One news organization. Two crime stories. Two groups of suspects from different races. And two very different types of images.
Same day. Same crime. Same news station. One University pics. The other mugshots. pic.twitter.com/ENMal2mKLH— Tsunade-Sama (@honeycoquette) March 30, 2015
Mic's Dennis Clifton reported that when Iowa sister news sites thegazette.com and KCRG.com published stories about two groups of men — one black and one white — arrested for burglary last week, it didn't take long for readers to start asking why the white suspects were pictured in suits and ties (their wrestling team photos), while photos accompanying the story about the black suspects were mug shots.
Clifton reported that the story wasn't updated with mug shots of the three white suspects who were formally booked until after the social media backlash. KCRG said in a statement that the organization's policy was to use the best images available, and the white suspects' mug shots simply weren't available when the story was published, so their wrestling team photos were used instead. According to the publication, the the mug shots were published as soon as it had access to them.
When it comes to race and crime, media bias is a huge problem
Whatever happened, the story has attracted attention because the contrast in the photos of the black and white suspects is a visual reminder of a problem that transcends the outlets' handling of these two burglary cases: media bias against African Americans.
Another recent example is highlighted in a report by the progressive research center Media Matters, which concluded that New York City television stations give disproportionate coverage to crimes involving black suspects.
The Media Matters study found that between August 18 and December 13, 2014, the stations (WCBS, WNBC, WABC, and WNYW) used their late-night broadcasts to report on murder, theft, and assault cases with black suspects at much higher rates than black suspects were actually arrested for those crimes.
According to New York City Police Department statistics, African Americans were suspects in 54 percent of murders, 55 percent of thefts, and 49 percent of assaults. But the suspects in the stations' coverage were black in 74 percent of murder stories, 84 percent of theft stories, and 73 percent of assault stories.
Negative images in the media affect how black people are treated in real life
"This type of overrepresentation sends a message that it's okay and it's justified to fear black folks. It sends a message about who black people are that is harmful and hurtful," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the civil rights group ColorOfChange, in the video above.
ColorOfChange released a report titled "Not To Be Trusted: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC," in response to the Media Matters study. "What people see and hear in the media has a tremendous effect on their lives," Robinson said. "It has a tremendous effect on decisions they make, from decisions that are made in the schoolhouse to the courthouse."
Correction: according to a representative of The Gazette/KCRG, the photos in the story about the wrestlers were updated immediately after the publication received the mugshots. The piece has been updated to reflect this.
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