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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Media is Not Trying to Distract You

Guest Post: by Felicia Speakes

So, there’s been a lot going on in the media lately. Just about every week, a Black person becomes a victim of a crime. Either nine Black people are shot at church by a racist, or a cop kills a Black person during a “routine” traffic stop. With the onslaught of social media, we’re consuming these stories like food at a buffet line. All it takes is one photo or one headline and BOOM! … a story and the fallacies and opinions that come along with have traveled across the country and half way around the world.


A few weeks ago, the story was Sandra Bland who died in police custody in Texas. Just recently it was Samuel DuBose, who was shot in the head by an Ohio police officer during a traffic stop. Then out of nowhere, a dentist hunts down and kills a beloved lion named Cecil. I had never heard of Cecil before this story. You probably hadn’t either.

I was on Facebook the other day and I saw a meme of a lion (supposedly Cecil) with a hunter extending a gun toward it and a police officer pointing a gun at a man who was
supposed to be Samuel DuBose. In the circulated meme, someone had written the caption, “What are they trying to distract you from?” Who is ‘they’? In most cases, ‘they’ is usually some form of authority: police, government, media, etc. in this case, I knew it was the media. 

What are they trying to distract you from?

With each one of these tragedies, other news stories (if you wanna call Drake vs Meek Mill an actual headline) broke around the same time that seemingly took the focus off these stories that plagues the Black community. Understand something – the media is not trying to distract you. 


I used to be a television news producer. My job was to report the news accurately and fairly. The key thing about news is that it has to be new and fresh. If there’s a new story creating buzz, guess what? It’ll be in the newscast. News has a 24 hour cycle.  If there’s no new, factual information coming out about Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose or whoever and Cecil, the endangered lion gets shot and killed… guess what? Cecil will make the news. Producers, reporters and anchors are given the task of bringing you the latest. I guarantee you if they aired a story about Samuel DuBose with no new information, you’d change the channel, quick, fast and in a hurry OR you’d be pissed because you were sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for some new details.

As a producer, I worked to bring stories that mattered to people in general but when it was a story that affected Black people, I treated these stories with special care. In 2013, each night when there were new details about the Trayvon Martin case, I put it in my show. I would spend a considerable amount of time searching for new information because I knew he mattered to us. I wasn’t successful each night in finding a new angle. It’s like that sometimes. Believe me. I wanted to keep his story going every night. 

(Anderson Cooper)
The media often gets a bad rap and I thought I’d set the record straight. People who work in newsrooms are dedicated to their jobs. They don’t do it for the money because NEWSFLASH… TV people don’t make a lot of money (unless you’re Anderson Cooper or somebody like that). I have seen reporters go through story idea after story idea trying to keep stories that matter to you in the news, but sometimes a story just won’t turn. Either there’s a key interviewee not available to speak or something else breaks, but they do try. 


There are 10 to 20 stories in a given newscast. It is your job to figure out what to digest and what to throw away. Members of the media only present facts as well as they know to be true. When there’s an update, they’ll tell you. If they erroneously report something, they’ll retract it. 

We’re typically an ethical bunch. There’s something inside us that won’t let us knowingly lie to you, well except Brian Williams. His ethical button broke down and he’s on a time out until he learns not to lie. (see Vanity Fair: The Inside Story of the Civil War for the Soul of NBC News) The truth always comes out though. 
Journalists work hard to bring that truth to the forefront. I don’t know why people care more about animals than other humans. It’s something that has annoyed me. When we’d get emails into the newsroom about puppy mills and animal abuse, I kinda hated putting those stories in my show. A newscast is only about 12 minutes long, minus commercials, sports and weather. I managed to fit the killing of innocent people AND animal abuse into my show. I put a variety of stories on air each night and tried to end the night on a positive note (those light-hearted stories at the end of the show before anchors say goodnight are called “kickers”.)


So stop thinking the media is trying to distract you because nobody has time to sit up here and try to figure out how to trick you. We all have some form of Attention Deficit Disorder. You’re probably distracted anyway! What were you doing before you read this? Exactly! 

Felicia has spoken!

This story originally appeared on Felicia's tumblr. Follow her on her blog if you like to dwell in the land of the living.

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