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Ferguson, MO – Media use of isolated factoids fosters anger not helpful discussion

This USA Today snippet on the number of blacks killed by white police officers isolates a single data point, without context. The viewer/reader is left without any sense of cause or even useful correlations. This treatment is representative of the mass media approach to every complex issue – sensationalism vs informing the public.

While issues of race are top-of-mind in this incident, they are not the only issue. We don’t even know if they have the greatest influence. Militarization of police forces; varying crime rates among geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic groups;  even the media influence on various cultures all likely play important roles. But we don’t get a sense of any of this from USA Today.

The media’s obligation to inform the public is arguable, but the media’s effort to do so is non-existant. If the “investigative reporter” in the video is even moderately professional, and is not an idiot, I can’t imagine the stress of having your investigative work narrowed down to the single most sensational sound byte and then having to pretend that you’ve done something serious.

Is it any wonder that, among the most thoughtful people I know, very few of them pay attention to mainstream mass media anymore.

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