*Blacks may be getting an accurate portrayal on television news programs in Los Angeles, but according to a new study, the same doesn’t apply to Latinos.
John Wihbey of Journalist’s Resource referenced the study, which came from Travis Dixon at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, last week, saying, “The study examines a sample of news broadcasts in Los Angeles between 2008 and 2012, including Spanish-language broadcasts (Univision), to evaluate how representations may be changing.
“Dixon notes the following with respect to the study’s methodology: ‘Television portrayals are compared with the perpetration and victim rates contained in data published by the California Department of Justice (CDOJ) and the Los Angeles Times. In addition, television portrayals of Los Angeles officers are compared with employment records published by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.’ News media reports were coded according to the racial portrayals within them,” Wihbey wrote while noting the differences in the portrayal of different races regarding “various roles in the context of crime.”
Dixon’s study, which was published in April in the bimonthly journal Communication Research under the title “Good Guys Are Still Always in White? Positive Change and Continued Misrepresentation of Race and Crime on Local Television News,” points out that depictions of black people have “greatly improved” compared with past research. As a result, “Blacks are accurately portrayed across all roles including as perpetrators, victims and officers.’
“This is an ‘unexpected set of findings’ given that ‘African-Americans were greatly overrepresented as criminals in prior work.”’
With Latinos, Dixon acknowledges changes, saying that although they’ve been “previously been underrepresented as criminals” the current study accurately presented them as perpetrators. In addition, Latinos continue to “remain underrepresented in more sympathetic roles as officers and victims.”
The reasons behind the misrepresentation lies in shifting demographics, which have led LA news stations to “focus more on Latino crime and less on African-American criminality,” Dixon stated as he cited an explanatory hypothesis.
Despite the changes among Blacks and Latinos, Dixon’s study mentions that nothing has changed for Whites as they remained significantly overrepresented as victims and officers” and “continue to be given a dominant role as representing authority and police on television” in LA news market.
‘Whites were more likely to be portrayed as police officers on television (73%) than to be employed as officers in Los Angeles and Orange counties (53%),” Dixon found. “Given the confidence interval of 6% on either side of the estimate of white television officers on the news, this is a statistically significant 20 percentage-point difference.’
The study cites further disparity between officer portrayals on TV compared to those employed in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
For Latinos, that amounted to them being “ less likely to be portrayed as officers on television news (16%) than to be employed as officers in Los Angeles and Orange counties (30%).”
For Whites, the study says they were “more likely to be depicted as homicide victims on local television news (35%) than to be victimized by homicide according to crime reports (13%).”
For more on Dixon’s study, click over to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.