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Jeff – The newsreader does a good job of introducing the story by telling viewers that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that what is referred to as the Affirmative Action ballot initiative will be on the November 2006 ballot. They also clarified what this ballot initiative would mean, a ban racial and gender preferences in government hiring and University admissions. Beyond that, the story becomes somewhat confusing.
Linda – So what was confusing about this story and what sources were used by the reporter?
Jeff – First, the reporter tells viewers that they will be hearing a lot about the pros and cons of this issue. This statement is never supported since viewers do not hear pros and cons on the affirmative action ban ballot proposal. What viewers do get is where 3 Republican candidates stand on the issue, but none of their reasons for being for or against. Listeners should ask themselves why no other political party voices were included in this section to provide some balance of views. Then viewers hear from an opponent of this ballot initiative, a professor from GVSU. The comment from the professor does not substantiate that he is opposed to this ballot initiative. Listen to what he says “I think we’re living in a time of economic decline and challenges, we see that everyday in the news. Of political and social crisis to some degree and I think in those times people feel scared and want to retrench.” It doesn’t seem clear at all that he takes an opposing view at all. What is missing from the story is which organizations are behind the ballot initiative and which are opposed to it. This would at least allow viewers an opportunity to get more information on both sides of this issue.
Linda – On Wednesday Nov. 2 WOOD TV 8 ran a one hour broadcast called Race and Reality. What was this program about and what would viewers have learned from it?
Tom - This program was an hour long special broadcast that ran during prime time hours looking at the topic of racism. The show was framed as a response to racial tensions in West Michigan, with mentions made at the beginning of the broadcast to the controversy over the renaming of Franklin street here in Grand Rapids. The show was essentially a televised rendition of a workshop by the local organization the Institute to Heal Racism. Over a five week period the Institute conducted workshops in a WOOD TV 8 studio with a racially mixed group of volunteers. The broadcast included interviews with both the instructors and the participants. Many of the interviews are rather emotional in nature and feature people coming to a new awareness on issues of race or coming to a new understanding. Also included is footage from two different films that the participants watched as part of the workshop, films which focused on racist depictions of people of color historically.
Linda – How successful was this approach of addressing race through televising a workshop. What kind of understanding or race issues would this program leave viewers with!
Tom – First off, it’s is good to see News 8 devote an entire hour to a serious issue such as this one during prime time viewing hours. The show does a good job of illustrating some of the common attitudes of local people, both white and of color, on issues of race. That said, the show was primarily limited to addressing the issue of race through the lens of individual attitudes and individual actions. Very little discussion was provided on the topic of structural racism, of ways that racial inequality is generated not by individual actions, but rather than by the larger institutions that make up American society. The only mention of these factors is at the very beginning of the piece where it is noted that Michigan is, despite the fact that legalized segregation no longer exists, still one of the most segregated states in the country in terms of where people live. Other examples of structural racism that could have been examined but weren’t in this piece would be things such as racial disparity in arrest rates and jail sentences, or differences in school funding in predominantly white schools versus predominately black schools. Or wage levels, employment rates, health, lifespan, these are all topics worth looking at in how they relate to race and racism. WOOD TV would do a real public service to continue running specials like this one taking a deeper and exploring the issue of race, racism and white privilege in America.
Linda – On Saturday, November 5th the Grand Rapids Press ran a front page article on the Summit of the Americas that was taking place in Argentina. Jeff, how did the article frame this story?
Jeff – The AP story that ran in the Press was headlined “Protests at Summit erupt into violence,” which was different than the original AP headline that read “Leaders fail to agree on free trade talks.” The article then begins by focusing on those protesting the summit saying “The crowd chanted “Get out, fascist Bush!” and “You are the terrorist!” alternating their insults with the popular social rallying cry Ole, Ole! Then the violence began.” The Press version of the AP article doesn’t even tell readers what the summit was about until the second to last paragraph and even then only says it was about free trade.
Linda – Well what sources were quoted and whose voices were excluded from this article?
Jeff – Readers of the Press article only had a quote from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom the AP story referred to as a leftist. The story does mention some of the chants by protestors, but no other voices are provided. The original AP story also included comments from the Brazilian and Mexican Presidents, along with those of Chavez. What is excluded from this story were the thousands of people there participating in the People’s Summit, people representing unions, teachers, farmers, students, indigenous groups and many other sectors who have been presenting a clear alternative to the government version of the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement, which opposition groups claim represents primarily corporate interests.
Linda – We will provide links to independent sources on this story.
Linda – On Thursday November 3, WZZM 13 reported on layoffs in Holland Michigan at Gemtron, a manufacturer of Refrigerator parts. How was this story presented?
Tom – This was a brief story about a number of local factories that had outsourced jobs to Mexico and it included two different perspectives. One was of a local worker who was on unemployment after being laid off by a local Furniture manufacturer. This man was shown making a number of statements on-air, in which he is lamenting his lost job. The reporter than notes that he will most likely have to find work in a different field as a lower wage. The other person shown speaking in the story is Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan who is reported as saying that outsourcing (of Jobs) has helped keep inflation in check and that this has resulted in a “cycle of low prices and solid growth”. No more comment or clarification is made of Greenspans comments. Given the loss of jobs in Michigan, it would seem reasonable for a reporter to ask in response to Greenspans comments, solid growth for whom, and whether outsourcing jobs is a fair trade off for keeping inflation down. Another interesting point in the piece is a brief mantion that NAFTA, the North American Trade Agreement, is supposed to provide funds for retraining of workers whose jobs are outsourced. Not reported in the story is that fact that NAFTA was also responsible for making it easier for these jobs to be outsourced in the first place.