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.

People of Color: Do the media Overreport Violence, Underreport Unemployment?

Alex Gronke
August 13, 2010

In the middle of the summer, the media reported a disappointing turn in the numbers. In June the unemployment rate in Oakland rose slightly to 17.2 percent, or 35,000 men and women out of work. No other big city in the state had such a high jobless rate, according to the State Department of Labor. 


Marijuana in Black and White

At the end of last year, Jake Armstrong, a reporter for the Pasadena Weekly, called the city's police chief to ask him if he knew that blacks, who represented only 14 percent of Pasadena's population, accounted for more than half of the city's marijuana arrests. It was a question that could be posed to just about every police chief in California.


Young, Gifted and Unemployed

Paul Mack, 19, is happy. He has been hired to fill one of 306 jobs available from the Oakland Mayor's Summer Jobs Program at YouthUprising, a non-profit youth leadership development center located in economically depressed East Oakland.

The Labor Department reported the June jobless rate in the United States was 9.5 percent. For African Americans the figure was 15.4 percent. Among youths aged 16-19 the unemployment rate is 25.7% but 40 percent of African American youths were unable to find work.


Oscar Grant, Mehserle and the Media

While the media gears up to cover the verdict in the trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, charged with killing 22-year old Oscar Grant last year, there are those who believe reporters may be contributing to whatever violence might take place.

Mehserle testified he thought he'd pulled his taser when he shot Grant in the back early on New Year's morning 2009. The jury is deciding whether he will be convicted of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or found not guilty.


Lindsay Lohan and Vincent James - A tale of two sentences

It would appear that Lindsay Lohan is celebrity gossipgold.  But her brushes with the lawsay as much about our society and our expectations for the criminal justicesystem as it does about Lohan, making aspects of her story one worthy ofexploration by even mainstream journalists.

An arrest warrant was issued in Los Angeles last week forthe 'Mean Girls' actress after a judge ruled she violated probation for thesecond time in two weeks. Lohan avoided jail by posting $200,000 bail.


Budget Cuts, Education and Incarceration

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing cuts in theCalifornia budget that will force "tough choices" affecting seniors, the poor,students and children.

But the media stories do not talk about how African Americanmen, especially teenagers, could be affected.


Dropouts & Graduates - Jails or Jobs?

The end of the school year typically turns education coverage toward the topic of high school graduation.

But what about those who don't march to Pomp and Circumstance?