Do Underrepresented Groups Trust the Media

By Julissa Catalan

Photo by Shutterstock

According to a new study conducted by the Media Insight Project, 75 percent of Blacks and more than 65 percent of Latinos feel that mainstream media inaccurately report news coverage when it comes to underrepresented groups.

Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks and Latinos make up one-third of the country’s population. Within 30 years, Blacks and Latinos are expected to surpass the number of non-Hispanic white Americans, eventually making up 57 percent of the population by 2060.

Underrepresented groups who are “seeking out news about their communities, they can’t find it. And what they see, they don’t think is accurate,” said Tom Rosenstiel, Executive Director of the American Press Institute, which co-funded the survey.

The survey was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago from Jan. 9 through Feb. 17, 2014. It involved landline and cellphone interviews in English and Spanish with 1,492 adults nationwide, including 358 Latinos and 318 Blacks.

Both Blacks and Latinos were asked if they felt their communities were accurately portrayed in the news. Three-fourths of Blacks answered “moderately ” or “slightly/not at all.” Two-thirds of Latinos had the same response.

Tia C. M. Tyree, an Associate Professor at Howard University professor and Assistant Chair of the university’s Department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communications, believes this is a result of stereotyping and racism within the media as well as our country’s legal system.

“Many will believe there is embedded racism in many of America’s systems: the media system, the legal system, the educational system,” she said. “Many will believe that minorities aren’t treated fairly in those systems, and because of that, any products that come out of it will be problematic.”

Tyree points to the lack of Black and Latino representation within the media.

“It matters who the owners are, it matters who the producers are, it matters who the editors are, because that’s often the agenda or the slant of the media and the news coverage,” she said.

Researchers suggested that the 10 percent difference in opinion between Blacks and Latinos is because Latinos have access and an understanding of Spanish-language newsnews that is produced by their own community.

Forty-one percent of Latinos indicated they watch Latino-specific news for coverage of their community. Only 10 percent named 24-hour news stations, and 7 percent said local news stations.

Blacks gave very different answers to the same question: 23 percent said they relied on their local television station, 15 percent pointed to the Black press and 9 percent named newspapers.

That could be because there are no Black news outlets that cater to the community by offering daily news coverage.

“There isn’t an analogous, what you might call ‘ethnic’ press [for Blacks] that has evolved as the Internet has evolvedit’s been more of a disruptive medium, while the Hispanic media has sort of adapted and grown,” Rosenstiel said.

It was also found that more Blacks get their news from television and on cellphones than non-Hispanic whites or Latinos: 95 percent of Blacks said they get their news from television versus 87 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 86 percent of Latinos.

Seventy-five percent of Blacks said they get news on their cellphone versus 64 percent of Latinos and 53 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

The news industry needs to figure out how to reach these consumers of color, Rosenstiel said: “They’re affluent, they’re attractive to advertisers, there’s a market there.”

Meanwhile, the Remington Research Group conducted a survey with Ferguson, Mo., residents about the recent media representation and coverage their suburb received following the Michael Brown shooting.

Seventy-three percent of the people polled said the media only made the situation worse. Among respondents, 50 percent of Blacks and 81 percent of whites criticized the media coverage.

When asked if the media coverage made the situation better in Ferguson, 37 percent of Blacks said yes, while only 12 percent of whites agreed.

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