Present project seeks to provide thorough analysis of black youth representation in mass media and specifically media coverage of male black youth crime. The basic methodological dilemma, which drew the research is whether mass media’ function according to postmodernism to raise moral panic and distort the real picture of male black youth crime, or in contrast serve as a valuable instrument for understanding the black youth culture.
There is no denying the importance of the fact, that postmodernist mass media is characterized by the essential influence of commercialization ideology, focusing on consumption, entertainment, leisure, rather than addressing crucial social problems. Moreover, its discursive messages are significantly impacted by dominant prejudices, cultural codes and ideologies, which distort genuine order of things in society (Campbell 1995). Postmodernist mass media, notwithstanding their evidently commercial nature, are political in essence and play a primary role in manufacturing ideological and social consensus, concerning the status of black people and their inherent characteristics (Chomsky and Herman 2002).
Mentioned considerations essentially influenced the formulation of present research project’s thesis, which may be outlined as follows: economic and ideological structure of contemporary mass media, characterized by monopolistic consensus concerning basic social and cultural problems results in the essential distortion of black youth social behavior and cultural existence, specifically as far as representation of black male youth crime in media is concerned. Notwithstanding, these negative trends, present project states that mass media still can serve as a valuable tool for in understanding black youth culture.
Aims and Objectives of the Research Project
Proceeding from the stated thesis the following research aims and objectives may be formulated. The primary aim of research is to study the mechanism, which allows postmodernist media being simultaneously a tool for ideological distortion of black youth and a potential valuable instrument for positive study of their culture and social prospects. In the view of achieving the stated primary aim, the following objectives should be achieved.
Analyze the economic and ideological structure and discourse of the media (through the prism of postmodernism), which influenced distorted representation of black youth in terms of crime, racial and cultural characteristics.
Study media discourse in terms of prejudices, racist ideology, distortion etc. against black youth social status and their culture. The later task should be based on addressing specific discourses in mass media, referring to black male crime and general cultural image.
Analyze the influence of postmodern multicultural discourse on black youth representation in mass media in terms of studying the effect of simultaneous overrepresentation and underrepresentation (Gray 1995). Specifically, present project will try to address the issue of overrepresentation of black male youth in criminal news, sports and music (rap) as a marker of postmodernist racial discourses focusing on popularization of traditional distinction between black and white people in terms of physical constitution, temperament and social behavior. In the same vein, the underrepresentation of black youth will be traced in the poor coverage of racist problems and studying black youth social and cultural problems.
Study the process of black youth’s image commercialization in postmodern mass media in terms of representing upper classes of black youth and their consumerist life styles and neglecting the problems of dispossessed black youth and their social problems, resulting in engaging in criminal activities.
Finally, present research project would try to assess the potential of postmodern mass media in understanding real social problems of black youth and their culture.
Methodology and the literature
Present research project focuses on a number of approaches and methods in analyzing the research question. General structure of postmodernist mass media in terms of monopolization, commercialization and ideological distortion is studied through the prism of media studies approach, presented in the works of McChesney, Chomsky and Herman (McChesney 2007, 2008; Chomsky and Herman 2002).
The mentioned approach focuses on critical analysis of mass media in the context of their role in reproducing dominant ideological and economic consensus and studying mass media’s limits in terms of value-free and objective representation of events and cultures.
The racist and post-racist discourse in relation to black youth is studied through the prism of the ideology critique method, which was first formulated by T.W. Adorno and M. Horkheimer. The latter method studies representation as a tool of power, providing dominant minority with possibilities of creating distorted image of objective reality (Adorno and Horkheimer 1989).
Moreover, present research project utilizes the method of critical discursive analysis, developed by Fairclough and designed to study concrete discursive material as a separate object of analysis. It would help the present research to isolate separate elements of distortion and to study how they function in the media discourse (Fairclough 1995).
Concrete analysis of postmodern mass media focuses on a wide range of literature, existing on the discussed issues. The bulk of chosen literature focuses on representation of black people in modern mass media, including the studies of Bierman (1999), Bowen and Schmid (1997). Dates, Jannette (1980), Gray (1995). The issue of racist and other ideologies is specifically addressed in the studies of Campbell (1995) and Gaston (1986), Hall (1977). The specific problem of black youth crime representation in contemporary mass media is specifically addressed in the crucial studies of Oliver (1994), Peffley, Shields and Williams (1996).
In order to complete the present project in time, one has to gradually follow designed plan in the view of meeting the key objectives. The project’s timetable is divided into several stages: the first is elaboration of viable methodology, based on its thorough adaptation to the research questions; the second stage is analyzing research questions, drawing on the relevant literature and data; finally, the third stage represents assessing the effectiveness of research and making concluding remarks on it.
2. Learning and research process
On the current stage of research project I am engaged in elaboration of methodology and collecting viable literature on the research problem. Moreover, I analyze and interpret main research questions to organize them into coherent structure. Present research represents difficult endeavor, which points immediately on my own strengths and weaknesses. First of all, the study of ideological distortion and prejudices against black youth in mass media requires effective synthesis of several approaches and methods, including critical discourse analysis, ideology critique and media studies. The latter synthesis should be coherent enough to help us study the misrepresentation black youth crime both at structural (society, ideology) and discursive level of concrete images and media coverage.
Moreover, one of our strengths is a wide range of literature on the topic, which helps collect necessary data and study the way in which different scholars utilized their methods.
The difficulty of creating the structure and organization of the project was the most burning problem. However, the workshops I attended helped me resolve the problem through effective recommendations relating to content, necessary research questions, possible methodology etc.
Visiting library was also very helpful, because the librarian advised some viable ideas. For instance, it refers to the idea of seeing media distortion against black youth through the prism of simultaneous overrepresentation and underrepresentation.
The research process helped me find differences and similarities between present research project and previous assignment. However significant differences in structure exists, each assignment, including this one, focuses on such issues as elaboration of clear methods, approaches, formulating relevant objectives and research questions.
3. Summary of progress
Current position in relation to the research plan may be outlined as follows. I have advanced my elaboration of methods and approaches. Several central methods were chosen, including media study approach, critical discourse analysis and ideology critique, which proved to be very effective in the analysis of media distortion and prejudices. Moreover, I have already studied collected literature on the topic including methodological literature, studies on black youth crime representation, racism as ideology etc. Several research questions were already addressed. The later includes the analysis of the mechanism and discourse of media distortion against black youth. The elements of racism were found in media representation of black crime, black athletic and sports achievements. Moreover, negative consequences of multiculturalism and political tolerance were assessed in creating new ‘mild’ forms of racism, affected by commercialization and assault of popular culture. Apart from this, general theoretical issues of ideology, racism, and media functioning in modern economy were specifically addressed in the context of analyzed research question.
Finally, I have formulated main research aims and objectives, which would become the basis of the research projects’ structure. Some of the objectives were already studied at length; others are not yet properly elaborated.
During elaboration of research designed I have encountered upon several significant difficulties. One of them was the difficulty of synthesizing several crucial approaches in a single methodology. However, the latter task was already realized by means of in-depth study of their similarities and interconnections.
Secondly, one of the main difficulties was studying mass media’ representation of black youth crime as simultaneously negative and at the same time having potential for positive and objective representation. However, the latter problem was resolved by means of thorough analysis of postmodernist discourse on mass media and examining positive trends in modern mass media.
Another difficulty was collecting necessary literature on the research question. The lion share of literature addresses general topics of black people’ representation in mass media, while a specific problem of black youth crime’ representation is understudied. Moreover, I have encountered upon essential lack of literature addressing my research question through the prism of methods and approaches I have chosen.
There exists a wide range of research on racism, black culture, ideology, mass media etc., however as a rule they utilize methods and approaches, which are different from what is chosen for the present research project.
Apart from this, an essential difficulty was encountered upon constructing viable structure and research questions. The main problem was synthesizing mass media representation of black youth in terms of positive and negative implications for black youth social status and behavior.
To sum it up, present research project is at the middle stage of its elaboration: all basic organizational efforts have been already made, however the contours of certain research questions and objectives are not yet properly outlined.
Adorno, TW., and Horkheimer, M 1989. Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Continuum.
Bierman, JA. 1990. ‘The Effect of television Sports Media on Black Male Youth’, Sociological Inquiry, Fall, vol. 60, no. 4, pp.413-427.
Bowen, L and Schmid, J 1997. ‘Minority Presence and Portrayal in Mainstream Magazine Advertising’. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 74, no. 1, pp. 134-146
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Oliver, MB 1994. ‘Portrayals of Crime, Race, and Aggression in “Reality-based” Police Shows: A Content Analysis’. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 38, no.2 , pp.179- 192.
Peffley, M and Shields, T and Williams, B. 1996. ‘The Intersection of Race and Crime in Television News Stories: an Experimental Study’. Political Communication, July/Sept., vol. 13, pp. 309-327.