Picturing race in local newspapers
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The American news media has been criticized for failing to accurately reflect the country's racial diversity. Previous research has found that large broadcast and print news outlets overrepresent the White population, while minority populations are underrepresented and largely confined to stereotypical roles. The purpose of this study is to assess whether smaller local newspapers, which remain an important source of news and information to the communities they cover, accurately reflect the racial diversity of those communities, and whether the inclusion and portrayal of different races have changed over time. Using samples of four constructed weeks from five one-year periods between 1980 and 2016, a content analysis of local news photographs was conducted for six daily newspapers. The population appearing in each newspaper was compared with the local population as measured by the U.S. Census. Additionally, inter-group comparisons were made to determine whether members of certain races were overrepresented in the stereotypical roles of athlete, criminal, and entertainer. Results showed that White subjects were generally overrepresented, while members of other races were underrepresented. At some publications, representation of Black subjects has become more accurate over time, while the underrepresentation gap for Hispanic subjects has widened. Results for representation in stereotypical roles were more mixed, with Black subjects overrepresented in the role of athlete.
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