New York TV stations disproportionately cover crimes committed by black people

The trend is extremely harmful when it comes to policymaking

Topics: Crime, Race, Media, Bias, , ,

New York TV stations disproportionately cover crimes committed by black people (Credit: sakhorn via Shutterstock)

New York City television stations disproportionately cover crimes committed by black people, according to a new report released by Media Matters. The report culled data from the New York Police Department and found that while African-American suspects had been arrested in 54 percent of murders, 55 percent of thefts and 49 percent of assaults, television stations including WCBS, WNBC, WABC and WNYW have featured coverage of crimes that are predominantly committed by black people. According to the report, the stations covered murders of which 68 percent of the suspects were African-American, 80 percent of the suspects of thefts were African-American, and 72 percent of the suspects of assaults were African-American.

Media Matters described its methodology:

Media Matters watched the late-night news on WCBS, WNBC, and WABC (airing at 11 p.m.) and WNYW (airing at 10 p.m.) during weeknights from May 26 until August 15. Media Matters recorded the race, if it could be determined, of suspects who were reported to be connected to crimes committed in New York City’s five boroughs. Any story about a crime committed outside of the city limits was excluded. The race of the suspect was recorded only if it could be determined from a picture shown on the air or if the suspect’s race was explicitly mentioned in the report. Any suspect whose race could not be determined was not included.

Obviously, this gap in coverage is a major problem. The news media’s main responsibility is to report facts accurately, but as we have seen with Ferguson coverage, selective omission has the power to strongly manipulate public opinion. The decision, made consciously or otherwise, to cover predominantly crimes committed by black people contributes to the notion that black people commit more crime.

Not only does that fuel racial bias, but it also affects how civilians feel about public policy. In a recent Slate article, author Jamelle Bouie wrote about a study from Stanford University psychologists in which they polled how random individuals would vote on California’s “three strikes” law (which mandates longer sentences for habitual offenders) after being shown a series of 80 mug shots of black and white male inmates. They were then offered the chance to sign a petition to amend the law to make it less harsh.



Bouie writes:

Unbeknownst to the participants, Hetey and Eberhardt had “manipulated the ratio of black to white inmates, to portray racial disparities in the prison population as more or less extreme.” Some participants saw a video in which 25 percent of the photos were of black inmates, approximating the actual distribution of inmates in California prisons, while others saw a video in which 45 percent of photos were black inmates…

The results were staggering. More than half of the participants who viewed the “less-black” photographs agreed to sign the petition. But those who viewed the “more-black” photographs, less than 28 percent agreed to sign. And punitiveness had nothing to do with it. The outcome was as true for participants who said the law was too harsh as it was for those who said it wasn’t harsh enough.”

By manipulating the ratio of crimes committed by black people to be disproportionately high, New York television stations are unwittingly performing this experiment on the most populous city in the United States.

Joanna Rothkopf

Joanna Rothkopf is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on science, health and society. Follow @JoannaRothkopf or email jrothkopf@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...