With constant coverage of Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown, racial issues have once again become the “hot button topic” being discussed by the media.
It is at times like these that journalists have a duty to their readers or viewers to be “truth finders” and cover these issues responsibly while getting all the facts.
At the University of Maryland, professor Anne Farris Rosen, 58, teaches journalism students how to cover issues relating to race in her class, “News Coverage of Racial Issues” at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Students who take her class praise and appreciate her passion about the subject as well as her easy-going personality.
Christine Rice, a senior broadcast journalism major, said “I think Professor Rosen is a great teacher…I really enjoyed this class. I liked that we [not only] learned about race coverage [in the media] but we also learned about [different] minorities: gays, transgender, and people with mental disorders.”
Rice continued saying that Rosen was the type of professor who “allows [her students] to express [their] opinions. She also plays the devil’s advocate on issues to get [them] thinking.”
Elana Dure, a junior multiplatform major, was surprised with Rosen’s passion about the class. She said the way “Professor Rosen teaches was really refreshing” in comparison to her other professors at the university.
Rosen’s passion for journalism and news coverage of racial issues came from her father who was also a journalist who covered civil rights movement.
According to The Washington Post, her father John Herbers rose to prominence by covering civil rights stories such as the Emmett Till case and civil right marches and protests led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
When she was a child, Rosen would often go along with her father on trips for his job. The memories of her experiences with her dad would stay with Rosen and influence her decision to get into journalism.
Her years of experience as a reporter for The New York Times, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Arkansas Gazette gave her opportunities to cover issues from politics to socioeconomic inequalities.
The knowledge she gained from her experiences made her a qualified candidate to teach journalism students at the University of Maryland.
Rosen said that news coverage on the shooting of Michael Brown, the grand jury’s decision and the protest that ignited after, have all been great teaching tools to use for her class.
“We were really sort of preparing for Ferguson in a way. This class started right after the shooting occurred and then we waited until now to see what the grand jury was going to do.”
She then added, “along the way, we prepared to understand the greater story here so we looked at institutions that create barriers and also [institutions] that eliminate barriers for people of diversity. We looked at economic discrepancies, education systems, the legal and criminal systems and how these all sort of played to what we are seeing in Ferguson right now.”
Rosen was pleasantly surprised that the incident in Ferguson had maintained so much coverage because news organizations tend to move quickly from one story to the next.
“This story really has legs. Many times we have very short memories and a story will peak and then you don’t hear about it anymore. But journalists have stayed on top of this story since August and then subsequent to the announcement by the grand jury, so it’s been interesting to watch the coverage.”
Rosen encourages her students to not rely on Twitter feeds, aggregated short articles or television commentators to create a vision or an opinion about what’s going on in Ferguson because “it’s a very complicated story.”
She commends reporters who had in depth coverage of Ferguson because the story has different factors that play a role in the situation we are seeing today.
She said journalists who dig deeper to write articles about the systemic problems that contributed to the tension between police officers and civilians are doing good work of keeping the public informed.