“Coloring the News”

As a political science major, with interest ultimately founded in political journalism, the discovery of Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism by William McGowan raises questions about the seemingly over-political correctness in journalism of late. He argues that “the on-going media crusade for diversity has made American journalism weaker, particularly on complex stories involving race, gay rights, feminism, affirmative action and immigration.” He claims that journalism today “encourag[es] a narrow orthodoxy that restricts debate and affirms identity politics” fostering a “journalistic climate in which important reporting is… skewed.”

His criticism looks at the world of journalism in a new way; when before political correctness and respect for the representation of minorities was not involved enough in the media, McGowan argues that it is present too often, that it has “colored,” double meaning intended, how news outlets deliver the news. For example, McGowan introduces how some news organizations use “bureaucratic instruments…. [to] monitor racial, ethnic, and sexual fairness,” such as the Gannett chain, which has a system to evaluate their editors and reporters based on how many minority faces appear in photographs and how many minority voices are quoted.

Such a system is striking; that a news outlet has and readily uses a system to ensure equal representation, though designed perhaps with good intentions, should not be in place. Equal representation should not be forced, but should naturally occur – at least that is what the utopian ideal is. On one level McGowan’s argument is intriguing; he continues that the reason alternative news has garnered so much popularity is the fact that there is a “perception of bias in ‘mainstream’ media [which] has fueled” programs such as talk radio and Fox News; however, on the other hand, it is important to encourage minority representation – but one cannot over-indulge it.

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1 Comment

Filed under Journalism, News

One response to ““Coloring the News”

  1. KP

    McGowan’s book is controversial and has been widely disputed. We take it up in the Race, Gender and the News class. If you are interested, I can point you to a few of the responses to the book, and alternative histories of some of the people and events he describes. Of course, the economic shifts in the industry have decimated most of the institutions he’s decrying. Would love to chat about this.

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