What’s shown in the media typically influences how people see those of a different race or gender. For some, it’s their only exposure to cultures and circles different from their own. Diversity in media is not an issue that is discussed often, but it’s important. Lack of diversity in media affects the quality of news, and it affects the range of stories told.
In 2020 and 2021 during the global pandemic, people all over the world turned to media and social media as an outlet. An unfortunate product of this was that people didn’t experience diversity in person as often, and instead attached to what they saw versus what they experienced. Social media is consumed by nearly everyone on earth. People spend such a great amount of time on it, that all of us are targeted by social media groups, political parties, and even companies. We are fed information which changes our opinion and perception about a certain race or gender, which feeds into further polarization. From harmful misinformation aimed at polarizing us based on our beliefs, to commercials during television shows targeted to black and Hispanic audiences advertising specific (and harmful) fast food to these groups.
There are studies which support the influence and impact of social media on one’s self-esteem, and the reality is that what we consume feeds into how we feel about ourselves, other people, and particularly people who are different from ourselves.
What Can We Do?
The best way for news companies to tell a wide range of stories, is to have a team of content producers who don't all look or think alike. These companies should work toward hiring a diverse team of writers, as well as a range of editors and writers reading copy before it posts, to ensure a tone-deaf article based in assumptions isn’t published. Though all writers believe they are unbiased, nothing quite replaces the perspective of a person who is directly affected by an issue. For example, it may surprise many to know that only 37% of news articles and opinion pieces regarding reproductive rights and related issues were written by women.
As individual consumers of media and social media, we must work to diversify what we read and consume. Using only one source of media can lead to a person believing intelligence or success looks a certain way, like a certain person, or like a particular group of people. It’s important to recognize this and look at more than one source of media, and apply your own “filters,” and seek out a wider range of stories. It's important for consumers and the media to prioritize considering bias in all news reporting. As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives take off across the nation, we can all hope for more diversity in media. Until then, remember to consider bias in every news and media source, and expose yourself to as many sources of media as possible.
by Libbi Moore