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Are People Experiencing Media Fatigue Over Police Brutality?

Posted in Civil Rights,Freddie Gray on July 6, 2018

Media fatigue is a very real problem in the Age of Technology. With thousands of messages coming at the average consumer every day, becoming overwhelmed by media is common. “Media fatigue” describes a user pulling back from the media after becoming overwhelmed by too much press on a certain subject – or any subject at all. Media fatigue not only impacts the individual user but can also impede social awareness of major problems, such as police brutality.

New Media Frenzy Over an Old Problem

Police brutality is not a new issue. Sources such as the Smithsonian Institution show the public that it’s an old problem with historical evidence dating back 100 years and further. Yet the headlines in the last several years make it sound like police violence and excessive use of deadly force is a problem the African-American community has only been facing recently. In reality, the wave of deaths from police altercations making the news is simply the result of increased mainstream media coverage.

Police brutality has gained notoriety in recent years for a variety of reasons. One of the main changes has been new video-recording technologies. Thanks to almost every civilian having the power to record police officer traffic stops and arrests, more footage of police brutality has surfaced in the last few years than ever before. It is more difficult for people to dismiss hard video evidence of brutality than someone’s verbal accounts or allegations. Thus, police brutality has gained credibility it lacked in the past.

Signs of Media Fatigue

Increased media, visibility, awareness of police brutality can help instigate new laws and real change, such as the recent Baltimore policy change. The city now requires police officers to pay punitive damages (often tens of thousands of dollars) to victims of police violence out of their own pockets – a departure from the old policy, in which the law enforcement agency would pay the price. Too much media coverage on a subject, however, can lead to media fatigue.

Signs of media fatigue include:

  • Feeling annoyed by news stories and media outlets
  • Lack of urgency to fix issues or respond to problems
  • No engagement with the story or media source
  • Skimming or browsing instead of reading content
  • Unsubscribing to email updates/unfollowing social media accounts
  • Canceling newspaper/magazine subscriptions
  • Downplaying or ignoring events in the news
  • Assuming the story is fake, biased, or overdramatized
  • Shutting off the news/logging off social media sites
  • Believing the problem is gone due to lack of press 

When it comes to police brutality, media fatigue could be hurting rather than helping the cause. Advocates for changes in law enforcement, as well as those seeking justice for victims killed at the hands of negligent, criminal, and overzealous officers, want this matter to make the news. Unfortunately, too much press could be a bad thing.

Is the Public Tired of Hearing About Police Brutality?

News stories highlighting police brutality drummed up lots of attention in the beginning, but now numbers are dwindling in terms of people getting involved and fighting for a real change in law enforcement procedures. The change of heart isn’t because police brutality has ended. Instead, it’s likely due to the phenomenon of media fatigue.

Social media and national news outlets shed light on police brutality and brought the subject to the masses. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter stormed the internet and thousands of people rallied for change in the streets of major cities around the country. Yet today, accounts of police brutality in Baltimore and elsewhere don’t get as much press. Instead, consumers are interested in other pieces of news. Media fatigue may have led the public to withdraw from the fight to end police brutality – yet the issue remains.