In reviewing the literature on news framing of minorities, some studies focused on the role of media imagery in shaping public perception. One such study conducted by Dixon (2008) reviewed the effects that racial imagery has on network news, and the impact it may have in shaping viewer’s stereotypical perceptions of minorities. Dixon conducted random telephone surveys of 506 Los Angeles county residents (2008).
Dixon (2008) hypothesized the following:
Exposure to network news will be negatively associated with estimation of Black income. Exposure to television network news will be positively associated with stereotypical perceptions of Blacks. Exposure to television network news will be positively associated with modern racism. (p. 323)
The results from this study indicated that exposure to network news lowered estimates of African-American income, and network news exposure also increased the support of African-American Stereotypes, such as the portrayal of Blacks as intimidating. In addition, Dixon’s (2008) findings concluded that more exposure to network news was positively associated with higher marks on the Modern Racism Scale (MRS; MsConahay, 1986).
Dixon explained that evidence suggests that network news may form both racial views and racial prejudice of its audience (2008). Dixon (2008) explained that because of network news continued framing practices, negative perceptions of African-Americans and racial prejudice might be exacerbated for those who watch it by network’s news constant negative coverage.
This study also found that local news coverage was not directly related to racial prejudice and stereotypes of African-American income. This may have occurred because local news normally focuses on race and crime that may be more stereotypically associated with African-Americans and this area was not assessed in this study (Dixon, 2008).
Other research analyzed how local television news programming depicts minorities in its coverage. Dixon and Linz (2000) conducted a content analysis of local television news programming in Los Angeles and Orange Counties to evaluate how Blacks, Latinos, and Whites are represented either as “lawbreakers or law defenders.” These researchers added that the study was designed to establish whether television news programs present news stories in a way that portrays African-Americans and Latinos as perpetual criminal elements of society. Furthermore, this study attempted to assess whether television news misrepresents the role of Whites as symbols of order in the form of police officers or law defenders.
Crime was defined as information pertaining to the commission of a “law breaking” act only, such as murder, arson and robbery, which is monitored by the U.S Department of Justice and the State of California Justice Department. Crime stories were coded for comparison to actual crime statistics from these agencies (Dixon and Linz, 2000).
Dixon and Linz (2000) found that Blacks and Latinos were more likely than Whites to be depicted as criminals on television news. In addition, this study found that Blacks and Latinos were more likely than Whites to be perpetrators of crime than as police officers. However, Whites were less likely to be included in news stories as criminals. The study also found that overall, Blacks were more likely to be overrepresented in these news television news stories as criminals, but Latinos and Whites were more likely to be underrepresented as criminal suspects.
Dixon and Linz explained that the reason that Blacks are overrepresented as criminals is because this group generally receives this kind of negative media attention, while Latinos under-representation may be because this group receives little attention (2000). This under representation of Latinos labeled as criminals on television news broadcasts might have increased due to the recent negative attention that Latinos have received in relation to immigration and undocumented workers in the U.S.
Abraham and Appiah (2006) conducted a study on news story framing as it relates to imagery in promoting racial stereotypes. Nearly 200 White undergraduate students from a large, public Midwestern university participated in this study. The research experiment studied the effects of four different news story situations and affiliated images of Whites and African-Americans, and White participants perceptions of how those depicted in these public policy news stories (Blacks and Whites) might be perceived. The news policy stories included in this study were about the three-strikes law and school vouchers.
Abraham and Appiah found that implied visual images of a Black person next to race neutral stories can influence the way White participants view how certain populations are impacted by specific issues (2006).
Abraham and Appiah (2006) explained the following:
Unlike past research on racial priming that has used stereotyping media of Blacks, and only focused on one public policy issue, this study used story narratives that make no mention of race, used non-stereotypical pictorial representations of Blacks featured alongside the news stories, and used stories from two public policy domains (i.e., school vouchers and three-strikes laws). (p. 195)
The study found that White participants perceived Blacks, more than Whites, as being more affiliated with the social issues presented. The authors in this study explained that even without stereotypical characterizations of Blacks, “news media can perpetuate stereotypes in subtle and highly effective ways using implicit visual imagery that activate racial attitudes” (Abraham and Appiah, 2006, p. 196). These authors explained that past research of Black characters in media depicted in a non-stereotypical manner, may still bring to mind, race oriented stereotypes.
The media may not engage in sensational negative stereotyping of Blacks, but through implicit visual associations of Blacks in a negative context, media stories trigger stereotypes that have a long history in the U.S. media and culture (Abraham and Appiah, 2006). Abraham and Appiah further explained that the media plays a significant role in promoting race based stereotypes that too often associate Blacks as, “indigent, uneducated, violent, and criminal” (2006, p. 199).
In an additional research study on Fox News and racial stereotyping and profiling, Vultee (2009) conducted a discourse analysis of Fox News to determine how it uses the concept of Orientalism as constructed by Said (1979) to form, “a uniquely menacing image of Islam” (p. 623). Orientalism (Said, 1979) as described by Vultee, is a long, historical pattern of thought in which the West labels itself as rational and sensible, while controlling and labeling those from the East as sensual, violent, and a threat to the West (2009). According to Vultee, through various sources, Fox News’s Website acts as a clearinghouse and creates for its audience its interpretation of the Islamic world (2009).
Vultee (2009) examined text material (39 articles) from Fox News website over a two year period, 2007 and 2008, which fit the following theoretical framework. The emerging Islam as a threat to the West were analyzed in two ways: (1) Said’s (1979) main theme of “Orientalism,” and (2) van Dijk’s (1988) ideological square in which favorable characteristics and unfavorable characteristics create an “us” versus “them” scenario. In this construct, intermittent acts by individual Muslims or Muslim states would appear as integrated patterns, while incidents from the Western world appear as isolated occurrences having no ties to religion, if reported on at all on Fox News’s website (Vultee, 2009).
This study continued and found that the “Orientalizing” of the Islamic world at Fox News seemed to serve a larger partisan purpose. For example, upon the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an article declared that the U.S. army remained strong and able; and the following days headline article on this website noted that an “Islam en-flamed” was on the verge of exploding if the protectors, the U.S, were not there to restore order. Vultee (2009) added that many Fox articles that pit “us,” the West against “them,” Islam creates an ideology of “orientalism” that constructs its audience’s reality. Vultee (2009) also suggested that Fox’s interpretations and ideology of Muslims as menacing and a threat can be used by other factions, such as governments to continue its war policies, and “useful to the conduct of a limitless war on terror (p. 634).
In an additional study on framing of minorities by conservative media, Shah examined how conservative commentators, such as Fox News’s Bill O’ Reilly, and conservative leaders discussed predominantly Black and poor New Orleans residents left behind during Hurricane Katrina (2009). For one month conservative commentary was collected from such sources as: the highest circulation daily newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2004, and leading conservative commentators (Shah, 2009).
This study found that conservative news commentators, such as O’Reilly and other conservative media labeled these residents as behaving irresponsibly, “for ignoring evacuation orders and outraged by reports of criminal behavior of black gangs at the Superdome and Convention Center murdering at will” (Shah, 2009, p. 2). Shah added that this also indicated that these victims were unworthy of sympathy or assistance (2009). Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly said the following about the Katrina victims in New Orleans (Shah, 2009): “‘connect the dots and wise up. Educate yourself, work hard and be honest. If you don’t, the odds are you will be desperately standing on a symbolic rooftop someday yourself'” (p.10).
This content analysis of conservative media identifies the potentially important role that conservative media may have on constructing cultural imagery and symbols which may lead to the social, racial hierarchies that position Blacks at the bottom; as victims, unworthy of assistance (Shah, 2009).
Abraham, L. & Appiah, O. (2006). Framing news stories: the role of visual imagery in priming racial stereotypes. The Howard Journal of Communications, 183 (17), 183-203. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Day, J.C. (2010). U.S census bureau: population profile of the united states. Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://www.census.gov/population/www/pop-profile/natproj.html
Dixon, T.L. (2008). Network news and racial beliefs: exploring the connection between national and television news exposure and stereotypical perceptions of African-Americans. Journal of Communication, 58, 321-337. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Dixon, T.L. & Linz, D. (2000). Overrepresentation and under representation of african-americans and latinos as lawbreakers on television news. International Communication Association, 131 – 154. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Shah, H. (2009). Legitimizing Neglect: race and rationality in conservative news commentary about hurricane Katrina. The Howard Journal of Communications, 20, 1-17. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Vulte, F. (2009). Jump back jack, mohammed’s here: fox news and the construction of islamic peril. Journalism Studies, 10 (5), 623-638. Retrieved September 18, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.