As a group, African Americans attracted relatively little attention in the U.S. mainstream news media during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency -- and what coverage there was tended to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the lives of blacks generally, according to a year-long study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its Social and Demographic Trends Project.
These findings come from an examination of more than 67,000 national news stories that appeared between February 16, 2009 and February 15, 2010 in different mainstream media outlets, including newspapers, cable and network television, radio, and news websites.
Just 643 of those stories, 1.9% of the total newshole examined by the study, related in a significant way to African Americans in the U.S. (To be considered a “significant” part of a given story, 25% of the content of that story must be about a demographic group and its race/ethnicity).
The press coverage that did emerge tended to be a reaction to events involving black newsmakers rather than to issues relating to African Americans more generally. The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, the Obama presidency, the death of Michael Jackson and the attempted Northwest Airlines terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab accounted for nearly half (46.4%) of all coverage that had a substantial mention of African Americans during this time period.
Click here to read more on the study.
The Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists (CAABJ) is an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), a nonprofit organization focused on establishing strong ties among African-Americans working in the media and expanding and balancing the media's coverage of the African-American community and experience.