalists more accurately and fairly cover boys and men of color.

From tips on how to better cover the education beat, to turning an analytic eye on existing coverage, this feature will look at stories from a variety of news organizations, including “mainstream media” ethnic press and bloggers across the political/ideological and racial/ethnic spectrum.

Each link provides an example of a different approach to covering the same issue. We will also talk to a variety of experts who will provide tips on fresh story angles in order to ensure more inclusive coverage that not only better reflects the reality of men and boys of color, but also will allow readers to better understand the structures that are in place that help to define these realities.

WBBM-TV Issues Statement on 4-Year-Old Boy Clip

August 24, 2011

On Aug. 12, Bob Butler reported on the Maynard Institute website about WBBM-TV in Chicago airing a story on a shooting. It included video of a 4-year-old boy saying he wanted his own gun. The station edited out the rest of the boy’s statement that he wanted the gun because he wants to be a police officer. Butler also reported that “there is no diversity in WBBM’s management.”

In response, Jeff Kiernan, vice president and news director for WBBM-TV in Chicago, sent this statement to the Institute:


BBC Coverage of London Riots

Bob Butler
August 23, 2011

News coverage of black men and boys often paints them in a negative light no matter where they are in the world.

The latest example was coverage of London, which experienced four nights of rioting, looting and arson after a black man was shot to death by police.

BBC television news reports and other global news channels showed crowds rioting and looting. While people of all races and ages engaged in criminal behavior, young black men were singled out as being primarily responsible.


A Prime Case for Newsroom Diversity

Bob Butler
August 11, 2011

Pressure continues to mount on a Chicago television station that aired edited video making it seem as if a 4-year-old boy aspired to a life of crime.

Professional journalism groups and the NAACP have criticized CBS station WBBM for violating one of the basic tenets of journalism ethics. Now, U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., whose district includes part of Chicago, has directed his staff to investigate the incident so he can decide whether to take action.


TV Station Takes Four-Year-Old Child’s Quote Out of Context

Bob Butler
July 26, 2011

A Chicago television station is being blasted by civil rights leaders and news media professionals for airing edited video of a 4-year-old boy that took his statements out of context, violating the basics of journalism ethics.

The Maynard Institute published a story on July 21 detailing how Chicago CBS station WBBM ran a story about the June 29 shooting of two teenagers in the Park Manor neighborhood.


Young Guns

Bob Butler
July 19, 2011

Four-Year-Old CBS 2/WBBM IntervieweeA Chicago television station story about the shooting of two teenagers that used video of a 4-year old boy saying he did not fear violence and wanted his own gun, has raised concerns with journalism educators and others.


The Age of Disrespect

Bob Butler
July 6, 2011

Socialist. Muslim. Hussein. BO. Bambi.

These are all names that have been used to describe President Barack Obama by those who disagree with him and/or his policies.  The political discourse reached a new low last week when MSNBC senior political analyst and Time Magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin called the President a vulgar, four-letter word that starts with D.


The Race Card

Bob Butler
June 28, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and Jon Stewart are feuding over a skit on the comedian’s show in which he tried to mimic Cain’s voice and now the conservative and mainstream media are accusing each other of bias, which has kept the story alive for three weeks.


Pants on the Ground Can Now Get You Arrested or Shot

Bob Butler
June 21, 2011

You probably don’t know Deshon Marman but his name has been in the media for the past week since he was arrested for refusing to pull up his pants.


Surviving and Thriving: What Works to Make Teens Stronger, More Resilient

Beatrice Motamedi
June 21, 2011

As we strive to ensure that media cover people of color thoroughly and accurately, we were fortunate to find the following story, originally published in the Oakland Tribune by correspondent and America's Wire Advisory Board member Beatrice Motamedi. Hers is a prime example of a story that incorporates the underlying factors and policies often overlooked when reporting boys and men of color living in poor neighborhoods.



Contradictions from the Bailey Trial

Bob Butler
June 15, 2011

Last week’s convictions for the killing of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men was the result of nearly four years of investigative work by a collaboration of Bailey’s colleagues.

For the journalists of the Chauncey Bailey Project, there were very few surprises during the trial of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, convicted of ordering all three deaths, and bakery associate Antoine Mackey, convicted of killing Michael Wills and helping Broussard kill Bailey.

But a few things stood out that should be of note to the media.