The Pew Research Center survey found 63% of respondents saying news about Black people is often more negative than it is toward other groups, with 28% saying it is about equal.
Damarra Atkins pays respect to George Floyd at a mural at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis in 2021.
In a new study, Black Americans expressed broad concerns about how they are depicted in the news media, with majorities saying they see racist or negative depictions and a lack of effort to cover broad segments of their community.
Four in five Black adults say they see racist or racially insensitive depictions of their race in the news either often or sometimes, according to the Pew Research Center.
Three years after George Floyd’s killing triggered a racial reckoning in the news media, Pew took its first broad-based look at Black attitudes toward the media with a survey of nearly 5,000 Black adults this past winter and follow-up focus groups.
The survey found 63% of respondents saying news about Black people is often more negative than it is toward other racial or ethnic groups, with 28% saying it is about equal.
“It’s not surprising at all,” said Charles Whitaker, dean of the Medill journalism school at Northwestern University. “We’ve known both anecdotally, and through my personal experience with the Black press, that Blacks have long been dissatisfied with their coverage.
“There’s a feeling that Black Americans are often depicted as perpetrators or victims of crime, and there are no nuances in the coverage,” Whitaker said.
That attitude is reflected in the Pew study’s finding that 57% of respondents say the media only covers certain segments of Black communities, compared to 9% who say that a wide variety is depicted.
“They should put a lot more effort into providing context,” said Richard Prince, a columnist for the Journal-isms newsletter, which covers diversity issues. “They should realize that Blacks and other people of color want to be portrayed as having the same concerns as everybody else, in addition to hearing news about African American concerns.”
Advertising actually does a much better job of showing Black people in situations common to everybody, raising families or deciding where to go for dinner, he said.