The Listening Post

Ferguson: Riots, race and the media

The Listening Post examines the news coverage of race in the US; plus, fonts and the news media.

When a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the media descended on the St Louis suburb once again. Race issues took centre stage on America’s televisions and in its newspapers.

But many voices accused the mainstream media of giving too much prominence to the potential for violence and not enough to the decision itself. Young black Americans used #BlackTwitter to take journalists to task on their coverage and provide their own version of the truth. Even US President Barack Obama and the prosecutor in the case had critical words for the media.

Talking to us about the Ferguson story this week are: Malkia Cyril, founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice who has led a number of campaigns for racial and economic justice; journalist Mikki Kendall who writes about race and feminist issues; veteran journalist Richard Prince, from the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Prince is known for a landmark complaint he brought against discriminatory practices at the Washington Post in 1972; and Sarah Kendzior, a reporter and anthropologist who has been named the best online journalist in St Louis.

Other stories on our radar: Justice is delayed in the Philippines as another witness is killed in the trial over the 2009 murders of 32 journalists; an outspoken journalist in China has gone on trial for revealing state secrets, as a Chinese newspaper reprimands university lecturers for portraying the country in a negative light; Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan has been released from prison in Tehran after six years behind bars.

This week’s feature: What is in a font? Typography, the way letters are dressed, the way words are designed may seem secondary to the meaning of the words they house. But form affects content. And in the news media, it affects the authority and the credibility of the stories being told. Helvetica conveys more neutrality than Lucida. Arial more sobriety than comic sans. Then there is the global angle to this story – designers of non-western fonts are up against the homogenising effects of a market dominated by Latin script. The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro examines how the choice of typography affects the way audiences perceive the news.

Our closing video this week: Making connections online at the expense of connecting with our fellow humans. A rapper who goes by the name of Prince Ea has made a video called ‘Can We Autocorrect Humanity‘, reminding us all what we are missing when we spend all our time with technology. It has had nearly nine million hits on Youtube, perhaps proving its own point.


Listening Post  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.  

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