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Black Americans Don’t Think They Are Covered Fairly In The News, Study Suggests

Written by on 02/16/2024

According to a new Pew Research survey, Black Americans are fed up with the way they are unfairly covered in the news.

The new study,¬†published¬†Feb. 13, found that 63% of Black adults feel frustrated with the way the Black community is covered in the news and via media. They believe they see or hear ‚Äúmore negative‚ÄĚ stories associated with Black people compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Approximately 8 in 10 said they¬†at least sometimes see or hear news coverage that is ‚Äúracist or racially insensitive‚ÄĚ about Black people, ‚Äúincluding 39% who see such coverage extremely or fairly often.‚ÄĚ A few respondents ‚ÄĒ 14% to be exact ‚ÄĒ stated that they were hopeful Black Americans would be covered fairly in the future.

From mainstream media outlets to independent publications, the portrayal of Black individuals and communities has often come under scrutiny. Many within the Black community have expressed frustration over what they perceive as biased or inadequate coverage. A¬†Pew Research¬†survey in 2023¬†found¬†that 43% of Black people felt as though the media was ‚Äúpushing‚ÄĚ out problematic stories that perpetuate harmful stereotypes about the community. Around half of those surveyed said important issues facing Black people were overlooked or sensationalized.

One common concern is the disproportionate focus on negative narratives, such as crime, poverty, and violence, which can contribute to harmful stereotypes and distort perceptions of Black individuals.

 

How can it be improved?

There is hope, however. Approximately 73% respondents in the latest survey said it was crucial for journalists to understand the history of Black people when covering stories in the community, Pew Research noted. Around 76% of Black adults emphasized the importance of journalists and reporters covering all facets of the issues within the community being careful not to overlook critical issues or nuances. Around 59% said it was imperative for journalists to go out and connect with Black people and to advocate for fair coverage.

Representation and diversity were also key factors. Black Americans are eager to see more journalists, radio hosts and news anchors that look like themselves in the media. Diversifying the newsroom would ensure that stories in the community are told truthfully and authentically, and with more Black people in leadership roles, a diverse array of Black stories have a better chance of being covered. The lack of diversity among journalists, editors, and newsroom decision-makers can influence which stories are told, how they are framed and whose perspectives are prioritized.

Around 6% of reporting journalists identify as Black, a figure significantly lower than the Black representation in the overall U.S. workforce (11%) and among adults nationwide (12%). This discrepancy points to a glaring disparity in newsroom diversity.

Alarmingly, approximately half of all U.S. journalists, totaling 52%, expressed that their respective news organizations lack sufficient diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. Despite some progress, there remains a notable gap in proportional representation by race and ethnicity, particularly within local TV newsrooms. The Radio Television Digital News Association’s findings for 2022 revealed that 13% of employees in local TV newsrooms identify as African American. However, the leadership landscape tells a different story, with only 6% of Black news directors, holding pivotal leadership roles in these newsrooms. 

Where are Black people getting the news?

There are several Black media sites and news publications that prioritize Black stories, but interestingly, Black people are less likely to consume news from those sites. According to the study, roughly a quarter of Black Americans, comprising 24%, said that they frequently obtain news from Black news outlets, either extremely or fairly often. Additionally, around 40% of Black adults indicated that they occasionally receive news from such outlets.

Black Americans consume news via TV and social media. The study noted that 38% of Black Americans express a preference for obtaining news from television, surpassing individuals of other racial or ethnic backgrounds in this regard. The data also revealed that a proportion of Black adults regularly consume news from YouTube (41%), Facebook (36%), Instagram (27%) and TikTok (22%) surpassing percentages among White Americans. This highlights a significant reliance on social media platforms for news consumption within the Black community.