Tag Archives: media

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What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial

By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial.

Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an eighteen year-old Korean American girl was found strangled after she went missing. Her then eighteen year-old Pakistani American ex-boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He has been in prison since 2000, all the while maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, my friend and I had different responses to an article by Jay Caspain Kang accusing Koenig of “white reporter privilege.” She felt that Kang was too quick to read an exoticizing impulse into Koenig’s reactions when, for example, Koenig was probably startled by how “normal” a young woman’s diary seemed on the eve of its author meeting a violent death. Also, she said, Koenig the storyteller has to make her characters relatable to her listeners. But “relatability” is precisely what Kang problematizes, I replied, it assumes an underlying “colorblind ideal” that “reads ‘white.’” I brought up Julia Carrie Wong’s charge that Koenig “fail[s] to draw an distinctions between…. a first-generation Korean immigrant [experience] and [a] second-generation life in a Pakistani-American family,” and that she gives her subjects “model minority treatment.” But then… the descriptions Koenig uses were offered by the people she interviewed, not ones she coined.

So is she accountable for them?

A colleague joined in: Koenig probably assumes her audience has racial sensitivity.

I disagreed: Kang is right that the journalist comes “from the same demographic as her ‘intended audience’” in a context where “staffs of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines tend to be overwhelmingly white.”

But if being white is the fact of her experience, this colleague said, do we hold it against her? Continue reading

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On Not Breathing Due to Failures of Democracy

Media is a grind.

I’ve been out of the game for a little while, working mostly, so it’s been 18 months of learning how to make the news and how to make TV, and less of actually being on air, on camera, providing commentary.

While in New York, on unrelated business, I get a call from a producer friend – can I provide a voice on a Google Hangout with Katie Couric about the ongoing violence against black men? Later that day, the request changes. The Eric Garner decision rolls in, protestors are rolling out, New Yorkers are in the streets asking why. The segment has been upgraded to an actual panel – would I mind coming to the studio?

I prep, like usual. I look at outfits to see what I have that might translate well on television. I slide on BB cream in case there’s no makeup artist available. I rehearse talking points in my head, major points I want to make in the conversation. I ask my breakfast companion if she wants a ride into the city since they are sending a car.

The producer pushes back – I can’t share the car. Why not? I’m not asking for another stop, I’m still having a conversation.

The terse answer comes back: No one is supposed to know, and it just got confirmed, but my driver needs to pick up Eric Garner’s daughter as well. All the carefully crafted sound bytes exited my mind – what was I supposed to say to her? Continue reading

The American Standards of Media Consumption

By Guest Contributor OnTay Johnson

Illus_IMG

Illustration by Joseph Lamour.

According to the powers that be, I just may not be “with it” when it comes to American pop culture.  In my 30-plus years of life, I’ve noticed from time to time I’m made to be a fool because I haven’t seen some movie, didn’t recognize the face or name of some celebrity (dead or alive) and the list goes on.  I use to attribute this to growing up in a small city but as I got older and more socially conscious, I recognized that there was a pattern to this projection of person, places or things that I “should just know”.  That pattern adhered to the social construction of the status quo—whiteness.

Don’t get me wrong, as an African American in America, I’m hip to most things considered “popular” in our society.  Our education system alone makes sure you get peppered with the whiteness of American culture.  It’s the media that really hammers it home though.  How can one not be aware of whiteness when this country’s information systems constantly feed it to you as a diet day after day?  When a majority of magazines have a person that’s white on the cover and when a majority of television is white and our history books cover the “heroic” deeds of white men from the beginnings of this “unsettled” country until now, then it’s inevitable to not be aware of the whiteness screaming at you.  So yeah, I’m familiar with most things but it’s the fact that I’m a minority that I don’t always swallow everything fed to me.

Continue reading

Announcement: On Joining The Stream

Me, with Derrick Ashong, post show, with Grover Norquist, the guest.

Former host Derrick Ashong and myself, with show guest Grover Norquist.

Now, we normally don’t publicize things about our personal lives or jobs on Racialicious.

However, this time is a bit different.  After appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream as a guest, then guest hosting, then subbing for the amazing Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, I finally decided to make it official. I am joining The Stream (American Edition) as Senior Digital Producer.

I am announcing it here is because I want the Racialicious community to come with me.

Over the years (we’re coming in on seven, almost eight for those counting; close to a decade for the MMW peeps) this community has brought some of the most challenging questions to our doorstep in the service of discussing race. How do we understand issues of race when this whole concept is fictional? As soon as you cross borders, racial labels fall apart, but the societal consequences remain. To what extent does colonialism play into our discussions of racism and solidarity? Where does religion and religious identity intersect with race? How do we even craft terms to describe ourselves without further playing into these systems that do not serve us?

I’ve often felt frustrated that we didn’t have the resources to go out and actively source stories. While some members of our community who are journalists have provided us with great pieces over the years, there are so many times when I wished we had a team to dispatch and cover events. And that’s to say nothing of all the media critique we’ve done over the years. Continue reading

Idris Elba is Hollywood’s Troublemaker

by Guest Contributor Shane Thomas, originally published at Media Diversity UK

There are few names as globally recognisable as Nelson Mandela. And likely even fewer whose name generally invokes strong feelings of warmth and goodwill.

Mandela was recently in the news as a result of his ill health, with elements of the online world and news networks partaking in an emetic game of “Nelson Mandela death watch”. Mercifully, at the time of writing, Madiba is still with us, and he has become a talking point again by proxy, due to the release of the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The aforementioned is a movie biopic, traversing Nelson Mandela’s life. Early indications suggest that it is being positioned as strong contender for the 2014 Academy Awards. If the release date of January 3rd next year isn’t a sign to this effect, then the fact that the film’s production company is The Weinstein Company certainly is.[1]

On face value, this would seem to be a positive sign for diversity in Hollywood. After all, it’s a film where black characters are front and centre, without – as Jamilah King succinctly put it – needing a “white co-pilot”. And if you don’t think that this is an issue, more often than not, when films are made about communities of colour, the proviso is that a white character is a key cast member.[2] Continue reading

Want To Land A Knight Fellowship?

Calling all journalists, documentary filmmakers, freelancers, and media makers of color!

And hey Racialicious crew! It’s been a while. I know I have a million and one things to write about. I still have to write my “Coming to Stanford” post, a post about Argo, finish the Octavia Butler book club, and some hanging posts about fandom, film, and Afro-Asiatic allegories.  And I won’t even tell you my Knight to-do list because it is starting to give me hives.  But if you are even thinking of maybe applying to this awesome fellowship, please join us on a call Tuesday.  The details (that I conveniently snatched from the NABJ Digital blog):

Join the NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force, along with the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Hispanic Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association for a conference call on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time to discuss the application process for the 2013-14 class of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University.  The program is actively seeking a more diverse talent pool and is reaching out to journalists of color.  The call will feature one current and two past Knight fellows:

Knight Fellowships director Jim Bettinger will give an overview of the program and introduce the fellows. The fellows will discuss their application process, the work they did during their 10 months at Stanford and offer tips for those who may consider applying.  We’ll then open it up to questions.
The call will be recorded for those who can’t make the live call. You can also tweet your questions to @NABJDigital or email questions to auntbenet AT Gmail DOT com.Dial-in Number: 1-213-226-0400
Conference code: 878554

Application link: http://knight.stanford.edu/news-notes/2012/be-a-knight-fellow-applications-now-open/

I also want to point out that The John S. Knight Fellowships is currently kicking ass on diversity, as reported by Richard Prince:

Less than a week after the Knight journalism fellowships program at Stanford University chose a fellowship class comprising more than half journalists of color, the Nieman fellowships at Harvard University announced an incoming class that appears to be devoid of African Americans. [...] In the current Nieman class, Jonathan Blakley, an African American foreign desk producer at NPR, is the only U.S. journalist of color.

But it could always be better. So please, come hang on the call.  And if you are worried that you aren’t quite right for this fellowship, I encourage you to reconsider.   I’ve put my journalistic bio under the jump, the one I actually submitted. And my fellow Fellows include filmmakers, comic artists, bloggers, and one awesome person who was basically running “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” for famous Arabs. Your idea is the most important thing here. So go check it out.  And if you have questions, jump on the call.   Continue reading

The Bourne Legacy And Manila’s Militaristic Mapping

By Guest Contributor Bryan Ziadie

I’ve heard a few friends’ opinions so far about The Bourne Legacy, the latest installment in the Bourne film franchise. The last set of sequences in the film got particular attention. Those scenes take place in Manila. It seems to be the case here in the Philippines that people, at least those I know, managed to stay immersed in the film up until that point. After this, a feeling of strange misrecognition of the landscape took over. This may be because what we’re shown through the camera work in the Manila scenes suggests a perception of the Philippines not unfamiliar to a militarized American pop-culture industry that’s easy to identify with it until you find that familiar spaces have become the focus of the camera’s lens.

Rooftop-Hopping

One thing that I’ve noticed about First World action sequences that take place in Third World settings is the position of the camera. You often find it hovering above, looking down on metal, shanty-town rooftops as protagonists run across, leaping from one roof to the next either in pursuit of, or escape from, the enemy. A couple examples that come to mind can be found in Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk and, in Inception, the scene that takes place in Mombasa. I can’t actually remember the movie Quantum of Solace very well, but the video game features a shanty-town, rooftop-hopping stage.

(Don’t watch the whole video, it’s actually pretty boring)

But, to say on track, here’s an illustrative scene from Bourne.

(Watch the whole video. It’s actually pretty badass.)
Continue reading