Posted on November 2, 2011

Media Urged to Change Portrayal of Blacks

Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 2, 2011

Mainstream media in Pittsburgh must broaden their coverage of black men and youths from a disproportionate diet of crime and sports stories, a summit of scholars, experts and news media executives concluded during a daylong, invitation-only summit Tuesday sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Public Affairs Office.

Those attending the summit, titled “Evolving the Image of the African American Male in American Media,” at the University Club recommended that news executives be held more accountable for the content they publish or broadcast and African-American youth should seize control the narrative of their lives by utilizing film, radio and various online media to tell their own stories.

The group used as a jumping-off point for the discussions two studies commissioned by the Heinz Endowments that found a inordinate amount of Pittsburgh news coverage of African-American men and boys focused on crime.

“This is borderline journalism malpractice and we need to do something about it,” Paula Poindexter, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin said during a panel discussion on “Imagery in the News.”


The Meyer content analysis found that during three months last year, the largest block of news stories involving black men and youth were about crime–86 percent of the news broadcasts and 37 percent of the newspaper stories.


The Pew report found that the most frequent topics for news broadcasts involving African-American men were sports (43 percent) and crime (30 percent). In the newspapers, crime led all topics involving black men at 43 percent.

Once crime stories were excluded, the content analysis found there were few other stories about black males.