HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Report Faults Coverage Of Crime
Pubdate: Tue, 10 Apr 2001
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Note: Full report available at


Youth, Minorities Overplayed, Group Says.

A national report being released today contends that depictions in the 
media of murder and of crimes by youths and minorities are way out of whack 
with reality, giving a scary and untrue image of crime in America.

For example, the report, "Off Balance: Youth, Race and Crime in the News," 
found that although homicide arrests constitute less than 1 percent of all 
arrests, homicides are the subject of nearly one-third of all crime stories 
on the evening television news. And while murder coverage on network news 
stations increased 473 percent between 1990 and 1998, homicide arrests 
across the country actually dropped 32.9 percent during the same period.

Blacks are overrepresented in the media as criminals and underrepresented 
as victims, the report found - so much so that a survey of Newsweek and 
Time magazine stories found that the term "young black males" had become 
synonymous with the word "criminal." And though young people in California 
make up 14.1 percent of violent crime arrests, 70 percent of local TV 
stories on violence in the state involved youth.

Authors of the report - which analyzed broadcast, magazine and newspaper 
coverage between 1910 and 2000 - blame the off-kilter coverage on a mixture 
of expedience, tradition and poor newsroom judgment.

"Crime is cheap and easy to cover," said Lori Dorfman, director of the 
nonproTht Berkeley Media Studies Group, who co-wrote the study. "And 
there's a widely held perception that crime stories sell, which to a 
certain extent is true. But that doesn't mean newspapers and TV stations 
don't also have a responsibility to tell the broader story."

Her advice includes doing more in-depth reporting on youth and minority 
issues, and giving more context in crime stories when they do run.

The report was compiled by Dorfman's group and the Justice Policy Institute 
for the Washington, D.C.-based Building Blocks for Youth.

The full report may be viewed at
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