Mall forum focuses on media bias

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The U.S. media are supposed to be the "watchdogs of society," but Friday on the Mall, it was students who turned the tables and reported on how the media is doing its job.

"U.S. Media how do they shape our perceptions of international peoples and nations?" was the topic of last week's Culture Cafe.

"(They shape our perceptions) imperfectly all of the time, and very poorly part of the time," said Don Carson, a UA journalism professor and faculty moderator for the discussion.

Patty Weiss, lead anchor for KVOA-TV, Ch. 4, Tucson, was the discussion leader for the hour-long event which attracted about 150 students.

Weiss said that one of her "pet peeves" is the media's use of stereotypes like "Palestinian terrorist" and "Israeli freedom fighter."

"It colors all of what you hear in the rest of the story," Weiss said.

Carson said that it is the media's responsibility to discriminate between these words, because generally, adjectives are "bad."

Seydou Coulibaly, a Ph.D. candidate in range management is from Mauritania in West Africa, said that in Third World countries, people believed that the United States was ruled by only three powers: the executive, legislative and judicial branches. He said that people soon learned about a fourth power, that of the U.S. media.

Coulibaly, a discussion panelist, said that the media misrepresent his country by reporting mostly starvation, disease and civil war. The only positive aspect people learn about Africa is that it has lions, elephants and giraffes, he said.

"There are 52 countries with different colonial backgrounds," said Thebeyame Chaoka, a Ph.D. candidate in hydrology. "People tend to lump (them) together."

Said Coulibaly, "People go there without a background and are not familiar with the real issues." Coulibaly also said Americans demonstrate an appetite for sensational news.

"People were more concerned with what he (President Clinton) was doing with Gennifer Flowers than with what he was doing in the Oval Office to better the American people," Coulibaly said.

Sam Vahie, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical and computer engineering, said that he does not think that the U.S. Media are the only responsible party for the misrepresentation of news, given the time they have to put it together.

Carson said although the media are not perfect, they try as a profession.

Culture Cafe is a series of interactive forums designed to increase student awareness of global issues. It is sponsored by the International Student Association and Center for International Students and Scholars.

"The world is becoming smaller and smaller," said Justyn LeDrew, who organizes and runs Culture Cafe. "You're going to have to deal with people more with the increase in technology."

There are 2,150 international students from 124 different countries enrolled in academic programs for fall 1995 at the UA. An additional 162 international students are enrolled in the Center for English as a Second Language.

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