Scoot: Dylann Roof verdict proves that audience determines media coverage
by Scoot,posted Dec 16 2016 12:48PM
The trend of blaming the media for the content of the news continues to grow across America, but as always, the media reflects its audience. The media, in general, is beholden to what stories and content will capture the attention of viewers and readers.
When I make this argument that the media reflects the audience and it is the audience that ultimately determines which stories that get the most attention, particularly on the cable news channels, I am criticized for that point-of-view. Blaming the media for the stories emphasized instead allows the audience to feel better about it.
The audience can say, “Hey, those controversial stories and all the hate on the news channels is because that’s what they want us to see,” but the media chooses the stories that feed the appetite of the audience. If there is still a doubt in your mind as to whether the audience determines what is news, the reaction, yesterday, to the guilty verdict in the Dylann Roof murder trial proves the point.
The guilty verdict on all counts of Dylann Roof, the young, white male that admitted killing nine African-American worshippers in a church in downtown Charleston, SC broke while I was on the air yesterday. Immediately, I switched topics to reacting to the guilty verdict. When stories like that one break while I’m on the air, the response is always instant and passionate. However, yesterday, the phone lines were very light with callers. I was stunned.
A few people called and their points about Dylann Roof and the consensus was that Roof is evil and should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison. White and black callers all agreed and there was no racial controversy. Interestingly, the guilty verdict is not top of the news today and on many of the news websites the story is not a top priority story. Why?
Since there was widespread agreement on the guilty verdict of Roof among white and black listeners that called or sent text messages, there was no racial controversy – there was racial unity. Without dissention between white and black America, the guilty verdict was more a footnote story in the news rather than a story that generates great passion.
I brought up the topic, but response from the audience was extremely light. The news media also covered the story, but without the controversy, the story did not generate a high level of passionate debate and reaction that most cases involving a white guy shooting black people in a church would have generated.
This is not the only example that illustrates the point that the audience determines what the media covers. Of course, there are exceptions, but overall, the media responds to the desires of the audience. When we don’t like how the media covers a story we want to blame the media, but we are the ones that determine what stories get the most attention.
I have often used this metaphor: “If you look into a mirror and you don’t like the image you see – do you blame the mirror or do you blame the source of the image reflected?”