Manufacturing the Gang: Mexican American Youth Gangs on Local Television News

Manufacturing the Gang: Mexican American Youth Gangs on Local Television News

Manufacturing the Gang: Mexican American Youth Gangs on Local Television News

Manufacturing the Gang: Mexican American Youth Gangs on Local Television News

Synopsis

Coverage of Mexican-American youth gangs has been a staple of local television news in the United States for decades, and its form and content have come to embody many journalistic cliches: the "rising tide" of violence, the spread of drug addiction, the alienated minority youth. But as this bold new study argues, these stories contain gross exaggerations that lead to the reinforcement of stereotypes about Mexican-American young people and the Mexican-American community in general. Indeed, the police and community leaders greatly influence the content of this coverage by deciding what information to make available to the news media, while reporters select certain sources and ignore others, thus slanting the story even further. As author Raul Tovares makes clear, the true story of Mexican-American youth is far more complex than local news would have its viewers believe.

Excerpt

On September 19, 1990, two persons were shot and wounded in broad daylight near a bus stop in downtown Austin, Texas. Along with other news media, local television stations rushed production units to the scene. The incident was reported live by local television news as a gang shooting. Sixteen-year-old Bonifacio Alba was later charged with shooting and wounding sixty-one-year-old Tony Flores and a sixteen-year-old girl. Both were struck by bullets from a 9mm pistol. Another person, sixteen-year-old Roy Rios, was also wounded in the shooting, but Alba pleaded guilty only to wounding Flores and the teenage girl.

The shooting was a story that the news media could not overlook. It had occurred at the state capital, in the downtown area, as office workers were starting to head home. The shooting, according to news reports, had been the result of a feud between two rival “gangs.”

Reporters at the scene of the shooting and anchors sitting behind news desks immediately began to report about gang involvement in the downtown shooting. The first television station to report the shooting told viewers that “At least one witness said the shooting occurred between two rival gangs. The witness said members of the

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