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For those who have doubts that the news media could have any hint of racial bias and those who credit said media as undeniable proof of the hyper-criminal culture within the black community, research has been conducted to examine why both are erroneous.

The Journal of Mass Communication and Journalism’s website published a research article that covers lead stories in local news. It focuses on who is portrayed as criminals, victims and heroes and if there’s a racial bias on who gets what role most often. In this case, it’s whites versus blacks.

Here are a few snippets from that article. (Its research is based on its observations of news coverage centered in Omaha, Nebraska. However, similar studies have been conducted on other news stations across the country):

Studies from as far back as the late 1970’s have suggested, “Crime stories in the news may shape public conception of order and justice in the community,” [12,15,16]. Dixon and Linz [12] equate the way television news portrays crime as “a modern play” in which the “devil” is both symbolically and physically cast out from the society by “guardians-police and the judiciary.” Other researchers [17] theorized that the perpetrators of crime, who according to the images shown during local newscasts appear to be overwhelmingly Black males, begin to represent the “evil forces” in society that must be controlled to maintain social order. Chiricos and Eschholz [7] suggests local TV news may contribute to social controls and exclusions in relation to Blacks and Hispanics, a condition associated with the fear of crime identified as “modern racism.” Furthermore, “modern racism,” is defined as a form of racism that is more subtle but perhaps more harmful in the long run [8-11], and can be characterized as “anti-black affect or a general hostility toward Blacks” [11]. Today’s media’s representation of Blacks and race leads to two different but closely related views: “[T]he first assumes that crime is stereotypically portrayed as a Black phenomenon, and the second assumes that Blacks are disproportionately portrayed as criminals” [7]. The implications of connecting Blacks, especially Black males with crime is well documented and some researchers believe that link may’ve been solidified during the 1988 Presidential election race between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, when the Bush campaign unveiled the infamous Willie Horton photo. Even though it has been more than 25 years since Horton’s face was splashed across television screens into American homes, his image may still be what researchers call the iconography of Black criminal threat so much so that Horton has led to the assertion that “today’s prevailing criminal predator has become a euphemism for young Black male” [10].

When it comes to crime, news outlets, on the other hand, tend to show White adults in much more positive roles compared to Blacks [18]. Whites are overrepresented as police officers when employment records do not support that representation [18]. Local news, with its typically heavy focus on urban crime, may have some responsibility for this exaggerated perception [19].

What did they discover? What other research have found out and what we’ve known all along:

This study was designed to compare how the Omaha, Nebraska, television news stations’ lead news stories represent Black versus White males to the extent to which race is associated with law-breaking activity. A close assessment of the stations’ lead or big story of the day revealed that Black males in Omaha are depicted as criminals close to three times more often as White males. These findings appear to mirror other research that has shown that Blacks in general are overrepresented by the media in news of crime. It’s clear that Black males will appear more frequently than White males as perpetrators and felons as depicted in the lead story in local television newscast. Also Black males in Omaha are overrepresented in television news lead stories as lawbreakers in comparison to official crime data and population demographics.

What do you think? Do you think the same is true with most other local news? Leave your comments below.

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