"Though racism in Canada's social systems and public
institutions takes many forms, racism in the media is one of the most
important areas of inquiry, if we hope to develop effective strategies
and mechanisms for dismantling racism in Canadian society. The media
are one of the most powerful institutions in a democratic society, because
they help transmit its central cultural images, ideas, and symbols,
as well as a nation's narratives and myths. Media discourse plays a
large part in reproducing the collective belief system of the dominant
society and the core values of society (Hall, 1975; van Dijk, 1988).
The media holds up a mirror in which society can see itself
reflected, but as we demonstrate in this book, the mirror's reflections
are sometimes seriously distorted. The media do not objectively record
and describe reality, nor do they neutrally report their facts and stories.
Rather, some media practitioners socially reconstruct reality based
on professional and personal ideologies, corporate interests, cultural
and organizational norms and values (van Dijk, 1988, 91; Fiske, 1994;
Hackett and Zhao, 1998).
We hope that this book offers a constructive critique
of the media and their systems of representation. It is not our intention
to label as racist any particular newspaper, journalist or editor, nor
do we see our role as that of agents of 'cultural thought police.'
We believe that journalists often operate within discursive spaces that
transcend them, and we agree with Hall (1981) and Riggins (1997) who
contend that the media's offerings flow out of a set of complex and
contradictory system of structures, practices and discourses, and not
the personal inclinations of any of its practitioners. As we demonstrate
throughout this book, journalists and editors contribute whether consciously
or not to the marginalization and denigration of people of colour and
other minorities; however our concern is not with individual and prejudicial
attitudes. By focusing on this narrow aspect of racism we would be deflecting
the problem of media representation away from the ideological centres
and the historical, political, cultural, and institutional contexts
within which racism in some of the media has functioned.
Our approach, then, involves examining 'codes of meaning,'
(Hebdige, 1993) -- that is the unquestioned assumptions, values, norms
and practices that are rooted in the dominant culture's ideology and
in the culture of the media organizations. We wish to help uncover and
critically examine what passes as 'everyday commonsense' (Essed,
1990), what mainstream culture defines as 'truth' and accepts
as 'fact,' and, views as 'reality' (Foucault, 1980)."