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Owens - The Howard Journal of Communications 19:355370 2008...

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Network News: The Role of Race in Source Selection and Story Topic LYNN C. OWENS, PH.D. Department of Communications, Peace College, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA The theory of incognizant racism posits that journalists cover the White community differently than communities of color, and the study’s results indicate that this difference is also reflected in the choice and use of on-camera sources in network news stories. A quantitative content analysis of network news programs in 2005 revealed that Whites dominated television news coverage, compris- ing more than three quarters of sources. Nearly 90 % of network news reporters were also White. Elite sources such as experts, com- pany spokespeople, and government officials were overwhelmingly White, whereas minority sources appeared most often as private individuals or ordinary citizens. In addition, White sources clearly dominated all story topics, with a majority presence in every case, except for foreign affairs stories in which foreign sources made up the bulk of sound bites. Minority sources were scattered more spar- ingly across story topics, barely making a showing in some, such as stories about science = technology, foreign affairs, and electoral poli- tics. Black and Hispanic sources appeared most often in stories about accidents = disasters = weather events, in both pre-Hurricane Katrina and post-Hurricane Katrina samples. Results indicated that minority reporters were more likely to use minority sources in their stories than White reporters. KEYTERMS minorities, network, news, race, racism, source selection, television Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before. Census reports clearly indicate that the United States is transforming into a more Address correspondence to Dr. Lynn C. Owens, Communications, Peace College, 15 East Peace Street, Raleigh, NC 27604-1194. E-mail: [email protected] The Howard Journal of Communications , 19:355 À 370, 2008 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1064-6175 print/1096-4649 online DOI: 10.1080/10646170802418269 355
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racially heterogeneous society. In 2000, one out of every four Americans identified himself or herself as a member of a minority group, compared with one in five in 1990. Although the word minority refers to groups that are less than the majority, racial groups such as Black, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans collectively constitute a large portion of the American population. With the increase in American racial diversity comes a responsibility for news outlets to cover news in a manner that accurately represents both majority and minority groups. Unfortunately, many researchers have con- cluded that minorities are often ignored and misrepresented (Campbell, 1995; Dates & Barlow, 1990; Entman, 1994; Heider, 2000; Poindexter, Smith, & Heider, 2003; Wilson & Gutierrez, 1995; Ziegler & White, 1990). The news media have been criticized for covering racial minorities through symbols and stereotypes, even though minorities are increasingly diversified in their education, profession, and class status.
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