Navigating the waters: processing media coverage and working toward more productive portrayals

By Dana Rieck

While this blog has focused mainly on national coverage of female candidates and politicians, it is important to localize the issue to understand how one can work toward a more fair, productive media environment in order to strengthen our democracy and government establishments.

While online campaigns such as Miss Representation seem to be leading the way in social change, I sat down with Jennifer Bone, a CSU communications studies professor, who expressed some doubt in an online campaign’s ability to drastically alter the current state of media affairs.

“My concern is that a majority of the students … going to those sites online are already advocates and supporters of women in the workplace and in politics,” Bone sad. “(So) I always worry that films and shows like Miss Representation are getting an audience of people who already think like-minded.”

However, that does not seem to be a consensus among CSU journalism students, where you can find more optimism about the impact these sites and movements could have on media coverage.

“I think any movement is capable of changing anything,” CSU senior journalism student Kevin Ruby said. “Reddit has a user base of millions and … they really helped in destroying the SOPA Net Neutrality bill a few years ago. If movements on the Internet go so far as to demanding a certain type of media angle, they probably have the power if they have the numbers.”

This power in numbers has recently manifested in the form of networked feminism, a movement in which people ban together online to express their distaste and disapproval of various ads, media coverage and consumer products.

“I enjoy and support what Miss Representation does,” CSU communications junior and Rocky Mountain Collegian copy editor Ashleigh Smith wrote in an email. “I believe what they are doing is progressive and educates well. However, I do not think alone they would have the influence to change the agendas of news media outlets and the corporations they represent.”

Regardless of these movements’ potential impact, Bone urges news media consumers to focus in on the content and messages of a political candidate, for example, instead of feeding into the sensationalized angles surrounding women’s appearance or family status.

“I think that’s really important for readers, and not only just to help with gendered construction of women in leadership but also in educating voters,” Bone said.

By educating themselves, voters let companies hear their voices through social media and consumer choices, Bone said. And one day, a day may come when the content of Hillary Clinton’s speech matters more than how much “cleavage” she is revealing.