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.

Telling the black, Latino unemployed youth story

Deborah Douglas
December 9, 2010

Post-racial? In unemployment, try most racial.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national jobless rate has climbed to 9.8 percent. Yet disaggregating this trend by race reveals that whites are doing a bit better at 8.9 percent unemployment while Latinos (13.2 percent) and blacks (16 percent) are faring much worse.

Most shocking, however, is joblessness among black youths. Almost half (46.5 percent) are unemployed, a rate more than double that of whites 16 to 19 years old.


Experts to journalists: Go behind data to tell stories about black male achievement gap

T. Shawn Taylor
November 22, 2010

Poverty, poorly funded schools and long-standing segregation and racial inequality are familiar themes for the dwindling number of education reporters covering the achievement gap between black and white male students.

A new study by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban districts, reasserts these conditions in “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools,” a 108-page report issued in October.


Forget "White Boys:" The Real Plea Bargaining Story

Alex Gronke
October 12, 2010

Let’s take a moment to consider the frustration of Judge Joseph Williams of the Allegheny County Court in Pennsylvania. The judge found himself in the center of a minor media fuss last week after he chastised a prosecutor for offering a man accused of fighting with police officers "a ridiculous plea that only goes to white boys."


Memo to Meg: Watch Your Own Spanish Language Ads

Alex Gronke
October 5, 2010

When it emerged that California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had dismissed her housekeeper of nine years after learning she was in the United States without documentation, “Whither the Latino vote?” quickly became the question of the moment for reporters and pundits following the campaign. In the days before Whitman’s shabby sacking of Nicky Diaz came to light, the media touted polls showing that Whitman’s unprecedented and expensive ad campaign in Spanish language media was luring Latino voters to the Republican candidate.


Jay-Z Sells Fantasy for Forbes: Men of Color and Money

Alex Gronke
September 28, 2010

Warren Buffet recently shared the cover of Forbes with Jay-Z. It was the magazine’s 400 richest Americans issue, and Jay-Z was out front not because he’s one of the 400, but rather, as a caption tells us, “He’s on his way there.”


Stranger than Christine O'Donnell: Covering 21st Century Disenfranchisement

Alex Gronke
September 20, 2010

Political pundits marveled at the news last week that only 30,000 voters in Delaware toyed with the national balance of power by electing an anti-masturbation advocate with bad credit as the Republican Party's nominee for the United States Senate.


Heads Will Roll: The Media and Gangs

Alex Gronke
September 10, 2010

They're cutting off people's heads in Mexico. California's Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown reminded reporters of that grisly fact this week when he announced a crackdown on Nuestra Familia, one of the state's prison gangs. Never mind that the link between California's gangs and the murderous Mexican cartels is indirect. Brown and the press corps were probably unaware of it, but they were following an old tradition by drawing a connection between local street crime and sinister foreign threats.


Black Versus Brown: The Media on Immigration

Alex Gronke
September 2, 2010

Back in July, Senator James Webb of Virginia wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for an end to affirmative action. To make his case, Webb argued that only blacks and poor whites suffered at the hands of the antebellum Southern aristocracy. This brutality combined with decades of poverty following the Civil War was the legacy of injustice affirmative action was meant to remedy. Why should newly arrived Nigerians, Laotians, or Mexicans benefit? Better to scrap affirmative action entirely, wrote Webb, and 'let harmony invade the public mindset.'


Mind the Gap

Alex Gronke
August 26, 2010

Reporters are growing all too familiar with the yearly line from the State Superintendent of Education. Sometime in the middle of August when California announces test scores, school chief Jack O'Connell issues a press release applauding the modest year over year gains made by the state's public school students.


Hiding in Plain Sight - Black Men and the Media

Bob Butler
August 20, 2010

It's hard out here for a young black man.

There is so much media coverage focusing on what's wrong with African American male teens that you would think that these young men do nothing positive.

Various media reports tell us 11 percent of African American males drop out of high school before receiving diplomas, the jobless rate for African American male teenagers is more than 40% and a African American 19 year old man is 20 times more likely to be shot to death than his White counterpart.