Von Discusses Media Diversity
Talk show host feels media don't cover community thoroughly.
By Kaitlyn Lucier
Eric Von spoke to about 30 audience members in the Union Wednesday afternoon about his career in radio, the lack of color in media, and where media will be in the future.
The event was sponsored by the Minority Media Association (MMA), which is a group that focuses on increasing diversity between students. The organization offers forums and events that present different perspectives on media.
Von is a popular radio talk show host for 1290 WMCS and is on the air every morning. On his show, he gives his perspective on Milwaukee issues and current politics. The sound of typing begins instantly as Von talks about his opinion on media in Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee media inadequately involves people of color and creates a wall that prevents them from success or progress,” said Von. However, he says that it is not just Milwaukee media; it is all media.
Shakara Robinson, President of the MMA, talked about the lack of African American men in TV news. She said that African American men might not want to work in TV because of the negativity towards urban communities.
“When you work for a news station, they tell you what to report on. So it may be uncomfortable to sit night after night and report that a black person did this and a black person did that,” said Robinson.
According to the Milwaukee Police Department, crime rates have continued to drop.
http://city.milwaukee.gov/DailyNewsArchives/2010April/MilwaukeePoliceAnnounceContinuedCrimeDrop.htm. But Von said that the context of crime stories has not changed. He talked about how crime is a problem everywhere but the news approach is different in certain areas.
“There’s an ease at which the media approaches certain stories,” said Von. Von said that crime stories in suburban communities try to convince viewers that the suburbs are still safe. This is not the same with news regarding the urban community.
During Mayor Barrett’s campaign, Von was Deputy Campaign Director. Although he no longer gets involved with politics, he still talks about relevant political issues on his show.
Scott Walker has been a topic for discussion throughout the state as well as on Von’s radio show. He said that the plan will damage many lives and that he does not agree with the way Walker went about introducing the budget.
“You would hope that he understands that he may have gone too far. My impression is that he’s gone too far with this and I think that there will be repercussions,” said Von.
Von is on-air from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. everyday, but he says those three hours are not enough time to talk about the issues. Robinson listed a few of these key issues in urban communities.
· Teen pregnancy
· Health care
According to the radio station’s website, 1290 WMCS began as 1290 WMVP in 1986. Over the course of 10 years, WMVP became WMCS, which stands for “Milwaukee’s Community Station.” The station focuses on talk shows to get the issues out into the public, especially in the urban community.
Robinson said that that community issues are disproportionate between African Americans and other groups. There are more liquor stores in urban communities and less access to hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics.
“But in terms of a suburban community, all of that stuff is there and you don’t really see a lot of liquor stores and things like that unless it’s at Pick n’ Save,” Robinson said.
Von said that, in this community, there is not enough diversity in print and that Milwaukee inadequately involves people of color. “You don’t hear many voices of color,” said Von.
Von originally aspired to be a disc jockey but there was not enough talk in music. He was born and raised in Washington D.C. and moved to Wisconsin in 1991.
He worked in radio for a couple years where he experimented with music, news and talk. Since then, Von has been doing the same talk show on and off for the past 20 years. His fan-base includes both supporting and opposing listeners. He said that appreciates both sides because it gives listeners the opportunity to debate their opinions.
“I don’t try to be contentious or anything. I just state things from my point of view based on the facts that I’ve gathered,” Von said. Von said that, although people may not always agree with him, they appreciate his insight.
Media in the future
Besides the lack of diversity in media, Von talked about the future of news. He agreed that newspaper readership is declining and that online news has become the replacement.
“Across the country, newspaper viewership or readership is declining and that’s because people are getting their news online,” said Von.
Von established himself as a popular radio talk show host without a degree in journalism or broadcast. In the audience were several Journalism & Mass Communication (JMC) students.
Marit Harm is a junior at UWM and came to the presentation for a journalism elective class. Her favorite part of the presentation was hearing Von’s different perspectives on the media landscape of Milwaukee. However, she said she felt differently about the future of media.
“I guess my least favorite part would be that I left the presentation feeling pretty pessimistic about the future of the media’s ability to diversify and give equal coverage to all demographics of Milwaukee,” said Harm.