A recent Rasmussen survey on Ferguson and its coverage poses a real challenge for those of us in the “mainstream” media.
According to the survey earlier this month, a majority of those surveyed think the media would have been less interested in a white teenager, rather than a black one, had been shot by police. At total of 35 percent said the media did a good or excellent job on the story, while 23 percent said we did a poor job.
I’d like to know what folks think the media did right in covering the story, and where people think we need to improve. Unfortunately, I suspect many of those opinions have more to do with people’s ideological preconceptions than they do with actual coverage. Still, that poses a challenge to those of us tasked with informing the citizenry, at least those of us without an ax to grind.
Democrats and adults not affiliated with either major political party were twice as likely as Republicans to think most police officers are racist, Rasmussen reported. Republicans felt more strongly than Democrats and unaffiliateds that the Ferguson incident would have gotten less coverage if the shooter was black and the victim was white.
Yes, I suspect we all bring our biases to bear on stories, whether we intend to or not. But the police actions in Ferguson, and the reactions nationwide, deserve a more thoughtful response than dismissing them as media bias. We should be talking about the militarization of our police, their training and the situation in our cities that have brought us to this point of confrontation.
It’s too important a topic to write off as media machinations — and too for us to shrug at public perceptions without asking how we might better bridge that divide.