Michael Brown shooting and the crimes journalists choose as newsworthy | Columbia Journalism Review, Alexis Sobel Fitts, 28 août 2014 ▻http://www.cjr.org/minority_reports/michael_brown_ferguson_media.php?page=all
While charges of racial bias in the media have, at the moment, been limited to discussion of how Brown and other black victims are portrayed, broader issues of bias are revealed when looking at which crimes journalists choose as newsworthy. In a survey of broadcast news published Tuesday, Media Matters for America found that television coverage crime suspects’ race doesn’t match up to the raw data of who is actually arrested—black suspects receive disproportionate coverage for their alleged crimes.
Researchers for the group watched New York newscasts on WCBS, WNBC, WABC, and WNYW, counting the percentage of suspects revealed as African American, either by a photo aired on the newscast or a verbal description. Over a three-month period, the parade of potential perps were overwhelmingly black: Eighty percent of theft suspects were African American, as were 73 percent of assault suspects and 68 percent of murder suspects whose cases received airtime. But when Media Matters compared the numbers to arrest statistics from the NYPD, the racial breakdown showed a much lower percentage of black suspects. “African-American suspects were arrested in 54 percent of murders, 55 percent of thefts, and 49 percent of assaults,” they wrote.
The comparisons on the study weren’t perfect: Media Matters could only get aggregate data from the last four years of NYPD arrests, while they surveyed only three months of New York news. Still, the results fit into a longstanding pattern of the media covering black suspects more often—and often more harshly—than white suspects of similar crimes.
In a study of the Chicago broadcast media, a research team found that black defendants were more likely than defendants of other races to be shown through a mugshot rather than a personal picture or none at all. Another study of television coverage found black suspects are twice as likely as white suspects to be shown on camera under police restraint. While it’s difficult to pinpoint whether a particular suspect is being covered more harshly because of their race, taken in tandem this data points to a dangerous precedent: Black men are easily perceived as criminals, disproportionately to the rate they may be committing crimes.