April 8, 2014
Aspen Institute

From left: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Fox political analyst Juan Williams, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, discuss race, media and politics during an event held at the Newseum. (Courtesy Aspen Institute)

The State of Race in America

WASHINGTON — One-sided portrayals of minorities in the news and the media's narrow focus on murder and mayhem have a direct effect on Americans' attitudes toward race and their willingness to begin a national dialogue, according to the mayors of two U.S. cities.

Fox News political analyst Juan Williams moderated the discussion that was held April 8 at the Newseum titled "Race, Media and Politics." Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu were the participants. The discussion was part of the Aspen Institute's fourth annual symposium on the state of race in America.

Nutter and Landrieu talked about media coverage of crime in their cities and the social and political impact that a lack of solutions bring.

Americans "are fed a daily diet on the 6 o'clock news of every bad thing that happened in the United States," Nutter said. "How the media talk about crime and portray crime is important. Images and connections do matter."

The mayors agreed that the responsibility for finding solutions to the race and crime problems lies with all Americans. Nutter said media coverage should motivate people to "take action and get things done," similar to what was done during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

"When Americans started seeing on the nightly news the body bags coming back, they said, 'Enough of this.' When Americans saw the dogs and the beatings, they said, 'Enough.'"

The reason Americans are hesitant to talk about race is because "it takes you places you don't want to go," Landrieu said. "Nobody knows how to talk about race in a constructive way."

Nutter and Landrieu's discussion was part of a three-panel program that also focused on housing and violence in minority communities. Ray Suarez, host of Al Jazeera America's "Inside Story," and MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, moderated the other panels.

Comcast co-sponsored the event.

On May 16, the Newseum, in partnership with the Smithsonian, will open a new exhibit that tells the story of how minorities and immigrants used the power of the media to tackle issues in their communities and shape the American experience. The exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2015.

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