Black Lives Matter’s Public Relation Problem

In the 1960s the civil rights movement struggled with getting white Americans to understand their message of justice and equality. Now more than 50 years later; the Black Lives Matter movement is struggling with the same issue because of a lack of positive news coverage.

One problem many people have with the Black Lives Matter movement is that their protests lead to riots and looting. However, this statement is completely incorrect as reports by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows that almost 93% of all protests relating to the murder of Goerge Floyd had been peaceful. So why do people view BLM as a violent movement? One reason is because of the coverage it gets in the News. For example, a study by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism found that “of 777 news articles from 20 different newsrooms in Texas…[the] press were more likely to emphasize the disruption caused by protests and less likely to emphasize legitimate political grievances,” showing just how biased the and polarizing the News really is. By showing the small violent riots rather than the largely peaceful protest the media is successfully able to divide Americans.

It is incredibly important that media outlets such as Fox News and CNN accurately display the BLM movement because of their massive amount of influence. This large scope of influence exists because for many Americans the news is how they first hear about any given topic. That first contact an individual has with a topic or movement is incredibly important and is one of the most important steps in forming opinions. The media has the ability to portray protesters as thugs who want to loot and burn down society or heroes who want to build something better for everyone.

Although BLM struggles with accurate portrayal in traditional media, one place where they excel is in social media. In fact, according to John Murphy, a University of Connecticut professor, in the 30 days after the murder of Goerge Floyd, the #Blacklivesmatter has been used more than 80 million times, and search queries related to protests for racial equality have become the most searched in Google history. Social media has led to information being shared faster, wider, and much more accessible than in the past. It has led to more facilitated discussions about police brutality and white supremacism all while reaching an audience that activists were not able to reach 50 years ago.

A movement is defined by the message it spreads. For instance, the Suffrage movement was defined by its goal of equal voting rights, while the  Civil Rights Movement was defined by its vision of a desegregated America. Although the Black Lives Matter movement is chasing a similar goal, their message is being undercut by a corrupt media that focuses on the violence of the few rather than the voices of the many.

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