Study: Local News Portrays White People as Victims, Cops

Local news continues to emphasize crimes that involve white victims, according to a new study published in the journal Communication Research. The study revisits a landmark paper published in 2000 that found that local news broadcasts overrepresented African-Americans as criminals and underrepresented them as police officers, while doing the opposite for white people. The more recent study examined a sample of news broadcasts in Los Angeles between 2008 and 2012, including Spanish-language broadcasts, to evaluate how representations may be changing. Television portrayals are compared with data about crime perpetration and victimhood published by the California Department of Justice (CDOJ) and the Los Angeles Times, as well as employment records published by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. White people were more likely to be depicted as homicide victims (35 percent) on the broadcasts analyzed than to be victimized by homicide according to crime reports (13 percent).

Cops and The Media: A Chilly Peace

Police-media relations may have bottomed out following a series a controversial police-involved deaths beginning last August, when Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. Journalists covering the resulting unrest were harassed, bullied and arrested by police. “Unfortunately, what I saw in Ferguson was a total disregard for the First Amendment rights of journalists,” says Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). Osterreicher, a Buffalo attorney and former photojournalist, was dispatched to Ferguson by the board of his 7,000-member organization after what he calls the “catch-and-release” arrests of journalists there. Some 50 media organizations joined the NPPA in decrying police obstruction of the media.

Criminal Justice News Coverage in 2014

In its annual assessment of criminal justice news coverage of 2014, Criminal Justice Journalists (CJJ)–the country’s only association of crime and justice reporters–says that early media reporting on the police-community tensions in Ferguson and other cities last year was ‘one-sided’ —leaving critical issues of police tactics and challenges unexplored for months. The assessment, based on evaluations from media experts, also called for more original reporting on mental health issues in the criminal justice system. For the full report, please click HERE. For Part Two of the report, a transcript of a conference call with Media Experts, click HERE.

Stop and Frisk Info

An archive of academic and public policy research, compiled by The Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College. Click here to visit the Stop and Frisk Info site.