Media’s Role in Our Violent Society Print E-mail
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Thursday, 11 April 2013 00:00

Less than ten media representatives attended a workshop that was held on Tuesday at the University of the West Indies campus and only two journalists attended the Tuesday night lecture at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. Belizean alumni of UWI organized the event because they are concerned about the violent content in local news. However, there have been countless workshops of the same nature held by organizations such as UNICEF and any attempt of challenging the media to be less graphic in news reporting comes across as an attempt at censorship. Dr. Dunn said, “It is not censorship but simply the need to avoid sensationalism.” She said that the media plays a key role in the socialization of our children and the local news lets them feel like violence is the norm. She said that because of this fact children are raised with a violent frame of mind and “something that could be a simple difference of opinion ends up in a stabbing, shooting or death”.

Dr. Dunn said there needs to be a dialogue with the media owners and news producers because there is no evidence that violence is what the public wants. While there is no official research in Belize to prove that crime and violence is the news on demand, it is confirmed every time a producer checks their internet site hits and every time a casual reader opens a newspaper. Local news producers know this very well and the informal policy of “if it bleeds it leads” will not change anytime soon due to public demand. The Guardian spoke to the news producers of 7 News and Channel 5 News in October of 2012 about violent content in televised newscast. 7 News’ Jules Vasquez said the media has a responsibility to report exactly what is happening in society. He said, “News is when there is a deviation from normal behavior.” He continued, “A dog biting a man is normal behavior but a man biting back a dog is news. We report these deviations from the norm so that the public could be informed when they are happening in order to better protect themselves.” Channel 5’s Amalai Mai said, “We report what is news. We have no control over what happens every day and we are not trying to portray our youths in a negative light but news is news.” Vasquez further said he watches news on a daily basis from different parts of the world and news is the same everywhere.

There are even some reporters who have expressed concern over violent content in local news. Janelle Chanona has said that she is “extremely disappointed at the quality of news reporting locally”. She said, “News in Belize has become ‘infotainment’.” Isani Cayetano said at the Tuesday night lecture, “There are times when even I cringe at what I let pass in my own reporting but for the most part I try to exercise discretion.” Exercising discretion can be a half hearted act considering the very competitive nature of the business. While one individual may hold off the gore and blood, a competitor will be showcasing those that have come to be known as “the money shots”. Money shots because they attract the greater viewership and thus the most advertising dollars. Fact is, the violent content in media will only increase unless the public turns from its addict-like demand for blood and carnage.