Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bad Media, Bad. No Treat For You.

The picture to the right is an average West Virginia family... looks a lot like an average Pennsylvanian, Kansas, Nevada or Washington family to me.

The recent tragedies with the West Virginia coal mines have stirred emotions throughout the country, prompting prayer vigils, benefit dinners and more than a few heavy hearts. And while I have certainly thought about and prayed for those directly affected by this disaster, I would be remiss to say the attention hasn't stirred other thoughts in my moderately disillusioned mind. One thought that I can't shake is the portrayal of West Virginians in the media.

Now please don't mistake this rant as a disrespectful, poorly timed low blow to the people of the state... instead, this is a characterization of the national media and its apparent urge to propagate stereotypes. I mean, based on the snippets I've seen of West Virginia residents on programs like the Today Show and Good Morning America (just kidding, who watches Good Morning America?), the only person in the entire state who appears moderately well adjusted is the governor... and I imagine he probably has a media coach pulling the strings during his interviews.

It's almost like Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Brian Williams went out of their way to only include clips of overweight, redneck white people with poor grammar and bad haircuts (specifically regarding the "man on the street" interviews, NOT the families affected)... when in reality, the populous of the state is every bit as "normal" - whatever that means - as the rest of the country. But you certainly wouldn't know it based on the coverage the state has seen lately.

So now I'm forced to go back to Media Ethics, Mass Communication 401 and the age-old question of those in media-related fields: Does the media REFLECT society, or does the media PERPETUATE society? It would seem to me that the coverage of this tragedy has theoretically set the state of West Virginia back several years in its mission to shake the stereotypes of... well... overweight, redneck white people with poor grammar and bad haircuts. It's truly unfortunate.

So to all the producers of the quality news programming we tune into on a regular basis (I'm sure TONS of them read this blog): We understand it is your job to report the news in a straightforward manner. But we also understand that the way you frame the story tells a whole other story in the process. Please, please, please do us a favor and stop peppering these people with backhanded, ignorant insults - regardless of whether or not you're cognizant of what you're doing.

- TS

PS - Don't forget to get on The Ride at 4 p.m. today.
PPS - Tiger tees off at 1:42 p.m. Will he make the cut, finish top 20 or win it all? Hmmm...

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