The Name. Of the Game.

Reading Holden’s blog earlier about how sports media tends to pick female journalists based on their looks rather than sometimes personal talent,, made me think. It made me come up with discriminatory actions not only directed towards female journalists, but also lists of ways journalists are discriminated against in general.

I thought and located the most basic of generalizations and discriminations: someone’s simple name.

Freakonomics did a radio podcast claiming, “A kid’s name can tell us something about his parents-their race, social standing, even their politics.”

This means Heathcliff Jones (ok clearly his parents are well-read……ps: I made that name up). River Phoenix has parents that hitch-hiked California and loved the earth (siblings names were: Rain, Summer, and of course Joaquin). And then we have Apple Martin (whose parents, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, named their kids possibly just for publicity…..or because they really liked fruit?

Anyways, moral of the story above is: names mean a lot.


Their study exemplified this name generalization can lead to discrimination. Freakonomics uses an example where specifically african-american names are used against them.

Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney, looked into the Google ad for Instant Checkmate company (company that sells public records) for answers. On the website, Sweeney searched for specifically African-American names and found that these names immediately pulled up an ad suggesting that the person had an arrest record….even though they may not have.

This type of situation confirms that people categorize you based on your name, even when they don’t see your physical appearance.

When Christiane Amanpour’s name shows up at the bottom of the screen, and she is interviewing past President Ahmadinejad, viewers subconsciously associate her with a foreigner. They may think she can bond with the Iranian president or maybe even take his side because she of that descent. Yet if her name was Cindy Smith, people may view her and her interview questions in a completely different light.

The same happens when there are problems with other races and nationalities. If Geraldo Rivera for example reported on an issue involving hispanic descent, viewers may think “oh yea, he knows and can relate to something about that. His name means he’s clearly hispanic.”

However, this is not the case at all, as Rivera was born and raised in New York City. His father was Puerto Rican, but his mother was Russian Jewish.

These are just examples in the media how viewers can make judgements and form personal opinions based on just someone’s name.

This is simply another form of discrimination and of course it happens in our daily lives, not just in media.

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