Media Perceptions Can Deny Job Opportunities

Article excerpt

Why is it that Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans are having a hard time finding work? Negative stereotypes play a part.

Media reports, public opinion polls and academic analyses have all bemoaned the misperceptions and stereotypes. Yet virtually none have probed the source of the problem, or asked the most important question. And that is, where do these damaging myths originate? Who perpetuates them?

Perhaps that is because those most responsible are doing the reporting. Except for the relatively rare instances where a personal connection exists, the ordinary American forms his or her views on veterans based on newspaper/magazine/ Internet stories and/or TV shows and Hollywood movies.

Both venues have dished out a steady diet of PTSD, TBI, suicide and homeless horror stories for years. Often, they are linked to violent crime and family tragedy. The unhinged vet is again becoming a staple of TV crime dramas. Under a constant barrage of downbeat statistics, how could employers ever be expected to have informed views?

Fortunately, a few observers are finally beginning to take note. "It's unfortunate that some in the media continue to perpetuate a stigma linking military service to mental illness and violence," wrote Mike Haynie, executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. "This is seen in news articles throughout the country, with some referring to veterans as 'ticking time bombs/ "

Haynie continued: "For better or worse, the media will play a large and important role in shaping the cultural narrative that defines this generation of veterans. Unfortunately, that narrative has been a story of extremes to date."

A June-released study by the Center for a New American Security, which included in-depth interviews with 87 business leaders representing 69 companies, revealed a disturbing trend. …