Freshman Seminar AMST 190: News Coverage of Ethnic Minorities

Type Cast: Students study historical and current news coverage and examine how it has contributed to public stereotypes, attitudes, behavior, and policy directed at ethnic minorities.
Photos by Kay Hinton.

Faculty CV

Nathan McCall is a senior lecturer in the Department of African American Studies. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Norfolk State University in Virginia. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Martin University. McCall has worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers including the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Virginian-Pilot Ledger-Star. McCall’s research interests center on constructions of racial identities and the impact of those constructions on African Americans and other ethnic groups. He also explores media representations of ethnic minorities and trends in popular culture that reflect and promote social constructions of race. He has published three books, including his autobiography, Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America; What’s Going On, a book of essays exploring politics, race, and culture; and Them, a novel that captures the tension between blacks and whites in today’s urban neighborhoods.

Today’s lecture

An examination of newspaper coverage of Native Americans dating back to the American colonial period and how newspaper representations led to the entrenchment of negative stereotypes. McCall demonstrates through lecture and discussion how public institutions including schools, churches, government, business, and media perpetuated negative stereotypes about Native Americans in order to justify displacing them from their land. The class discussed how the perception gap about ethnic minorities that emerged in colonial times is still recognizable in media coverage today.

Quotes to note

“As a journalist, I have had the experience of interviewing people who hate the media because reporters so often overlook the cultural nuances in issues and events they cover. Your ability to grasp the cultural context in a situation is so important. One reason I enjoy teaching courses such as this is that they help equip students with the tools they’ll need to navigate—with cultural sensitivity—in an increasingly diverse society.” 

“The media is very influential in shaping public perceptions. I try to encourage students to transform from passive consumers of news to being engaged, critical thinkers. This generation of college students, which is so immersed in segmented news, has got to step up and think more broadly and critically about information so that they don’t repeat the same racial mistakes as their predecessors.” —Nathan McCall

Students Say

“We talked about the idea of omission and how not saying something can play as big a role in perpetuating stereotypes as saying something negative. I never really thought about how the things we don’t say can lead to racism as much as the things we do say about people."

—River Bunkley 18C, Brooklyn, New York 

“Racism is so deeply entrenched in our society that we shouldn’t avoid talking about it. In here, not only is it okay to talk about it,but we can do so without fear of what others will think. It is both comforting and important to have a place where we can do that.”

—Hannah Conway 18C, Studio City, California

“I never thought racism would be perpetuated through newspapers like it is. I did not realize race was such a determining factor in how news was covered and how that is shaping people’s perceptions of race.”

—Zahra Punja 18C, Lawrenceville

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