A White Media

SOPHIE CHALFIN-JACOBS (GRADE 11)

In the past couple years, I have focused much more on what’s going on in the world around me. I’ve found myself following the news regularly and forming my own opinions based on it. One trend that I have seen in the media this past year really bothers me. The news reported focuses primarily on white and European issues.

This trend first became clear to me after the awful terrorist attacks in Paris, France. If you don’t know what happened, in November 2015, there were a series of mass shootings and suicide bombings in Paris resulting in the deaths of 130 and injuries for hundreds more. The event was horrible; hundreds of innocent people died. These attacks received a lot of media coverage, as they should; it was a terrible time which called for people to stand together with France. Facebook even had a movement where you could change your profile picture to show unity and support for France. Facebook has added these optional filters for events like the legalization of gay marriage, but never for any other terrorist attack, at least that I remember.

What is really horrifying is that attacks like these are happening all around the world, almost all the time. There have been over 1000 terrorist attacks worldwide since the November ones in Paris. The same week of the Paris attacks, 170 people were taking hostage in a hotel in Bamako, Mali, resulting in 20 deaths. In January, 30 were killed, 56 injured, and many more were held hostage in an attack on a hotel in Burkina Faso. In March, 37 were killed and 127 were injured as a result of bombings in Ankara, Turkey. In May, 47 were killed and 60 more injured as a result of bombings in Yemen. The list goes on. Before writing this article, I certainly had not heard about all of these attacks, and I believe I am not alone.

In looking at all these less widely covered events, I realized there must be reasons other than a European bias to explain the trend. Some news stations have acknowledged that the reason the attacks in Paris were more widely covered is that they were more shocking. I agree, terrorism in places like Iraq seems to have become a norm. Still, this misinformation is dangerous: it creates a knowledge gap across the country. If all that people are seeing on the news are stories about events happening in predominantly white nations, they may start to believe that these are the only stories that matter. This is not true. What matters is that every day people around the world are losing their lives to terrorism and violence.

In terms of reform, I believe the first step is acknowledgement. Not only should major news stations and newspapers acknowledge the western bias in the stories they report, but we all should acknowledge that the picture we are being shown of our world may not be complete. I think if we continue to speak out about this bias and reach out to major media companies, then gradually that picture of the world will become more inclusive.

Photo credit: Kimmo Järvinen

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