Source: Hill Street Studios/Matthew Palmer / Getty
Black suspects continue to be overrepresented in crime newscasts in New York City on WCBS, WNBC, WABC, and WNYW, according to a report released Monday by media watchdog group Media Matters.
Last year, between August 18 and December 31, late-night weekly news covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a much higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City, the report says.
According to averages of arrest statistics from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for the past four years, African-American suspects were arrested in 54 percent of murders, 55 percent of thefts, and 49 percent of assaults.
However, between August 18 and December 31, 2014, the suspects in the four stations’ coverage of murders were 74 percent African-American, the suspects in coverage of thefts were 84 percent African-American, and suspects in assaults were 73 percent African-American [.]
A civil rights leader and vice president at Media Matters both tell Capital New York that the impact of the broadcasts can have devastating effects on the Black community, not to mention exacerbating historically strained relationships between African-Americans and police officers.
“The result of disproportionately showing African-Americans committing crimes on TV screens is creating the false impression of who is committing crime,” Zac Petkanas, vice president of communications for Media Matters, said in an interview. “I think one is safe in saying it is not a good thing for one to be over-represented in [the category of] committing more crimes than other races.”
Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a civil right organization that analyzed the data compiled by Media Matters, said, the report revealed another problem with local television networks: “It’s not just that they’re over-reporting black crime — they’re underreporting white crime, they’re systematically under-reporting white crime.”
Our take: No wonder people like former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani feel free to go around equating African-American men with “the large incidence of crime.” The stations need to change their reporting methods, especially since they are “systematically underreporting White crime,” as pointed out by Rashad Robinson of Color of Change.