Rachel Grant Comments on Media Coverage of Tragedies in Diverse Communities
Rachel Grant, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Journalism assistant professor, was quoted in “How WA’s Worst Mass Shooting Isolated Seattle’s Chinese Americans” published in Crosscut on Feb. 15.
The article chronicles the 1983 Wah Mee gambling club massacre, where both the perpetrators and victims were Chinese Americans. Journalists covered the aftermath of the tragedy, but some may have also exploited a vulnerable community navigating a deeply personal tragedy.
The article also references initiatives that have responded to media issues including the Narrative Justice Project, where Grant is research director, which trains communities of color in telling their own stories. The project was founded as a tactical response to structural racism in popular media representation and landscape.
According to Grant, “You have, especially now, cable news, prime-time news, major media conglomerates, parachuting in and not knowing the actual cultures or communities.”
Grant pointed to various ways the media can cause harm, from trying to get the emotional reactions of families who haven’t had time to process what’s happening around them to using language that characterizes people as “illegal” or “criminal.”
She acknowledged that many reporters are often doing a job that doesn’t always give them adequate time or space to go in-depth.
“Present-day tragedies are not immune from the media frenzy that ensued after Wah Mee and combating this requires more than just hiring a few diverse reporters,” Grant said. “Representation – having Black, brown, and Asian reporters – does not necessarily translate to correct or equal reporting. Reporters need to be more culturally informed and understand the histories of those who have been disenfranchised or discriminated against over time.”