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How Media Can Make the World More Ethical and Equitable


The modern world can hardly be called ethical and equitable. Many people live on the streets or cannot afford a decent standard of living. Women still experience the impact of a gender wage gap (Olsson & Martiny, 2018). People not conforming to their biological sex and gender expectations are still faced with prejudice and have to fight for their rights. All these issues result in a situation when some individuals seem to be more privileged than others, which contradicts the idea of an ethical and equitable world. However, these circumstances can be improved, and one of the sources of change for the better could be the media. The media may help people achieve a more ethical and equitable world by raising awareness of current inequities and ameliorating public attitudes toward disadvantaged populations by increasing their media coverage.

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How Media Shapes Ethical and Equality Aspects of Life

The media has a significant influence on people’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Individuals may feel relaxed and cheerful after watching an entertaining program and upset or disturbed when switching to the evening news. Media has the power of shaping public debate; for example, the media coverage of the killing of George Floyd gave a new rise to public discussion of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Media may have an even more dramatic impact on what is happening in the world. Christians (2019) argues that the depiction of violence on television and digital media is unethical because of its potential negative effects on the audience. For instance, it is assumed that tragedies such as the Columbine High School shooting stem from the culture of violence reinforced by media (Christians, 2019). What these examples show is that the media is a powerful instrument for shaping public opinion and behaviors. Therefore, it is vital that this tool is used for the right purpose, and one of such goals can be the promotion of the idea of an ethical and equitable world.

The Media’s Impact on Disadvantaged Groups

One way in which media can help people pursue social justice is by eliminating racial bias. Research shows that media has a considerable impact on the audience’s perception of race and ethnicity (Mastro, 2017). Furthermore, it affects not only people’s attitudes toward the racial background of their peers but also toward their own one. It means that the unfavorable depiction of ethnic minorities may have both societal and individual effects. On the personal level, the negative media depiction of racial and ethnic groups leads to shame, anger, and low self-esteem, while positive portrayal improves self-esteem and evokes the feeling of pride (Mastro, 2017). On the society level, unfavorable media representation of racial groups may lead to persisting stereotypes and the adoption of unsympathetic policies (Mastro, 2017). In contrast, even a single positive media exposure of the white audience to ethnic minorities leads to more friendly attitudes toward them (Mastro, 2017). These findings suggest media has the power of reducing racial bias and discrimination by providing more positive portrayals of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Another way for media to promote equity and ethics is by debunking gender stereotypes persisting in society. According to Olsson and Martiny (2018), traditional patriarchal gender roles still exist in the professional world in many countries. For example, men rarely occupy positions in elementary education, health care, and domestic functions, while women seldom have careers in top management and STEM fields (Olsson & Martiny, 2018). Overcoming gender stereotypes, particularly in the professional area, is likely to result in multiple benefits for individuals and society. For instance, increasing women’s representation in traditionally male professions and men’s occupation in female careers has the potential of reducing the wage gap, addressing labor shortages, and fostering gender equality (Olsson & Martiny, 2018). Media has a large role in achieving this goal because research shows that exposure to counterstereotypical role models at any stage of individuals’ lives may alter people’s perception of gender roles (Olsson & Martiny, 2018). Hence, it is recommended that media should provide more portrayals of gender roles that do not conform to stereotypes to reduce inequalities stemming from gender differences.

Finally, media can help create a more ethical and fair world by confronting prejudice against the LGBTQ community. Transgender people seem to be the most vulnerable individuals within this group because their rights have been constantly violated. For example, they were banned from serving in the military in 2011 and again in 2016 under the Trump administration. Moreover, transgender women are often subject to social stigma and even physical violence (Solomon & Kurtz-Costes, 2017). However, media has the power to change this situation for the better. Research shows that media coverage of transgender people can influence people’s attitudes toward this group (Solomon & Kurtz-Costes, 2017). Even a short exposure to a negative representation of transgender individuals worsens people’s attitudes toward them (Solomon & Kurtz-Costes, 2017). In contrast, repeated positive exposures lasting at least two hours in total improve the audience’s view of transgender individuals (Solomon & Kurtz-Costes, 2017). These findings prove that media is well-positioned to influence public opinion about transgender people, thus making it possible for a positive change in policies protecting their rights to occur.

The Rationale for Focusing on Media

One may object that there are more influential ways of pursuing a more ethical and equitable world than media. For example, one can propose such options as enacting new policies, reforming the tax system, or reducing the cost of college education and healthcare. However, decisions made at the governmental level usually require public support, at least in democratic countries like the US. Media is the power that helps build people’s positive attitudes toward vital issues, such as reducing inequality, which is why media is often called the fourth branch of the government. In the previous times, this was the role of television and print newspapers; nowadays, it is the responsibility of various digital media. Online publications, podcasts, movies, and social media posts have the power to improve people’s views of racial and ethnic minorities, gender roles, and the LGBTQ community by increasing their coverage. Although the effect of these interventions is indirect, it is important for shaping public opinion, thus paving the road for more substantial changes in policies and society.


There are still many inequalities in terms of income, healthcare, housing, public attitudes, and other aspects of life. However, media is the instrument that can help people improve the situation and move closer toward a more ethical and equitable world. Increased media coverage of disadvantaged groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ community, can help reduce bias and stereotypes pertaining to them and improve their position in society. Improving public attitudes toward underprivileged populations is an important step toward fighting inequality and establishing social justice.

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Christians, C. G. (2019). Media ethics and global justice in the digital age. Cambridge University Press.

Mastro, D. (2017). Race and ethnicity in US media content and effects. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication.

Olsson, M., & Martiny, S. E. (2018). Does exposure to counterstereotypical role models influence girls’ and women’s gender stereotypes and career choices? A review of social psychological research. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 2264.

Solomon, H. E., & Kurtz-Costes, B. (2017). Media’s influence on perceptions of trans women. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(1), 34–47.

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