Hurricane Katrina: In What Way Can The Media Influence Us?


In his essay “Frames of Reference”, Michael Dyson brings to light how the media conveys false stories based on race. For example, Dyson references the news coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Blacks were being persecuted as “thieves” and “looters” who were taking advantage of such a horrific time. In contrast, whites who were stockpiling food and materials from stores and homes were described as resourceful for gathering resources that they “found” to survive. The essay title, “Frames of Reference”, is a suitable title because Dyson foreshadows how the media smothers the perception of people affected by the horrific events of the hurricane

Dyson brings to light the two pictures painted for the public by the media.

The first photo, “a young black man clasps items in each arm as he forges through the flood waters. The caption to the AP (Associated Press) photo of him reads ‘A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug.

20, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday’ In the second photo as from AP, a young white man and women tote food items in their hands as they carry backpacks and slush through the flood waters. The caption accompanying their photograph reads: ‘Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina can through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.’” (1) On one hand, blacks were perceived as “thieves” and “looters” while whites were just surviving.

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The unique language used to deceive the public is a modern example of discrimination. Dyson states, “The celebration of the media during Katrina is perhaps ultimately ironic since it is the media that has largely been responsible for communicating the cultures spleenful bigotry toward black poor.” (131)

Looking back during the commotion of hurricane Katrina, I do not remember the greed, oppression, and fear bombarding the media focusing on the oppressed Black poor or the superiority of the Whites. I can only perceive that Dyson is more aware of the discrimination put forth by the media because he has felt smothered, bullied, belittled, reduced, and minimalized by their lies. If you are a survivor of discrimination, then you are extremely aware of the power the media has in spreading false information. I do agree with Dyson after viewing the captions that launched an unnecessary attack on blacks during such trying times. “The caption help lend value, and a slant, to essentially neutral photographs.” (124) Given what was occurring people were just trying to survive. If that means taking food from an abandoned grocery store, then so be it. The actions taken by the individuals in the pictures were the same, both doing what they must to survive so yes what the media portrayed was wrong and the discriminating language that was used painted a very different picture than what was occurring.


In her article in USA Today, “Children’s Media Skew Gender: Imbalance Delivers a Damaging Message: Girls Don’t Matter”, Geena Davis is rallying to, “reduce gender imbalance and stereotyping in children’s media.” (288) From 1990-2004 USC’s analyzed the top 101 G-rated movies and confirmed: “that there are three male characters for every one female.” (288) What makes that statistic alarming is that the gender imbalance in television and movies are greater in shows meant for young viewers.

While some might find the numerical statics as just a coincidence, what about the roles the characters play in films and TV. It was discovered that “male characters are half as likely as females to be parents or married, and much more likely to be violent and dumb; those disparities are even greater for male characters of color. As for females in G-rated movies, about a third are either entertainers or royalty.” (288) Kids discover their cultural roles through the perception left behind in media. If a child notices a pattern within media that relates to themselves by color, gender, ethnicity, they believe, “I must count. I see myself.” (2

88) But what about the children who cannot find someone to relate to? “What message are we sending children with so few female characters? Or when male relationships and female accomplishments are devalued?” (288) This is teaching young impressionable minds that girls are “less valuable”, while the decisions boys and girls make are based on their gender which is a closed-minded thought.


In her article in UCLA Daily Bruin “Media Isn’t Feeding Social Ills”, Katie Strickland exposes how society uses the media as a scapegoat. For example, the lower house of parliament in the French government “passed a bill that makes it illegal to incite “extreme thinness.” (290) The purpose of the proposed law was to protect society from “pro-anorexic” Web sites. These sites offer tips and advice on how to “maintain the disorder anorexia nervosa.” (290) Anorexia nervosa is defined as, “An eating disorder causing people to obsess about weight and what they eat.” (290) The proposed bill would punish offenders through fines and even jail time. This would impact magazines, the fashion industry, and many forms of media. While the thought behind the bill has positive intentions behind it, the bill has solely placed the blame of Anorexia on the media. A Psychology professor at Brigham Young who goes by Marleen S. Williams has researched the relationship between, “the media and anorexic women.” (290) Her research has concluded that it is impossible to link the relationship between anorexic women and the media 

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Hurricane Katrina: In What Way Can The Media Influence Us?. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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