Racial Discrimination in News Media

BY Elizabeth Carlson (’17)

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of discrimination is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people different from other people or groups of people.” There are different types of discrimination against a person or persons by the way they look, talk, act or other factors.

One form of this is racial discrimination, which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says is “treating someone unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race (such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features).”

To find out about racial discrimination in media reporting, I looked at Journalist’s Resource, which is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Journalist’s Resource reports that Travis L. Dixon and Daniel Linz sampled news broadcasts in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California. They found that “African Americans were over represented as perpetrators, and Latinos and whites were underrepresented as perpetrators.” Their study also found that “whites were overrepresented as police officers on television, despite significant numbers of racial minorities in law enforcement in the counties examined.”

With recent cases of police officers shooting unarmed black males, it is important that the news media’s coverage of these incidents and any subsequent actions, such as civil rights investigations or criminal indictments, be objective and balanced to avoid painting a false impression of either the shooting victims or the police.

Children may also be portrayed in media in a discriminatory way. According to the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), media is a huge influence for young people.

I agree with that statement. Many children and adolescents either watch TV, engage in social media, play video games or otherwise view media. Those shows, games or accounts can influence the way children treat other people, and what they say to other people.

CRIN cites information from the International Federation of Journalists on how children may be portrayed in the news media in stereotypical fashion, such as “starving children in Africa”and “irresponsible teenagers.”

Through research and observation new media as well as other forms of communications industry, like advertising and public relations, have the duty and responsibility of making sure what they cover and present to the public is researched avoid racial and other forms of discrimination. If this action is not taken it could lead to some serious disfavor to such a diverse society.


2016-09-30-fyf-elizabeth-carlson-dsc_0057-thumbnailElizabeth is a senior graphic design major and an advertising minor. When she is not in the classroom, she is Assistant Design Editor for The Wood Word, or she is playing for the women’s soccer team at Marywood. 

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