Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


Lessons from Baltimore: For the media

Stephen Melkisethian

96% of Americans believe that what transpired in Baltimore, (and Ferguson before that), is bound to repeat itself, and probably by this summer, according to a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC. I repeat, NINETY SIX PERCENT OF AMERICANS.     

A large number of people in the United States agree that the problems of police brutality and overt racism in our country are not simply a local phenomenon. But rather, a symptom of a larger problem that really needs to be addressed (sidenote: they are not alone, the international community is saying very similar things).

YUP. So I think we can all agree that some pretty large systematic problems in the United States need to be fixed, and ASAP. But today, I’m going to focus on what I think needs to change regarding the media.  

As I was watching various news channels reporting on the protests in Baltimore, I was appalled. And let me be clear -- what disgusted me was the irresponsible, sloppy and ignorant reporting that was taking place.

I had to turn my TV off when I saw how concerned CNN was about how the Orioles must have felt to play a baseball game in an empty stadium for the first time in team history, because of the riots. Or how devastating it was that a CVS was destroyed because of looters. TOTALLY undermining (in my opinion) the crucial issues that were taking place. Like the blatant disregard for human life.

It was also frustrating to see how various news sources were heavily reporting on the negative aspects of the protests, painting an awful picture of looting and rioting, instead of highlighting all of the positive stories and beautiful moments of people coming together, peacefully, using their collective voices to stand up for their rights. Yes, there was looting and rioting, but if you dig deep enough you’ll discover that the large majority of protestors were peaceful.

The point of this article, is to ask this question: Who is going to hold the media accountable to provide us with RESPONSIBLE and accurate information if and when this happens again?

Will you? Can we all as global citizens? I believe we can. We need to vote with our feet - or in this case our eyeballs - and tune out the media that is sensationalizing and distorting the facts. The media must learn to cover these events objectively - the way the mainstream media is supposed to.

I sincerely hope that another wrongful death at the hands of police in the US does not occur this year (or ever!). But if it does, and the public takes to the streets to protest another act of unwarranted violence, then the media must cover the story in full. That means yes the looters will be PART of the story, but so too must the thousands of peaceful protestors coming together to constructively call for change. That's what we need.