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Unformatted text preview: Iritrttml till llruarftxhltttlt: A llt't li'lltllt llt‘tll.) l)l'lt‘li‘ilil't filllll Race and Ethnicity in Local Television News: Framing, Story Assignments, and Source Selections Paula M. Poindexter, Laura Smith, and Don Heider Because local television has become the primary source for news, this study examined race and ethnicity in news stories, story assignments. and source selections. A content analysis of local newscasts found Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans were virtually invisible as an- chors, reporters, and subjects in the news. Although African Americans anchored and reported the news in some markets, overall there was segregation in story assignments. Rarely were Latinos, Asian Americans, or Native Americans interviewed as news sources. African Americans were used as news saurces more than other racial and ethnic groups when 2 or more people were interviewed. Although the news media landscape at the end of the 20'h century had been filled with an array of new: sources, more Americans turned to local television for news than any other medium. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (2000), 56% of Americans watched local television news regularly but only 46% read newspapers regularly. Still fewer adults turned to network news {30%). CNN (21%), and news magazines (12%), and three days a week or more, 23% of Americans looked to the Internet for news. Because of its dominance as a news source, local television news may also be a dominant force in influencing percep- tions of race and ethnicity in communities across America. By examining the presence and coverage of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in local television news, it may be possible to identify how this dominant news source may be influencing how people of color are perceived and the implications of those perceptions. Although the poor track records of the networks in representing people of color Paula M. Poindexter (Phil, Syracuse University] is an Associate Professor in the School of luumalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include news audiences, African Americans and the media. and ftFSE-Pdfc‘l't ethics. lama K. Smith is a doctoral candidate in the School otiournalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches undergraduate Courses in broadcast news and is currently conducting research on the impact of changing FCC policy on local televtsmn news content. Don Heider tF'h.D.. University of Colorado) is an Associate Professor in the School of ioumalism at the University of Texas at Austin. His research centers around race, class, and news. It.» 3005 Broadcast Edurtalion Association tournal ut' timarlmsting a- Electronic Media 4Ft4t. 2003. pp. 524 7.5 36 524 Poindexler, Smith, and flower/RACE AND ETHNICITY IN LOCAL NEWS 525 have been fairly well-documented (Carveth & Alverio, 1999: Entman, 1994; Roberts, 1975; Ziegler & White, 1990), there has been less evidence about local stations. Most studies on local television news have focused on one market (Entman, 1990, 1992; Entman 8: Rojecki, 2000), or a variety of markets on one given day (Campbell, 1995). What has been missing is a more comprehensive look at local television and its primary product, news. The goal of this study is to examine the presence and coverage of people of color in local television news in different geographic regions and across different newscasts, markets, and time periods. News Media Representations of Race One of the earliest systematic examinations of the news media's coverage of race was conducted by the Kerner Commission more than 3 decades ago. In response to riots during the summer of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, which became known as the Kerner Commission, to find out what happened, why the riots happened, and what could be done to prevent riots from happening again. As part of its analysis of the causes of the riots, the Kerner Commission looked at the media's role in the civic unrest and concluded that the press had failed to adequately report on the underlying problems that led to the riots. The Kerner Commission also criticized the news media for reporting from a White-only perspective and failing to report the history, culture, and activities of Blacks in American society (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968). Noting that fewer than 5% of US. journalists were Black and far fewer were in decision-making. positions, the Kerner Commission said the iournalism profession had been "shockingly backward” in seeking out, hiring, training, and promoting Blacks {Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 384}. Since 1968, there has been little significant change in the news media coverage of people of color. Scholars who study race and television news have found that people of color are often neglected, misrepresented, or stereotyped (Campbell, 1995; Dates 8: Barlow, 1990; Deepe Keever, Martindaie, & Weston, 1997: Entman, 1992, 1994; Entman & Roiecki, 2000; Candy, 1998; Gilliam 8: lyeniar, 2000; Poindexter & Stroman, 1981; Roberts, 1975; Wilson St Cutiérrez, 1995: Ziegler 8: White, 19.90). Although researchers have paid comparatively less attention to the topic of race and television news since the 1968 Kerner Commission criticisms, there have been some noteworthy studies. Roberts (1975) coded network nEWS programs for speaking and non-speaking appearances of Blacks to determine the degree of their visibility. Roberts found Blacks were not very visible and had little voice, especially when it came to world or national affairs. Ziegler and White (1990) looked at how newsmakers were presented in network neWs shows and concluded Whites were more likely to be neWsmakers, and were more likely to be portrayed in diverse roles than were people of color. 526 Journal of Broadcasting 8: Electronic Media/December 2003 In a study of network newscasts, Entman (1994) found that Blacks were associated with negative news and crime; Black leaders were shown criticizing the government and its policies or being accused of a crime. In an analysis of sources used in news stories, evidence of segregation was found. Black expert sources were mostly quoted in stories about Black issues but rarely in stories about non-Black issues. Daishell (1996) examined network news coverage of the 0.]. Simpson murder trial and found that although there was no evidence of blatant racism, network neWs coverage focused on racial divisions in the makeup of the jury, public opinion polls, and accusations of police misconduct. In studies of local television news, Black politicians were found to be associated with special interests (Entman, 1990, 1992) and Blacks in general were more likely to be reported on when the subject was crime tEntman, 1990, 1992; Entman 8c Rojecki, 2000; Gilliam & lyenjar, 2000). Entman (1992) and Entman and Rojecki (2000) studied local television news in Chicago and found that although an equal number of Black and White perpetrators Were covered in the news, there were far more White victims than Black victims in crime news coverage. In addition, news stories on White victims were three times as long as news stories on Black victims. Black perpetrators were more likely than White perpetrators to be shown in a mug shot, and Blacks were more likely than Whites to be shown in jail clothing or handcuffed, grasped, or restrained by an officer. Finally, there was segregation in use of police official sources. Whites accused of a crime were almost always discussed by White police officers; African Americans accused of a crime were discussed by Black officers one-third of the time. Rather than focus on content, some recent investigators have focused on the gatekeepers. the decisionmakers who determine which content is reported. These researchers found that when it comes to race and news, often those gatekeepers, despite good intentions, continue to replicate coverage that could be characterized as racist (Gilens, 2000; Heider, 2000). Theoretical Context Although Erving Goffman and Gregory Bateson introduced framing into the social science literature over a quarter of a century ago (Reese, 2001), only in the past decade has this theoretical concept been applied to communication on a systematic basis (Entman, 1993; Reese, Candy 8: Grant, 2001; Tankard, Hendrickson, Silber- man, Bliss, 8: Ghanem, 1991). According to Tankard, et al. (1991, p.5), 3 frame is a central organizing idea for news con-tent that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration. Framing is selecting some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more salient in a communicating text (Entman, 1993, p. 52). In addition to its development as a distinct communication theory, the conver- gence of framing and second—level agenda-setting has recently been explored 'lMcCombs, 1997; McCombs 8: Bell, 1996; McCombs & Ghanem, 2001). Second- Poindefler, Smith, and bidder/RACE AND ETHNICITY IN lOCAL NEWS 527 level agenda-setting is distinguished from the firstwlevel because the focus is on the transfer of attribute salience from the media agenda to the public agenda while the first-level focused on the transfer of object salience leg, issues, political candidates, public institutions) from the media to the public agenda. in other words, the first-level of agenda setting told us what to think about; the second-level, as a result of selection, emphasis, or exclusion of attributes, told us how to think about the object, issue, individual, event, institution, or even product. According to McCombs and Ghanem (2001, p. 68h ”When iournalists and, subsequently, members of the public think about and talk about various objects, some attributes have center stage. Others are relegated to lesser roles, and many are absent altogether." The convergence of framing and second-level agenda-setting is relevant to this study of local television news coverage of race and ethnicity because it links the framing of news content with the effects of that content—that is, how people of color are covered in local television news may influence how they are perceived in communities across America. According to Candy (1996, p. 57), the framing of stories can influence how non-Blacks feel about equality, fair play, or affirmative action. It is important to note that framing is not limited to words. In a review of the literature on race and news, Messaris and Abraham (2001, p. 221) concluded: "Implicit visual imagery is increasingly being used to frame messages that involve the representation of African Americans in news." Their analysis of news stories found that visual imagery was used to place African Americans in a negative context. The implications of local television news media framing of racial and ethnic minorities are significant because, as indicated, the audience is unaware of what is happening. According to Tankard (2001, p. 97), “much of the power of framing comes from its ability to define the terms of a debate without the audience realizing it is taking place.” Research Questions The Kerner Commission criticized the news media for failing to include Blacks and their culture in its coverage and hire Blacks as reporters and decision makers. Subsequent research on news coverage of people of color has found evidence of excluding and stereotyping African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, as well as segregating minority expert and official sources. By content analyzing news stories representing different cities, geographic regions, and time periods, this study documents the presence and framing of people of color in local news and determines if there is segregation by race and ethnicity. By paying special attention to the race of expert and private citizen sources used in the news, this analysis builds on earlier research that found segregation in name sources (En‘tman, 1994; Entman 8: Roieclci. 2000). Specifically, this study uses framing as a theoretical framework to answer the following research questions: 528 lournal of Broadcasting 8: Eiectronic Media/Dormer 2003 R01: What is the presence of people ofcolor and how are they framed in local television news! R-Q2: Is there segregation in the assignment of news stories? RQB: What role, if any, does race play in news sources and the order in which they are used in the story? Method Local television newscasts representing 26 different stations in 12 cities during the years 1987 and 1989 through 1998 were content analyzed. The newscasts content analyzed for this study were part of a iarger neWs archive that was donated to a southwestern university. The larger archive included 12 years of local newscasts from dozens of US. cities. in many cases, newscasts were available from more than one station in each media market. Newscasts from 5:00 am. to 1 1:00 pm. were also available in the archive. In attempting to construct a sample reflective of lecal news’ development throughout several years and across various geographic regions, sta- tions, and times of day, the authors selected four newscasts from each of 12 cities. If recordings from several stations in a single market were available, the authors selected newscasts from all stations available. If newscasts. were available from different time periods, the authors selected newscasts that reflected coverage at different times of day. The resulting convenience sample comprises 596 news stories from 48 newscasts in the following cities: Birmingham; Cincinnati: Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Greensboro, North Carolina; lacksonville; Miami; Milwaukee; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Spokane. Half of the cities in the sample had a population of at least 30% African-American. Detroit had the highest percentage of African Americans with 76% and Spokane had the smallest percentage at 2%. Of the cities in the sample. the percentage of Latinos ranged from under 5% in Spokane and Birmingham to as much as 66% in Miami (Hacker, 1995; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2003). Identification and Production Variables Each neWscast was coded for variables such as month, year, city, and time of day aired. As stations in different regions and time zones of the country tend to air their newscasts at distinct times of day, newscasts from 1 1:00 am. to noon were coded as "midwday" newscasts. Newscasts that aired from 4:00 pm. to 6:00 pm. were coded as “early evening.” Newscasts at 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm, and 1 1 :00 pm. were coded as "late evening.‘-' The anchors for each newscast were coded for gender, race, and first anchor to speak. individual stories, including news stories with or without video or graphics, Were Coded if they aired during the first or second blocks of each newscast. Frequently referred to as the A and B blocks in a half-hour newscast, these two segments generally contain the majority of items produced by a local television station's news Poindexter, Smith, and Heider/RACE AND ETHNICITY IN LUCA}. NEWS 529 staff. Sports and weather stories were coded only if they were presented as news developments (versus opportunities for the station to promote or "tease” a later segment in the newscast). For example, if the weathercaster appeared in the A block to give viewers a glimpse at the forecast, this was not coded as a story. If, however, that same weathercaster appeared on camera to talk about a hurricane's progress or a flood in a nearby city, the item was coded as a news story. Similarly, sports stories promoting upcoming coverage were not analyzed, but a story about a local sports franchise moving out of the city (featured as the top story in the newscast) was. Traffic segments and teases at the end of each block were excluded from the analysis. Each news story in the sample was also coded for order of appearance in the newscast te.g., 15'. 2“", etc.), story production type {copy only, voice-over, voice- over with an interview, and reporter package), whether the story was delivered by a reporter or read by an anchor. As local newscasts frequently include stories from around the state, nation, and world, geographic location was also coded. Coding Race and Ethnicity Race and ethnicity were coded for anchors, reporters, news sources, and perpe- trators of crimes. Race and ethnicity were coded when anchors and reporters were on camera, a person was interviewed for a story, or a news story showed video or provided a physical description of a person alleged to have committed a criminal act. In all cases, race and ethnicity were coded as White, African American, Latino/a, Asian American, Native American, unable to determine, and "other." Finally, if a story was delivered or reported by a reporter, the racial focus of that story was coded. If more than half of the individuals shown in the news story were of one race or ethnic group, that race would be coded as the primary focus. If one race or ethnic group was mostly used to illustrate a story that was unrelated to race, that race would still be coded. if sources and images from various racial or ethnic groups were used to tell the story, it would be coded as "no race focused on." The following examples help to illustrate the coding of this variable. if, for example, a story was about racial profiling and the majority of sources and people shown were African American, the primary focus of that story would be coded as African American. If the story was about traffic congestion on the Interstate and the majority of people shown and sources interviewed in the story were White, the primary racial focus of that story would be coded as White (despite the fact that the subject of traffic congestion was unrelated to race). if the story was about a hot air balloon festival and a variety of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds were included in the coverage, it would be coded as "no race focused on." To code news story topic, 36 different categories, including ”other," were used. Examples of story topics were crime; education; politics and government; race- related issues such as discrimination, affirmative action, and interracial conflicts; non-crime spot news such as fires, explosions, and accidents. If a story included interviews with news sources, ”source type” was coded using 530 Journal of Broadcasting 8: Electronic MediajDecember 2003 six different categories for the first four sources in- a story: 1] private citizens which included witnesses, neighbors, consumers, students, voters, etc.; 2) politicians and candidates; 3) political activists; 4) expert, authority, spokesperson for a company or organization; 5) celebrity; 6) unable to determine, or other. Although the type of source was coded for only the first four sources in the story, the total number of sources for each news story was coded. Inter-coder Reliability After several discussions of the variables and revisions of the codebook to achieve a high inter-coder reliability, the second author coded the majority of the news stories. Inter-coder reliability was assessed after the first and second authors coded 42 news stories, representing one-third of the cities. After comparing the coding, the coefficient of reliability (C.R.J was used to calculate inter~coder reliability (Holsti, 1969, p. 140}. The ratio of total coding agreements to total number of coding decisions produced an inter-coder reliability of 93%, which far exceeded the minimum acceptable level of 30% (Riffe, Lacy, & Fico, 1998). Inter-coder reliability for individual variables ranged from 82% to 100% with a modal inter—coder reliability of 98%. When race or ethnicity was coded for anchors, reporters, perpetrators of crimes, sources, and the primary focus of a news story, inter-coder reliability ranged f...
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