News writes off pressing issues

The news industry, a predominantly white field with most power players residing in the United States, has guaranteed one thing: homogenous press coverage. 

To maximize profits and reader engagement, the world of press has counteracted the diminishing market by increasing coverage of topics that are sure to yield earnings. These stories are often exclusively limited to a handful of subjects, generally revolving around politics and sensationalized stories to provoke audience response. 

The need to succumb to reader interests is an understandable rationale. Afterall, money is the main incentive in a capitalist society. 

However, the purpose of the press, as stated by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in “The Elements of Journalism,” is defined by “the function news plays in the lives of people.” While it’s important to understand the current political climate and trending stories, turning a blind eye towards topics deemed ‘less important’ goes against the very essence of journalism. 

The majority of topics that lack news coverage are related to hate crimes against people of color and environmental concerns. During the height of the pandemic, the aforementioned subjects were trending topics—both tied to  COVID-19. The effect was instantaneous, especially around racial injustice: Black Lives Matter was a topic mentioned by even the most private celebrities,  participation in conscious consumption was all the craze and the environmental effects of tourism became apparent all around the world. But, as interest began to subside, these stories have begun to disappear from the front pages.

On Dec. 7, almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic, a 71-year-old Asian man in Chicago was shot 22 times while purchasing a newspaper. His name was Woo Sing Tse, and the news coverage of the incident never made it past the local community. 

During the height of the BLM movement, when mass scrutiny over such hate crimes was in vogue, events like the murder of Woo Sing Tse would have made headlines, week after week. In fact, a research study done by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst showed that the attention brought forth by BLM protests and media attention led to a 15-20% decrease in police homicides.

The irony is far from lost; in an industry dominated by non-POC, it just so happens that POC news is consistently limited and ignored—most of which involve racially motivated violence against the community. 

Though seemingly impossible, this kind of change can be initiated by the press. The Watergate Scandal of 1972 was the work of journalists who believed in writing the truth at the cost of their reputations. In their belief of a better, more truthful future, their journalistic work resulted in the first-ever presidential resignation in the United States, increasing positive constraints on federal power. 

The power of the press should not be underestimated. The journalism industry has a moral and ethical responsibility to bring more awareness about topics that have the potential to make or break our world. Although difficult in our capitalist society, the ideals of a journalist should reflect ones that impact the future for the better.