Culture” is defined as shared man-made aspects of the environment that can be tangible and intangible, including social institutions such as language, and symbolic systems. Explicit norms include marriage, employment, education, and law, while implicit norms include unspoken rules.Conversely, “class” is defined as a social stratum whose members share certain economic, social, or cultural characteristics.

According to Orbe (1998), in every society a hierarchy exists that is embedded in the culture that privileges some groups above others. Those groups at the top establish the society’s method of communication. This is important because news stories send viewers, readers, and listeners hidden messages that suggest a story’s importance, and ultimately people’s importance within society. 

As a result, class serves as a factor in the media’s coverage of issues. Social theorists view class identity as complex and contradictory, reflecting “multiple class positions that individuals can occupy at different moments in their lives” (Gandy, 1998, p. 26). Gandy argued a political economy of communication that is sensitive to the role that identity plays in both production and consumption. It furthers our understanding of the ways corporate control of media helps to reproduce inequality through the formation of an isolated racial class (Negus & Roman-Velazquez, 2000).

Weber further argued class identity relies not on “an infallible list of occupations for each class” but on “overall, gross differences in the real economic rewards” received by those in different occupations (Landry, 1987, p. 11). Education is also relevant because it is a means to provide workers with different levels of skills that could be bartered in the marketplace. From a Weberian point of view, education is a cause or source of an individual’s class position, rather than a defining characteristic, and income is one of the many rewards resulting from one’s class position.

Previous studies have shown that gender, socioeconomic status, race, and education can make a difference in how reporters frame certain issues. This is of significance, according to Gans (1979), because the majority of journalists come from an upper-middle to upper-class background, which he asserts is a distinctly white perspective.

Van Dijk (1993) adds that: ‘‘News is largely produced by white journalists who have grown up with a set of dominant white group norms and values, which tend to define an overall white perspective on news events.’’  Journalists typically shape and contextualize news content within some familiar frame of reference and according to some latent structure of meaning (p. 245).

As a result, in both news and entertainment media, scholars find that post-civil rights media discourses continue to position Whites at the top of the racial hierarchy in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  African Americans and other races are portrayed as outsiders who need to earn their way into the American Dream as individuals (Squires, 2007).

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