by Arisha, Rashad, Matt, Brandi, Dallas
Every night tens of millions of people across the country tune in to the local news to find out what’s happening in their communities. But our newly-released report — the ColorOfChange News Accuracy Report Card — shows how local news stations in New York City play a harmful role in shaping the narratives that exacerbate a dangerous and hostile climate for Black communities.
Our partners at Media Matters for America monitored hours of footage over a 20 week period from the four largest New York City network outlets and came to a shocking conclusion: every major network affiliate is disproportionately focusing their crime reporting on Black suspects, and inaccurately exaggerating the proportion of Black people involved in crime—on average, by 24 percentage points.1 Our new report is focused on NYC but make no mistake, similar practices are taking place on television screens across the county.
Read our report — NOT TO BE TRUSTED: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC.
For far too long the police have been given a pass — and even at times praised — for over targeting, harassing and brutalizing Black communities. New York for decades has been ground zero in the movement against police violence and harassment, calling into question the very legitimacy of the NYPD’s arrest rates.
Though many of our communities have come to fear law enforcement, media has played a crucial role in perpetuating the harmful narratives that shape the implicit or explicit biases of their audiences. We then see this play out in discriminatory hiring practices, biased treatment in courtrooms, and the kinds of brutal treatment by police that took the lives of unarmed Black people like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Akai Gurley. The result is that our communities are being put in double jeopardy, first by over zealous police and then by news stations serving as PR firms by proxy.
What’s more, these stations are simultaneously under-reporting crimes perpetrated by white suspects, which only further cements the implicit biases of viewers.
These images also hurt Black youth by contributing to a warped, inconsistent self-image. Research shows repeated exposure to the kinds of negative, dehumanizing stereotypes displayed on a nightly basis by local news stations are demoralizing and reduce the self-esteem and self-expectations of our young people.2
Read our report: NOT TO BE TRUSTED: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC.
Our ColorOfChange News Accuracy Report Card examines the harm their crime coverage is doing to our communities. The results are not pretty: While WNYW/FOX5 received a “B”, WNBC and WCBS each received a “D”, denoting “Dangerous Coverage;” WABC got a big, fat “F”, denoting reporting that is “Outright Hostile” towards Black people.
Currently we are in communication with local stations as we seek to open up a candid dialogue with network executives that will result in lasting systemic changes. Among those changes: an end to the disproportionate targeting of Black people in crime coverage, transparency regarding the diversity of newsroom staff, and a greater systemic analysis and diversity of perspectives in their crime reporting.
Please read and share our report about the irresponsible and dangerous local news crime coverage in New York City.
The impact of these practices extends far beyond New York. As the largest media market in the world, local NYC news has the power to influence a wide and populous audience — a metro area of nearly 20 million people. Commitments on the part of these stations to better reporting practices would not only impact a very large number of people, it could also have a cascading impact on crime coverage at affiliates across the country. We urge these stations to show leadership here, and usher in a fairer, more accurate era in crime coverage nationwide.
ColorOfChange is ready and willing to guide the stations toward a basic standard of decency, and away from the inaccurate reporting practices that are harming Black folks. But the first step is getting these stations to admit they have a reporting problem, and commit themselves to correcting it.
Join us in making New York City a safer place for Black people, and check out the ColorOfChange News Accuracy Report Card.
Arisha, Rashad, Matt, Brandi, Dallas and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. “REPORT: New York City Television Stations Continue Disproportionate Coverage Of Black Crime,” Media Matters for America 03-23-15
2. “Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys,” The Opportunity Agenda