Choose the wide lens

Stand on your head

Stand on your head

Students will stand on their heads when they enter my class in three weeks.

I will be urging them to view communication through a wide lens.

Most of us find it more fun to examine life through the prism of individuals.

We love stories of heroes, from Geronimo to Wonder Woman.

Scientists conduct experiments on individuals, testing for diabetes and flesh-eating bacteria.

Recent generations have been accused of focusing on “me,” demonstrated through the flurry of selfies on social media.

But taking a more macro approach, a wide view, lets us see patterns in play that escape us when looking at individuals.

So I’ll be asking students to step back from the isolated news story and look at the culture of news creation.

Don’t think about individual reporters you admire. Instead, think about the patterns of news that emerge surrounding an important story.

When we see patterns in news stories over American Indian relics and remains we move beyond one view and examine the entire arena of coverage.

Stories seldom dig deeply into Indian beliefs, instead reducing ways-of-knowing to ethereal notions that sound like New Age mysticism.

So it’s easy to paint Indian worldviews as simplistic and outdated.

Scientists, on the other hand, are depicted as the authorities on progress.

In summary, news coverage reveals the social mores of the news culture in which stories are created.
When my students stand on their heads, my hope is they’ll see social reality with fresh eyes.

Photo of the author lecturing, courtesy of Kayla Nguyen, the Vanguard newspaper

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, framing, Indian, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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