Mixed Results in This Week’s Media Coverage of 60th Anniversary of Brown Decision

WIS-TV gets it right when reporting on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Media must help resident see local relevance of anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court decision.

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On this 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, the mass media have done an ok, though not outstanding, job of explaining the key issues still at play in public education today.
The 1954 decision declared that “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutional.  It eventually led to desegregation (but necessarily integration) of public school classrooms.

In a story that ran on the front page of my local newspaper here in Tuscaloosa this week, Associated Press Reporters Jesse Holland and Kimberly Hefling mostly focused on Gary Orfield’s “Brown at 60” report, which was released this week.

ABC News also published this same AP story.

Gary Orfield
Gary Orfield

Among other things, it found that in places like New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90 percent minority or more.  Orfield is a perennial expert on the issue of school desegregation.

The report is one of the few that gives a comprehensive look at where we stand as a nation.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA is definitely to be commended for its work in this area.  I just have read an executive summary of the report released this week.

But, in reporting only on this “national” picture of Brown, the media may not go far enough.

These stories do little to make the issue of school desegregation (or in some cases “resegregation”) relevant to most Americans, in terms of their local schools.

With smaller news staffs,  most local news outlets probably didn’t bother to “localize” Holland and Hefling’s story.

While not as recent as the UCLA study,  the Brookings Institution looked at the overall issue of segregation in 2013 and examined the issue of class, which has to be included in any retrospective look at school desegregation.

Many of the pseudo-events  (i.e. rallies and press conferences) staged this week on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Brown called attention to the issue of resegregation.

For example, US News and World Report, on its web site, provided coverage of a rally by the National Education Association (NEA) among others.

 

WIS-TV recognizes Direct Beneficiaries of Brown

WIS-TV in Columbia, SC featured those who broke racial barriers more than a half-century ago in two South Carolina communities.
WIS-TV in Columbia, SC featured those who broke racial barriers more than a half-century ago in two South Carolina communities.

I haven’t seen many television stations like WIS-TV, which features Oveta Glover and Millicent Brown, who were among the first South Carolina students to attend all-white schools.

The NBC affiliate in Columbia, SC and perennial top-ranked Raycom-owned station included not only those from their market, but also someone who lived in Charleston (“the low country”) who was involved in desegregated schools there more than a half-century ago.

WIS-TV reporter Meaghan Norman gets a star for her story.

In spite of thin reporter ranks in, local news outlets, especially TV stations in the midst of May ratings sweeps, ought to be enterprising stories that make today’s discussion of race, education and equity relevant for their local viewers and readers.

 

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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