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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edwin Rios in New York and agency

Majority of Black Americans say they are depicted unfairly in news – study

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Roughly four in 10 surveyed said that the media not only stereotyped Black people but also felt that they saw racist and racially insensitive coverage sometimes or fairly often. Photograph: Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

A majority of Black Americans say that their communities are unfairly depicted in news coverage, according to a sweeping new survey on Wednesday.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents observed that their community received more negative coverage than other racial and ethnic groups, the Pew Research Center survey found. Roughly four in 10 surveyed said that the media not only stereotyped Black people but also felt that they saw racist and racially insensitive coverage sometimes or fairly often.

The center’s findings reflect the shortfalls of a so-called racial reckoning that swept through newsrooms across the United States in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, when news outlets focused on hiring for roles centering diversity and inclusion and reporters and editors focused on covering communities traditionally underrepresented in news coverage.

The latest survey indicates that the so-called reckoning inside newsrooms has struggled to reach the communities that they are meant to serve, including as the news business continues to experience layoffs, and failed to change the way communities feel about the coverage they receive.

Charles Whitaker, dean of the Northwestern University’s Medill school of journalism told the Associated Press he was unsurprised by the findings.

He echoed the lack of nuance in coverage as a longstanding feeling among Black Americans who feel they are often portrayed as either victims of crimes or those who commit them. “We’ve known both anecdotally, and through my personal experience with the Black press, that Blacks have long been dissatisfied with their coverage,” he said.

The center surveyed nearly 5,000 adults over the winter to get their opinion on how Black Americans felt about how their communities are covered in the news media. The feelings of unfair coverage cut across political lines with Black Democrats and Republicans feeling very similar about how news coverage stereotyped Black communities.

More than two-thirds of Black adults surveyed noted that educating journalists about the history and context surrounding the issues facing their communities played a vital role in helping to improve coverage.

What’s more, a majority of Black Americans also noted that including more Black people as sources in news coverage would also heighten feelings of fairness in coverage for them. A majority also found that hiring more Black people in leadership positions helped to make news coverage about their communities more fair.

At least four in 10 people surveyed also found that hiring more Black reporters would make such coverage more fair. What’s more, they saw it was crucial that race and racial inequity coverage came from Black reporters, though just over half said it mattered as much for overall news coverage.

Richard Prince, a columnist for the Journal-isms newsletter, told the Associated Press that the findings reinforced the idea that Black Americans, like other groups, “want to be portrayed as having the same concerns as everybody else. Still, he acknowledged that progress had been made in the upper echelons of newsrooms at a time when the industry experiences layoffs, adding: “We’re integrating an industry that’s shrinking.”

Few of those surveyed, no matter the age, say they were confident that their communities will be covered fairly over the course of their lifetimes.

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