Minorities Distrust News Media Depictions

Most African-American and Hispanic news consumers don’t trust the media to provide accurate portrayals of their communities in news reporting, according to a new survey of 1,492 U.S. adults by the Media Insight Project, a joint initiative by the American Press Institute, the Associated Press, and University of Chicago’s NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey set out to investigate American attitudes toward news amid the continuing rise of digital media, including the proliferation of mobile devices and growing penetration of social media. A majority of respondents said technology has facilitated news consumption, and this sentiment cut across racial lines, with 60% of white Americans agreeing that it is easier to get news today than it was five years ago, along with 58% of African-Americans and 57% of Hispanics.

However, the numbers fall off when respondents in the latter groups were asked about coverage of their own communities: just 39% of African-Americans and 41% of Hispanics believe it is easier to keep up with news about their communities than it was five years ago, while 41% of each group said there is no difference.



Furthermore, they continue to perceive coverage as biased or simply uninformed. Thus 25% of African-Americans and 33% of Hispanics surveyed said they think the media covers their communities very accurately, and around half of both groups (51% of African-Americans and 49% of Hispanics) said they feel the media covers them with any regularity.

The report authors note that these figures would appear to contradict one of the pieces of conventional wisdom about the rise of digital media -- specifically that lowering barriers to publication would increase the diversity of reportage and boost coverage of previously neglected communities and topics.

Interestingly, African-American respondents were most likely to cite a traditional news source -- local TV news -- as the most accurate and frequent provider of news about their community, while Hispanics cited Hispanic-specific news sources (for example Hispanic TV networks like Univision).

Of course, news isn’t the only part of the media facing these kinds of issues.

In June, a report from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race found that U.S. Hispanics believe portrayals of Hispanics in mainstream media are skewed. For example, the report noted that Latino characters in movies and TV shows still tend to be depicted as “criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor and hypersexualized beings.” To the degree that Latinos hold leading or supporting roles in films and TV shows, there is a strong gender bias, as Latina women have largely eclipsed Latino men. 

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