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.

Weathering childhood: Stressors that jeopardize teen health

Beatrice Motamedi
June 15, 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.

 

The Long Arm of Childhood: How Chronic Stress Impacts Oakland Teens in Body and Mind

Beatrice Motamedi
June 7, 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.

 

Lack of Diversity in Online Executive Offices

Bob Butler
June 1, 2011

A recent story on the lack of diversity on workshop panels at new media conferences highlight a problem that journalists of color have known about for a long time: the people who call the shots in our various newsrooms often do not look like us.

In the story, Good.is senior editor Cord Jefferson suggested that White men should refuse to sit on workshop panels that included only White men.

 

The Gathering Place

Bob Butler
May 24, 2011

Alameda County Social ServicesDorothy Lewis lost her four children to foster care 19 years ago because she was abusing drugs.  In order to be reunited she had to go through supervised visits with her children at the Alameda County social services headquarters at 401 Broadway.

It was an area that wasn’t very good but with which she was very familiar.

 

Devaughndre Broussard: The Road to Double Murder

Bob Butler
May 17, 2011

Last month a 24-year old Chicago man was sentenced to 71 years in prison for shooting his aunt’s boyfriend at a family barbeque. Reporters writing about the case of Derrick Lemon noted that he had been hailed a hero when he was 8 for trying to save his 5-year old brother, who was dropped from a high-rise building by two older boys.

While the reporters detailed how the early childhood tragedy scarred Lemon’s life, they failed to look at the system that failed to provide the emotional and mental support that may have changed his outcome.

 

Chauncey Bailey Killer Shows No Remorse

Bob Butler
May 10, 2011

During his testimony about the murder Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, Devaughndre Broussard sometimes displayed a callous attitude that some in the courtroom found unsettling.

Broussard, who pleaded guilty to killing Bailey and 31-year old Odell Roberson, laughed when describing killing Odell Roberson on July 8, 2007.

 

Fair and Unbalanced: The Tale of Two Trials

Bob Butler
April 6, 2011

Since March 21st reporters representing the cream of American journalism have been camped out in the Bay Area covering two high profile trials.

In an Oakland courtroom two men are accused of being involved in three murders, including that of Chauncey Bailey, a journalist who was writing a story about Your Black Muslim Bakery.

In San Francisco, baseball home run king Barry Bonds is accused of telling a federal grand jury that he never knowingly took steroids.

 

Reality TV Reinforces Stereotypes

Bob Butler
March 29, 2011

I am not a fan of reality television. Actually I’ve never watched Survivor, American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. But last year I stumbled on two shows that left me appalled: The Flavor of Love and Jersey Shore.

Since this column is designed to urge the media to change the way it reports on boys and men of color, it is important to note the differences in how the media portray the respective casts.

 

Jalen Rose and Grant Hill: What Are the Media Missing in the Story?

Jean Marie Brown
March 23, 2011

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of Jalen Rose’s remarks about Grant Hill and the type of player that Duke recruited when both were playing college basketball. But to do so means failing to delve into the phenomenon that had dogged African-Americans and this nation since the 1960s – the inverse class struggle between blacks.

 

Are All Hoodies Worn By Criminals?

Bob Butler
March 15, 2011

Think about a crime in which the suspect is described as a young man wearing baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt (hoodie). Does that bring to mind any particular race? It should.

The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education last year launched an initiative to change the way the media reported on boys and men of color.

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 particular population, it also serves to instill fear in the wider society.