What Role Do the Media Play in Social Justice?
We’ve all had the experience of being captivated by a sensational story of a harrowing crime. Television shows, movies, articles, and books about these statistically rare events grab our attention and grip us in fear. They feed the idea that catching only the few very bad people and locking them up for life is the bulk of what the justice system does.
Reality is far more complex, of course. From mass incarceration for nonviolent crimes to overrepresentation of black people in the justice system, there are thousands of stories that deserve to be told, not just because they are real people’s experiences but because they raise questions that we as a society need to face.
It is the media’ s role and responsibility to tell the stories we as citizens need to hear. When stories are compelling and accurate, they move us to think more deeply, connect with those we might have not felt connected to, and act to change our world.
That’s why each year, through our Media for a Just Society Awards, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency recognizes those individuals in the media whose work furthers public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, child welfare, and adult protection issues. The winners of the 2013 MJS Awards competed against over 100 other nominees in the categories of film, book, magazine, newspaper, radio, TV/video, and web. This month, NCCD is featuring many MJS winners in a special blog series. Through these posts, we will learn about the impetus for their work, the challenges of its creation, and what these issues mean to them.
Let’s Start With a Story: Why You Should Talk to the Media
In September, I traveled to Florida for a journalism conference largely based on my enthusiasm for a panel tantalizingly named “The Maddening World of Media Access to Prisons.” Although it didn’t specifically address juvenile facilities, the discussion aimed to help journalists like me get better information from people at correctional centers.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, the biggest change in reporting on prisons is how every state agency now has multiple Public Information Officers, “people whose job it is to deny you access to things,” said panelist Charles Davis, a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri. It was “frustrating and ironic,” Davis said, that as the journalism industry struggles financially and “as boots on the ground in terms of journalists go down, the number of minders is going up.”
When journalists can’t get access, one of the results is an abysmal lack of public awareness about important issues, said panelist Jessica Pupovac, a Missouri journalism graduate who spent a year-long fellowship compiling a reporter’s toolkit for accessing state prisons.
Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth
It's safe to assume that we'd all like to see youth violence reduced if not eliminated. And there's plenty of work going on in this area.
But there are some major obstacles to successfully addressing youth violence in a systemic, effective way, argue Lori Dorfman, DrPH, and Lawrence Wallack, DrPH, authors of a fascinating paper called, "Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth." [Dr. Wallack is a colleague of Dr. Laura Nissen, the national director of Reclaiming Futures.]
One of the most important obstacles: violence is almost always framed -- especially in the media -- as the responsibility of an individual. And while it's true that individual choice is part of the explanation, it's not the whole explanation. By talking about violence only in terms of individuals, we subtly suggest that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. That makes it difficult for anti-violence advocates, who know that violence can be reduced and prevented by a broad-based focus on the environmental factors that contribute to it.
Roundup: Juvenile Drug Court Grants from SAMHSA; Juvenille Justice Reform Survey; Using the Media to Support Reform; and More
Juvenile Justice System News - An Important Survey, plus Webinars and One Grant Opportunity
- Please take or pass on this quick online survey for kids who used to be in the juvenile justice system, family members of kids in the system, and people of color new to the field of juvenile justice reform. The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) compiled the survey to help shape its first Juvenile Justice Leadership Development Institute, which it plans to hold in July 2010. The mission of the Institute is to create a "more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies, with a particular focus on cultivating and supporting leaders of color, youth and family members." Hurry, though, the deadline to complete it is Monday, December 14th!
Hope, Help & Healing: Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction - Part 2 of 2
[Steve Pasierb is President and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. This is Part 2 of a 2-part post; find Part 1 of Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction here. -Ed.]
Treatment messages must include a "call to action" to a phone line and, importantly, a web resource to learn more about options for help. It was found that a dedicated Web site was an essential resource for the public on addiction issues, and that media can effectively promote this resource, generating strong traffic and lengthening visit time.
Hope, Help & Healing: Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction - Part 1 of 2
[Steve Pasierb is President and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. This is Part 1 of a 2-part post. -Ed.]
A research-based communications exploratory by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) produced a set of 10 “lessons learned” that can be applicable to all working to communicate with the public on addiction treatment. It also became the foundation of the Partnership’s ongoing collaboration with the Treatment Research Institute (TRI), which has produced a range of innovative, useful new intervention tools like Time To Act.
Our work with RWJF identified three public attitudes that must be counteracted:
Who's Responsible for Ending Youth Violence? An Op-Ed from a Reclaiming Futures Site
Karen Carpenter, the Community Fellow for our site in Rowan County, North Carolina, let me know that her op-ed on who's responsible for ending youth violence appeared in yesterday's Salisbury Post.
A sad occasion -- the shooting death of a teen in Salisbury -- but an eloquent call for mentors for teens who need them. Good work, Karen!
Reclaiming Futures on Comcast Newsmakers
- Want a quick orientation to Reclaiming Futures?
- Work for a Reclaiming Futures initiative, and wonder how to do an "elevator speech" about it?
Check out Dr. Laura Nissen, National Director of Reclaiming Futures, in this brief, 4-minute interview on Comcast Newsmakers. It aired in a break on Comcast's CNN Headline News in late December.
Round-up: State Budget Gaps, Research on Alcohol and Kids, Vulnerable Populations in Juvenile Justice
Even though it was a holiday week, I ran across a number of interesting stories and resources.
Mentors for Youth in the Justice System - Seattle's 4C Coalition
UPDATE: The 4C Coalition recently joined the National CARES Mentoring Movement, which states that it has "mounted the largest mentor recruitment effort in the history of this nation aimed at securing the lives of our young black boys and girls." CARES has mentor-recruitment circles in 53 communities across the country, including several other Reclaiming Futures sites: Anchorage, Chicago, Dayton, and Greensboro (Guilford County). Is your community part of the movement?