Racial journalism in America: “retelling folk tales”

There have been many calls on blogs, journalism sites and various public speakers for more, not less, stories about the so-called Jena 6 (six Americans involved in an incident of noose-hanging then beatings). The issue struck me as not critical to Canadians especially just now, with so many other big issues here and around the world and a dearth of space and time. However today’s thoughtful essay in the New York Times about media coverage of the affair, “Racial Crisis? Or Just Rope in the Hands of Fools,” is I think relevant, and to everyone in modern media. An excerpt:

There are few historic moments as honored and ingrained in the American psyche as those from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, but how much they translate to the current moment is far less clear. So maybe the product relaunch of the noose as an odious signifier of hate speech bespeaks something fundamentally askew in the national psyche.

And maybe it’s just the distorting mirror of the never-ending media cavalcade, where any moron with a Sharpie and a length of cord from Home Depot can make a statement heard round the world.

“One theory about media is that it’s not so much telling the news as it is retelling old folk tales,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “The idea should be to put facts in context, not to put them into familiar arrangements that reinforce old attitudes.”

See also Jena six case: What’s fact?