Monday, July 21, 2008

Black professor argues that those who watch the news are more likely to see African Americans as intimidating, violent or poor

If it bleeds, it leads is an axiom in the news business. Meaning: Crime stories draw attention. But a University of Illinois professor is arguing that such approaches also lead to racial stereotyping. Those who watch more local or network news are more likely to see African Americans as intimidating, violent or poor, says communications Professor Travis Dixon. Nationally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics say that of known offenders, blacks committed 52 percent of homicides nationally. Chicago crime statistics for 2005, the most recent available, show that African Americans made up 77 percent of those charged with murder. But Dixon says blacks have been disproportionally represented as criminals in newscasts in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Interviews with about 500 people in Los Angeles found viewers of TV news were more likely to believe negative stereotypes about blacks, Dixon reports in the current issue of the Journal of Communication. "We think of people who watch the news as informed and open-minded," said Dixon, who teaches at the U. of I. Urbana-Champaign campus. "But we hypothesize that just watching the news might lead to stereotype endorsement." Dixon says local TV news presents "a distorted mirror" and "network news is more subtle, but it's still there." Studies on newspaper coverage have found they, too, give a distorted version of the "real world." One result is that black males are more likely to be seen as potentially violent, he said.

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