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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Outside the box: The stories journalists tell

After listening last week to a woman on National Public Radio talk about her eating disorder, I considered writing a column about society’s obsession with physical aesthetics. I could write what studies have shown to be true: that flaunting extremely skinny women on the pages of magazines or on TV is detrimental to the self-concepts of young girls.

But my column couldn’t possibly rival what is making mass media corporations so successful (see, for example, “Desperate Housewives,” “Extreme Makeover,” “America’s Top Model” and almost any magazine at the grocery store targeting a female audience).

Then I thought I’d write about Iraq. I could begin by providing my readers with the current number of American casualties since the war began in 2003-1,436 dead and 10,502 injured-but that number is already circulating in the media.

I could join the thousands of journalists who try to convey to their audience what such a tragedy is like for the families of those who have died. But anything I have to say couldn’t possibly compete with President Bush’s rhetorical catch phrases (“we have to win their hearts and minds,” “stop the evil-doers,” and “spread democracy and freedom”). All have pervaded every newspaper, TV station and radio program because they are easier to digest than images of our soldiers dying.

So I was left thinking about this circuitous conversation we’ve gotten ourselves into. First, we ask the media to show us pictures of our world. They, in turn, bring back what sells. What sells, seemingly, are “sexy” bodies and easy-to-remember phrases that pretend to sum up what we’re doing in Iraq. And then we send our journalists out again to find more of the same.

We as audience members have really become quite hypocritical. On one level, we demand that our journalists be objective and bring us what is true, but then we spend our money and time on what isn’t.

We accept the images of rail-thin models on TV and magazines even though less than 1 percent of women look like them. We allow our journalists to give us news about the war from the White House-news that is really only a repetition of what they heard from the journalist in the press pool who heard President Bush repeating himself.

Not many of us have stopped to think that we give more attention (and money) to the few women who become successful because of an eating disorder than the thousands who suffer and die from one. Not many of us have stopped to think that we give more precedence to the stories told to us by a president with catchy phrases than the people of Iraq and the American men and women who are actually doing the fighting.

Inaccurate portrayals of our world will continue to be produced until we stop consuming them. And until then, anything I write can’t possibly capture as many hearts and minds as Bush and the entertainment media already have.

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