Soledad O'Brien Talks Reporting On Protests on "Matter of Fact"

McKenzie Jean-Philippe
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Hearst
Photo credit: Hearst

From Oprah Magazine

  • On October 8, one of virtual episodes of Hearst's series Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien live streamed across their news stations, newspapers, and magazines.

  • The show, hosted by Soledad O'Brien, aims to start conversations about "race, equality and justice."

  • O'brien spoke to Black Lives Matter founder, Alicia Garza, about racial bias in journalism.

On Thursday, October 8, Hearst Television showed a special virtual episode of the series Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, which aims to interact with viewers by leading timely and urgent conversations about "race, equality and justice."

In the first of four virtual episodes, Thursday's “The Hard Truth About Bias: Images and Reality” saw O'Brien speak to activists, scholars, and journalists about how racial bias negatively impacts various aspects of American life. The premiere segment focused on how large of an effect journalism has in both dissuading and encouraging stereotypes in the country.

"The work of journalists intensifies during times of unrest and protest," said O'Brien, an award-winning journalist herself. "The decisions we make about how to describe what's happening are critical to audiences knowing the truth. The language we use can define the issues or play into prejudice."

In the wake of the tragic police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—in combination with the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic—thousands across the country have taken to the streets in demonstrations that are overwhelmingly peaceful. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) reports that from May 22 to August 22, there were more than 10,600 protests. Just 5% of those resulted in violence.

However co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza, explained to O'Brien that the way the movement is presented in the media portrays a different story. This phenomenon is so prevalent that Harvard University's Nieman Journalism Lab developed a term for it: "the protest paradigm." It's defined below.

"... a mode of coverage in which (predominantly mainstream) news organizations portray protests as illegitimate by emphasizing violence and attributing it to the protesters, and marginalizing the protesters’ grievances."

"The reality is in the majority of protests across the country, there isn't any property destruction," Garza said. "Black people taking to the streets is seen as edgy and dangerous and something that people want to watch. We've always kind of been framed within this kind of context of when Black people get angry it's destruction that happens, and it's a racist idea that unfortunately is enduring and it's not just in fiction or reality television, right?"

She continued, "When we look at news coverage, it's supposed to help people be smarter about what's going on around them and be more engaged citizens. That's the whole purpose of journalism. And yet when we make these kinds of failures in telling stories is what we're doing quite frankly is numbing people and dumbing people down."

If you want more of O'Brien and Matter of Fact, keep an eye out for more revelatory virtual forums that will continue into 2021. So you know exactly where to watch, head over to MatterOfFact.tv for all the info you need. But in the meantime, catch the full first episode below.

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