The most stunning indictment of the media’s portrayal of black America came when someone pointed out the bias in reporting during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Associated Press published two photos. One showed a group of white people, wading through the water and pushing some items that they’d taken from a store. The other photo showed a group of black people, wading through the water and pushing some items that they’d from a store. The white people were described as “finding food”.
The black people were described as “looting”. To me, the second most stunning indictment of the media’s portrayal of black America came when “The Cosby Show” reached its peak of popularity. The news media loudly protested that there couldn’t possibly be that many black families with two professionals at their head. The media refused to notice that there were plenty of black graduates from law, medical, and other professional school long before the 70’s.
The public’s exaggerated association of race and poverty not only reflects and perpetuates negative racial stereotypes but it also increase white Americans’ opposition to welfare. Whites who think the poor are mostly black are more likely to blame welfare recipients for their situation and less likely to support welfare than are those with more accurate perceptions of poverty. The portrayal of poverty by the American news media has never been systematically studied. There have, however, been a number of studies of minorities in the news that have some relevance to the current project.
The most common such studies have examined the proportion of ethnic or racial minorities appearing in news coverage and have consistently found that blacks are underrepresented in the American news media, whether it be television (Baran 1973), newspapers (Chaudhary 1980), or newsmagazines (Lester and Smith 1990; Stempel 1971). The underrepresentation of African Americans has decreased over time, however. Lester and Smith (1990) , for example, found that only 1. 3 percent of the pictures in Time and Newsweek during the 1950s were of blacks, compared with 3. 1 percent in the 1960s and 7. 5 percent in the 1980s.
Another study looked at the representation of African Americans in newsmagazine advertisements (Humphrey and Schuman 1984). Advertisements, of course, constitute a very different subject matter from news content, and we would not expect to find many poor people in advertisements. Nevertheless, 10 percent of the blacks in advertisement in Time magazine in 1980 were either Africans or Americans in poverty, while none of the whites in these ads were shown as poor. Studies of the news process suggest a number of factors that might help to account for distortions in the new media’s coverage of poverty.
In his classic study of newsmagazines and network television news, Herbert Gans (1979) identified “availability” and “suitability” as the most significant determinants of news content. By availability, Gans referred to the accessibility of potential news to a journalist facing a variety of logistical constraints and time pressures, while suitability concerns a story’s importance and interest to the audience and its fit within the framework of the new medium ( whether newspaper, magazine, or television news).
The third and perhaps most important limitation of accessibility as an explanation for media portrayals of poor is that racial distortions are not limited to the overall proportion of African Americans in news stories on poverty. CONCLUSIONS I also found that stories dealing with aspects of antipoverty policy that are most strongly supported by the public are less likely to contain pictures of African Americans. Although 62 percent of all poor people pictured, African Americans make up only 40 percent of the poor in stories on employment programs only 17 percent in stories on Medicaid.
In contrast, we find far too many Americans in stories on the least favorable subgroup of the poor; the underclass. Every one of the 36 poor people pictured in stories on the underclass was black. Whatever the processes resulted in distorted images of poverty, the political consequences of these misrepresentations are clear. First, the poverty population shown in newsmagazines primarily black, overwhelmingly unemployed, and almost completely nonelderly is not likely to generate a great deal of support for government antipoverty programs among white Americans.
In regards to black America the blunt fact that so many non-blacks raise an eyebrow whenever they see and educated or well-spoken black person on TV supports the idea that the media portrays most blacks as under-educated, vice seeking, financially poor individuals. However it is blurry line to say if the media itself is fully to blame for this poor representation of blacks in America. In conclusion it appears that the media portrays black America in a stereotyped fashion, but it is important to note that many people in an ethnic or racial group will group will uphold those stereotypes either out of pride, laziness, or rebellion.
The media will always portray stereotypes and always portray the dismal, sad, and horrific news because it means rating; blacks will continue to be stereotyped when a good portion of them continue to uphold these stereotypes through violence, crime, poverty, and calling the race card whenever they feel have been treated unfairly. Black America can only escape the media portrayal of them by avoiding participating in negative stereotypes themselves.