Examining Media Coverage of Cultural Issues –Critical Thinking
I’ve been mulling over just how to discuss the most polarizing topic currently in the news – the relationship between law enforcement and people of color. As an African American person, I am personally and emotionally invested in the stories currently circulated all over the news about alleged police brutality, shootings and subsequent riots that have been occurring. I felt frustrated and saddened by the stories about the loss of life, the looting and the riots that occurred in Baltimore and other cities and afraid as a mother regarding how to address these topics with my 12 year old son. He is now quite aware of what is going on in the world around him and often has questions about just how he should feel about the information he is receiving. As you can see, I have been dealing with many conflicting emotions and felt much better when the correct course of action occurred to me –critical thinking.
By now many of my fellow college students may have taken a critical thinking course and perhaps like me, found some of the concepts difficult to develop as a habit. According to dictionary.com, “Critical thinking is disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” This practice may be easy to apply with certain topics, but what about those topics that we are personally or emotionally invested in? For weeks I followed the coverage on my news app, local news stations and in my car listening to Nevada Public Radio. Against my better judgment (my need to analyze human behavior and responses would not allow me to do the smart thing) I would read comments from others about the reported stories. From the comments I read, I realized that many people were dealing with the same emotions and had questions as well regarding just what to make of the current events plaguing inner cities throughout America.
This got me to thinking, why now? Why are these stories so hotly covered in the media? Racial tensions are nothing new. In fact, I am currently taking an Early American literature class, and realize that these tensions have existed since the founding of our country. So why the sensationalism now? I remembered reading about a story where a white police officer in South Carolina shot a black man as he was running away, and a passerby just happened to have a camera phone, and videotaped the entire exchange. This would lead to the arrest of the officer in question, and subsequently he would be charged with murder. In processing the reported facts of that story that technology and minute by minute media coverage has changed the way information is dissimilated. We no longer have to wait for the nightly news, or pick up a morning paper to find out what’s happening in out towns, cities, or the world at large. I have 3 or 4 news apps that send me alerts as a breaking story becomes news, so I don’t miss a thing. We are closer now to the cities around us than ever before. We are receiving more news and are able to connect these stories in a way that we have never been able to before.
This sort of minute by minute coverage can lead to an overload of information, and also greatly increase the chances of slanted or poorly informed stories being reported. Our connections to our smart phones also mean that we can capture events as they occur in real time affecting the outcome of events that we may never even have heard about just 10 years ago. My approach to dealing with the overload of information I desperately crave is to make sure I keep a clear head and withhold judgment until I have had an opportunity to assess deeper the information being presented.
Thinking critically has helped combat some of my frustration, sadness, and even anger regarding the very sensitive stories I read regarding the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I don’t know as a nation if we will ever be able to completely overcome many of the racial and class tensions that plague our cities, but for me I, believe that ALL lives matter. And hold firm to the belief that the human race is more alike than we are different and unity and peace is a conceivable goal always worth striving for.