Marginalized Communities Get Unequal News Coverage, Philly Study Finds

Philadelphia is home to numerous news organizations, serving both mass and niche audiences. But taken together, they are underserving poor communities, judging by a new study. 

The research, published in the Journal of Communication and covered by the Nieman Lab, strongly suggests that differences in audience size and staffing levels, ownership structures and format “together work to underserve socioeconomically marginalized populations.”

For one thing, gaps occur when “some news outlets produce substantial coverage for some audiences while neglecting others,” and when they inadequately cover important issues related to public health and other critical issues, the authors write. 

These gaps are especially pronounced when “commercial outlets attempt to draw audiences with crime coverage that focuses on individual incidents rather than on the broader social and economic factors that fuel crime,” they add.



Public media offer more critical needs coverage, But some commercial news outlets, “particularly those owned by private equity/hedge fund investors and stock market-traded companies, compound these patterns,” they continue. 

Solutions may be elusive. Calling for “more public funding to reduce commercial pressures on struggling news organizations and expanding the budget for public media is a challenging reformist project,” the authors argue. 

They add that the “United States stands out globally for how little it invests in its public media.”

The conclusion: Nonmarket means of support “will likely become even more crucial in the years ahead.”

The authors--Timothy Neff, Pawel Popiel, and Victor Pickard—analyzed the local impact of 38 media gaps.


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