Research shows news media stereotypes blacks in crime coverage

By Lauren Hoium

Throughout American history, people of color have been the victims of many negative stereotypes according to David J. Knight. One of the most common stereotypes is that African Americans are violent and dangerous, and have no respect for the law, Knight says in his article, “Beyond the Stereotypical Image of Young Men of Color”, from The Atlantic.  

A scholarly article published in the Journal of Contemporary Criminals Justice shows how the media contributes to this criminal stereotype of African Americans. According to the writer of the article, Kelly Welch, negative stereotypes are prominent in the media with the ways blacks are portrayed in reality television shows, film, music videos, and newscasts. Welch, a criminology professor at Villanova University, says research indicates that television newscasts often show accused black people in mug shots. Newscasts also often show black criminals in handcuffs being led by white cops, according to Welch.

Photo credited to Getty Images

The following video discusses how black men are depicted as violent by media images.

The news perpetuates stereotypes that blacks are menacing. According to the video, over tw0-thirds of the stories about blacks in local news reports are about crime. Crime accounts for less than one-third of the stories about whites. According to data reported by the FBI in 2013, whites were arrested more often for violent crimes than members of any other race. The news’ focus on blacks committing crime gives the public a distorted image of crime.

Victims of crime are treated differently by the media depending on their race. An article by The Huffington Post shows how unsympathetic the media is toward black victims of violent crimes. The headline of one story about a black man who was shot by the police in an Ohio Walmart was “Ohio man was carrying variable pump air rifle when cops killed him: attorney general”. According to the Huffington Post article, the media often places blame on black people for their own deaths.

Through its perpetuation of ideas linking race with criminality, the media impacts public opinion and attitudes toward African Americans.

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