In Black And White: Report Documents Media Bias In Crime Coverage

racial bias in the media as it pertains to coverage of people prosecuted in the criminal court system.
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Photos: EJI

In collaboration with EJI, Global Strategy Group has published a report on the role of racial bias in the media as it pertains to coverage of people prosecuted in the criminal court system.

The report, Innocent Until Proven Guilty? A look at media coverage of criminal defendants in the U.S., uses data from 10 criminal cases to analyze differing portrayals of Black defendants and white defendants, resulting in unreliable court outcomes.

The data points to racial bias in over 20 different topics surrounding media coverage including the use of imagery, language choices, the framing of the accused and the victim, and reporter background.

“Racially biased media coverage has been a substantial factor contributing to unreliable and unjust outcomes in the criminal legal system,” EJI director Bryan Stevenson said. “News media have often reinforced a presumption of guilt and dangerousness assigned to Black people when reporting on crime while devaluing the lives of Black people and the harm they suffer when victimized. American media can and should do better in eliminating racially biased coverage.”

Some of the findings from the report include:

  • Mugshots were used in coverage of 45% of cases involving Black people accused of crimes compared to only 8% of cases involving white defendants.
  • White victims were nearly four times more likely to be presented in photos with friends and family than Black people victimized by crime.
  • Media coverage was 50% more likely to refer to white defendants by name as compared to Black defendants.

Read the full report:

By EJI

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