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Unformatted text preview: ORIGINAL ARTICLE Crime News and Racialized Beliefs: Understanding the Relationship Between Local News Viewing and Perceptions of African Americans and Crime Travis L. Dixon Department of Speech Communication, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, IL 61801 A survey of Los Angeles County adults was undertaken to determine whether exposure to the overrepresentation of Blacks as criminals on local news programs, attention to crime news, and news trust predicted perceptions of Blacks and crime. After controlling for a number of factors including the diversity of respondents neighborhood and neigh- borhood crime rate, attention to crime news was positively related to concern about crime. In addition, attention to crime news was positively associated with harsher cul- pability ratings of a hypothetical race-unidentified suspect and a Black suspect but not a White suspect. Finally, heavier consumption of Blacks overrepresentation as criminals on local television news was positively related to the perception of Blacks as violent. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed in light of chronic activation and accessibility of stereotypical constructs. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2007.00376.x A growing number of investigations have concluded that local television news programs often overrepresent Blacks as criminal suspects (Dixon & Linz, 2000a; Entman, 1992; Gilliam, Iyengar, Simon, & Wright, 1996; Romer, Jamieson, & de Coteau, 1998). Scholars have documented this local television news distortion of race and crime in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Florida (Chiricos & Eschholz, 2002; Entman, 1992; Romer et al., 1998). However, the majority of this work has been conducted in the Los Angeles area (Dixon & Linz, 2000a, 2000b; Gilliam & Iyengar, 1998, 2000; Gilliam et al., 1996; Matei, Ball-Rokeach, & Qiu, 2001). Moreover, a growing number of media effects experiments suggest that news distorted portrayals might influence social reality judgments regarding race and crime (Dixon, 2006a, 2006b; Gilliam & Iyengar, 2000). However, very little research has used survey methodology to investigate the relationship between news exposure and race and crime perceptions (Armstrong & Neuendorf, 1992; Busselle & Crandall, Corresponding author: Travis L. Dixon; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916 106 Journal of Communication 58 (2008) 106125 2008 International Communication Association 2002; Gilliam & Iyengar, 2000). The current study is designed to overcome this limitation by investigating whether news exposure and news orientation (e.g., atten- tion to crime news) predict race and crime perceptions. Crime news portrayals and social cognition A number of previous studies have relied on theories of social cognition to investi- gate how viewers might process stereotypical information regarding Black criminal- ity (Dixon, 2006a; Domke, Shah, & Wackman, 1998; Price & Tewksbury, 1997). For example, researchers have used the theory of cognitive accessibility that suggests...
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