More than a Statistic; Surviving as a minority during the pandemic


By Taylor Howard 

A little over a month after President Trump announced the national 'shelter-in-place', an order that all residents must stay home, US coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million and the death toll continues to rise. 

Though deaths rates are the highest in the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it was recently discovered that minority communities are disproportionately affected by the virus.

Five articles and media outlets covered their reasoning and perspective on the increase in cases within minority groups. 

While CNN, CBS and British Broadcasting Corporation are news organizations, YouTube and Twitter are web applications that connect people around the world through dialogue through visuals or through text. 

CNN is an American news based television network and it is owned by the following: CNN worldwide, a unit of WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Since its founding in 1980 by Ted Turner, it has turned into a 24-hour cable channel and has over 91 million television household subscribers. 

The worldwide streaming broadcast station, CBS News has been on television since its founding in 1927 by William S. Paley and Arthur Judson in New York. CBS broadcasting is a news division of American television and radio service. Though not 24 hours on television, They now operate as a 24-hour digital news network and have over 4 million subscribers. 

Localizing things a bit, the British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service in Westminster, London. Known as the oldest national broadcaster since its founding in 1922, As it is owned by the public and covers over 14 channels.

YouTube is an American online video-sharing platform. Founded in 2005 by Jawed Karim, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley in San Bruno, California, the platform is one of Google’s biggest subsidiaries and brings in over $1.6 billion each year. It houses many news corporations and has over 1.3 billion users. 

Launched in 2006 by several men including Evan Williams and Noah Glass, Twitter is an American blogging and social networking service. As Twitter averages 1.6 billion search queries a day, and holds over 330 million users.

On April 7, 2020, President Trump admitted the racial disparity at the task force briefing, but unsure of what the cause is.

'Why is it three or four times more so for the black community as opposed to other people?' Trump said. 'It doesn't make sense, and I don't like it''    

Trump may be unsure on how to solve the issue, but CNN as well as the local station CBS News mentioned that inequity in minority communities make the citizens more vulnerable to COVID-19.  

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said the death toll for Black Chicagoans was seven times higher than other groups. 

'The numbers take your breath away,' she said. 'The distribution of this disease tells a story about resources and inequality.' 

CBS News mentioned the lack of healthcare and under reporting among minority residents in Chicago. However CNN reported ways the disparity gap is affecting minorities around the country, especially African Americans. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said this conversation is long overdue. 

'My office has been talking about the need for people to understand when they are at risk and when to intervene,' he said. 

The video proceeded with Adams listing several factors such as low socioeconomic status, overcrowding of cities and generational health issues like diabetes. 

Though CBS was more specific to Chicago in its initial article, both news organizations used numerical data to educate the public on how the fast- spreading disease through video and graphics. 

(From Left) This graph shows the percentages of population in its comparison to death rate in several US states. The other graph shows the case rates of coronavirus by race. 

Whether it was local or national news, the focus of the articles was to address the gaps in healthcare and statistical data, as well as credibility in their choice of sources. 

Race is still a factor in this newsroom, however BBC took a slightly different approach addressing the disparities. Their article focused on specific examples, rather than just explaining race. 

The article is loaded with many factors pertaining to the coronavirus, which includes income inequality, occupational factors, housing differences and more. Among the several factors listed, food insecurity and massive layoff was mentioned as a potential factor in obtaining health problems, due to lack of nutrition. 

New York resident Cherlora Williamson is a byproduct of this effect. 

Williamson has been put on furlough and is seeking to apply for unemployment. 

'Instead of making 3 thousand dollars a month, I will only be making $600/month,' she said. 'That's basically being unemployed because my rent, utilities are 900/month.' 

The holistic perspective of the BBC article is similar to the CNN article, as they both highlighted issues in America. BCC took it one step further, by highlighting global inequality. 

As the news outlet highlighted inequality, the article also breaks down racial concepts like environmental injustices and racial biases.  

Not mentioned in the previous articles aforementioned is mentioning cultural factors. BBC reporter shared how biases can discourage minority groups from wearing masks  in fear of ' being seen as a criminal or dangerous, rather than as simply protecting their own health.

Senior in Education Ty'Kira Dubose said that masks may be seen as demeaning  to most. 

'In terms of pretty much post- 9/11, I think that for all minority students, specifically of the Islamic nationality,' she said. 'I think that has then triggered other minority groups to fear what happens or being judged by having their face covered.' 

BBC did not use graphics or videos, however, they used photojournalism and quotations to convey their message in informing the public. Rather than reporting on facts, this article used a more emotional perspective. 

The similarities among the news organizations are challenged to remain objective, while Twitter users are challenged to exercise their freedom of speech. 

With exercising freedom, comes with conflicting viewpoints. One Twitter account stated their opinion that constates the articles used. 

The user said in a Tweet, 'Corona is not a racist disease stop. people are getting it because they're being stupid and going out and touching''.  This form of social media has become a direct source of news outlets. The strategy behind posting such tweets is to provide immediate response and can subconsciously skew the way people perceive specific issues. 

A person's opinion holds validity in which the platform they serve and what Twitter and YouTube have in common is the control users have to post, with no limitations. Used by many news outlets, the video platform captures an array of topics. 

It might be questioned on whether or not a disease can, or cannot be racist, but on ABC's YouTube, Dr. Fauci said that disparities cannot be overlooked after the coronavirus.'

'We are very concerned about that and it’s very sad, but there is nothing we can do about it right now, except to give them the best possible care with its complications.'

ABC posting the task force briefing is another way to reach large masses of people. Because YouTube is the largest video hosting website, the wanting to publish on the channel has increased due to the phenomenon of visual journalism. 

The emphasis on racial disparities is fairly newer information in the media, however, each platform continued to seek additional solutions. 

Circling back to news outlets CNN and CBS, both platforms have utilized video reporting instead. Both produced packages, however, their target audiences have both expanded. 

In the beginning of April when both of the articles were initially published, CNN provided national coverage regarding minority groups and CBS covered local news. However, in the recent articles published, CNN extended their target audience to global news and CBS extended their audiences to national coverage. 

The tone of the articles has taken two different approaches-  the UK minority coverage is updating the increase of minority deaths are causing citizens to make coffins, while the U.S. minority population is getting the virus at a rapid rate, testing sites are being prioritized for communities, like New York. 

'So in Brooklyn alone there are 2.5 million people. So once again, I think they are trying to do their best to provide testing centers close to or in each neighborhood, but I feel like it’s unrealistic. '

Less than 24 hours after its initial post, BBC did not sway from their ethos strategy and also posted a video. This time around, the news organization uploaded a package on YouTube and discussed the healthcare workers who had died. Since the initial article published on April 21, BBC has reached more audiences outside of their website through video outlets and social media outlets. 

Speaking of social media outlets, Twitter audiences continued to voice their opinion regarding the impact on minorities. Whether or not users agree, the application provides an outlet for people to say what they want to say. BBC is an example of how tweets incite opinion. 

Lastly, YouTube has been partnering with various news outlets and has provided NBC, Global News and more. The number of views for packages and briefings have remained consistent throughout the last month. 

  Pew Research has proven that social media has surpassed print newspapers as a source for American. As one-in-five U.S. adults said that they often use social media to retrieve their news over print, consumers can have all the information they need with a touch of an app, and with limited text. 

With nearly 2.4 billion internet users, 64.5 percent utilize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other non traditional media outlets. It is shown that despite initial publications on such topics as minority issues during a pandemic, news outlets are aware that visualization grabs people's attention quickly.

The phenomenon of visual journalism has been prevalent within the 21st century and has increasingly become more popular. With the absence of video, photos, or audio journalism, the story will lack in the quality of coverage of the effects of an issue such as this. 

Using microblogging websites and YouTube with open commentary allows news to be reshared, but has outlets for people to engage and express their opinions as well. It provides a diversity and point of view that objective news outlets cannot provide. 

Senior in the College of Media, Coltrane Zerai-Che agrees that having a platform to voice her opinions has heightened her interest with worldly issues. 

'A lot of times when opinions are based, people want facts to back them up and people are looking for credible and reliable resources and oftentimes a place where you can get those reliable resources are through the news .' 

There is power in respected media outlets and informing the public, but influence in citizen journalism and the freedom of opinion is a privilege Americans have. The mass media plays a crucial role in the millennial generation and by providing a public space for that, it allows one to express themselves, as well as encompass large numbers of people worldwide as well. 

The coronavirus still does not have a cure, but public officials and healthcare/ frontline workers are working to flatten the curve. Despite the differences of the platforms, one thing that remained consistent was the concern to address the disparities in the world. The media industry is only getting more creative in its way of storytelling and traditional networks are shifting with the culture. 

Statistics provide audiences the facts. Photos and Videos show audiences the reality. Social media gives audiences the ability to talk through issues and seek change in communities in which they live. Visual journalism allows audiences the most authentic story. 

Zerai-Che said she believes as journalism increases its multimedia dynamics, it will convey more symbolism and emotion. 

'When I think about how a picture can capture a story, I think of the quote, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' she said , 'Those images tell those stories through those words.'  

With these pictures and addressing racial polarization through these platforms, change can happen in the near future.

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