“Obama and the Media – PEW Report” is largely focused on the media’s interaction with President Obama and news surrounding African American individuals or the community. It covers the first year of Obama’s presidency, and largely focuses on the Gates incident (as this was the top-covered story featuring a black man) for its tie-in of Obama and news coverage. The findings of this report is that race did matter to the media, and the fact that Obama happens to be black was explicitly used in tie-ins to Black America.
It also looked at a political angle – media coverage of how the issue of race and racism affected the Obama Administration. In some cases, opponents to Obama who did not themselves say anything that could be construed as having to do with race were nonetheless accused of having racist intentions, or that their objections were spurred purely by racism. This then reflected back onto the administration.
Most other stories that covered African Americans did not really cover issues faced by Black America. They instead focused on black individuals as interest pieces without delving into problems caused by race (such as health care coverage). Media was mostly focused on difficulties faced by black individuals, though there were a few upbeat stories. The end figure was that 9% of media coverage of the Obama administration’s first year was tied in to race.
I did previously think that Obama being elected was a step forward for race in the US. I thought that even though there was a lot of controversy surrounding him, the fact that someone who was not visibly white was elected was a step away from the hegemonic racial norm of US presidents. On the other hand, I also believed that in part what made him such a promising candidate for people (which lead to people wanting to elect him) was just that: he wasn’t part of the norm, and he promised things outside of the norm. But he was a sole outlier in an otherwise white field, and as we look towards the 2016 election it looks like more white people, so I’m not sure if we did step forward or if we just proved that we’re open to non-white people being in charge.
I haven’t been more aware of race issues since Obama became president – at least not because of his presidency. What I have been aware of, I’ve been aware of because of the media. Would Ferguson and similar cases still have happened with a white president? Going by history, yeah, it likely would have. It would have made the news, it would have become a social topic, and I would have become aware of it in that context. But being more aware of deeper racial issues as I have been with this class is not something that has occurred with Obama’s election.
But, I do need to admit that I am not a very big news consumer. What I hear, I tend to hear at random and through people I know. I do not recall hearing about Gates’ arrest. Then again, I don’t really remember much of the news from 2009 to 2010; what I can recall is mostly focused around the recession.
As for the teachable moment provided by the blogger Andrew Breitbart and the Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, I think that it proves my thoughts about Obama and race correct. While the start of his presidency looked like it was a step forward, all it seems to have become is a sort of neutral stance. America can get a non-white person elected, and that’s great, but it’s only skin-deep. Race is still an uncomfortable topic, and one that is sensitive to politicians. Real change in race issues isn’t going to be top down, in my opinion: it’ll come from the bottom up.