When a heavily armed white man entered a movie theater in suburban Denver last year, killing 12 people and injuring 50 others, he was called a ‘gunman.’ News media speculated he had a mental illness. But when a 19-year-old Somali-American college student tried to set off a car bomb at Portland’s 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony, he was labeled a terrorist.
Whether it’s being done intentionally or unintentionally, “racial minorities are excluded, selectively included, and stereotyped in news coverage,” wrote Stephanie Greco Larson in her book, Media & Minorities.
According to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Hispanics were featured in less than 1 percent of an estimated 12,600 stories aired in 2005 despite making up 14 percent of the nation’s total population. Sixty-six percent of the stories published were related to crime, terrorism, poverty and illegal immigration.
“This coverage reinforces negative stereotypes and when stories about other topics involving Latinos are not covered, this paints an unbalanced picture of the contributions Latinos make to our society,” Daniela Montalvo wrote in the 2006 Network Brownout Report.
In an article about immigration, Fox News deliberately accompanied the story with a stereotypical Mariachi picture.
Asian-Americans on the other hand, are portrayed as the “model minority” according to the Pew Research Center, perpetuating the “dutiful nerd” stereotype. In 2012, when NBA star Jeremy Lin causes ‘Linsanity’ by scoring at least 20 points, seven assists, and a steal in six consecutive basketball games, he made history and joined the ranks of Michael Jordan and LeBron James in doing so. But his success was seen as a rare twist, and sportswriters for the San Francisco Bay Area and New York Times described Lin as a smart, diligent, hard worker, promoting the stereotype for Asian-Americans.
One way to improve on this situation is to have minorities work in the newsroom. According to the American Society of News Editors, only 12.32 percent of minorities are in the newsroom and the number continues to decline year after year. Philadelphia Daily News photojournalist Sarah Glover said in an interview with Julie Moos at Poynter.org, “All news organizations should have staffs that represent the communities they serve. It is quite frankly a no-brainer, and a good business decision.”
By: Anis Filza Abdul Samad