GYC Village

blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff

Breaking Media Stereotypes

by Kate Novak

Kate Novak’s fellow volunteers (Eriel and Nina) on 21st Street in Queensbridge, near the public housing complexes discussed in this blog.

In the modern world, most people have at least some virtual portal of communication. Whether it be through the use of Facebook or simply using a cell phone, it would appear that those living with this ubiquitous technology could rarely come into actual contact with another human being.

According to CNN, 63% of people obtain their news via the internet and since interaction with others seems to happen only out of necessity, it would be logical to deduce that more and more people are having their ideas shaped by the media. I was one of those people. Being one of those people that had my ideas shaped by the media, I sought out a personal experience to expand my horizons.

While participating in the Global Youth Connect program, I had the privilege of volunteering for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). My task was to go to low-income areas in Queens and inform residents about summer food programs for their kids. During the school year, public schools provide both breakfast and lunch for kids; since schools are out for the summer, parents are now responsible for feeding their children those two extra meals. For low-income families, this could mean having to choose between food or another necessity (health care, rent…).

When I first got onto the subway to head to this area I did not know what to expect when arriving in the neighborhood. According to the media, “public housing,” “low-income areas,” or, to use the common term, “the projects” are a stomping ground for gang violence and drugs; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that representation false. Due to media influence, I expected to see unkempt buildings covered with graffiti, instead I found a well-kept neighborhood with clean sidewalks and play grounds. The people with whom I spoke seemed pleasant and grateful to know that programs like NYCCAH‘s were being offered. As a matter fact, I did not see one person that seemed to fit the description of a gang member or any building that had been vandalized by graffiti. By the end of the day, my ideas of what low-income areas are began to change.

The mainstream media holds such power in the population especially over the youth, it is a shame that it does not put its influence to better use – such as human rights advocacy. Not to say all media outlets do not empower human rights, it is just unfortunate that most of those outlets are not mainstream yet. In my opinion, the mainstream media should take an approach at reporting the news with showing respect and dignity to human rights while educating the public.

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