Can Ethnic Media Correct Ethnic Bias?

By D.W. Aossey

Understanding Ethnic Media
Matthew Matsaganis, Vikki Katz, and Sandra Ball-Rokeach
Sage Publications, 2010

If anyone understands how American media works and is leveraged, it should be the Arab-American community. Print and broadcast media are among the most powerful social forces in the world today and the issues that impact Arab Americans are often shaped by how TV producers, newspaper editors and other information editors choose to present them. Images of Oussama bin Laden, terrorist training camps, and unrest in the Middle East, for example, are still flashed before our eyes as subliminal reminders that America remains in peril. In addition, we are surrounded by the Arab-Israeli conflict, instability in Syria, and saber rattling with Iran. It is no accident that the mass media – fine tuned to target audiences with carefully crafted messages –has assumed such a prominent place in our daily lives.

With this in mind, and with an eye on how the Arab-American community might harness the power of media, a new book entitled “Understanding Ethnic Media: Producers, Consumers, and Societies” should be of interest. The book covers issues like ethnic media as a platform for social equality and ways in which ethnic media can effectively reach out to a broader society and spread a positive message. The power of media in local, state, and federal policy-making is showcased through examples like immigration that can be positively affected by a strong ethnic media presence. Case studies of successful ethnic print and broadcast operations received significant analysis. Additionally, the ways in which minority issues can be promoted through venues from small scale public access TV to large scale enterprises like Telemundo, are discussed in-depth.

“Understanding Ethnic Media” was written by university professors and is somewhat technical in nature, but it is thorough, comprehensive, and lends insight into aspects of the media that are important to Arab Americans. Unflattering and biased images in the mainstream media have, arguably, been a yoke around the neck of Arab American people, but as “Understanding Ethnic Media” makes clear, harnessing the power of ethnic media and reaching out to the public to correct these inaccurate images is a step in the right direction.

This review appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 65

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