White News: Why Local News Programs Don't Cover People of Color

White News: Why Local News Programs Don't Cover People of Color

White News: Why Local News Programs Don't Cover People of Color

White News: Why Local News Programs Don't Cover People of Color

Synopsis

Is TV news racist? If the purpose of local news is to cover individual communities and to present issues of interest and concern to local audiences, why are local newscasts so similar in markets around the country? These are the questions that motivated Heider's research, leading to the development of this book. Recognizing that local news is the outlet through which most people get their news, Heider ventured into the local television newsrooms in two moderate-size, culturally diverse U.S. markets to observe the news process. In this report, he uses his insider's perspective to examine why local television news coverage of people of color does not occur in more meaningful ways. Heider examines the perceptions of racism and ethnicity, and addresses such dichotomies as "white" news (content determined by white managers) being delivered by non-white news anchors, thus giving the appearance of "non-white" news. He also considers how coverage of minorities influences viewers' perceptions of their minority neighbors. Heider then sets forth a new theoretical concept--incognizant racism--as a way of explaining how news workers consistently ignore news in significant portions of the communities they cover. This contribution to the minorities and media discussion provides important insights into the newsroom decision-making process and the sociology and structure of newsrooms. It is required reading for all who are involved in news reporting, mass communication, media and minority studies, and cultural issues in today's society.

Excerpt

At 5 p.m. turn on your television set. Click over until you find the local newscast. What do you see? Newscasters, likely on a handsome set, reading stories, accentuated by modern graphics and lots of videotape clips.

What may be more important is what you don't see. For among the newscasters, the experts, and the newsmakers you only occasionally will see a face that's not pink. Although I worked in television news for nearly 10 years, this is a fact that somehow escaped me until I quit the business and had the time and inclination to begin looking back on the business of which I had been a part, and even at the work I had myself done. I am White. For Anglo-Americans, color, especially the color white (or pink), is most often not noticed. We live in a country where millions of people can still go through their daily existence and never notice how Whites are in so many places, in so many authoritative positions, because it has been for so long the norm.

I was in Hawai'i in 1992, and as a former broadcast journalist, I wanted to see the local news. What I noticed about Hawai'i was that it was a unique place, probably one of the most unique of the United States. Not all that many pink people. The news came on. It was not unique. Except for the fact that I saw an occasional Hawaiian shirt, it reminded me of news in other U.S. cities. I could have been in Toledo, Ohio, or Syracuse, New York. How could that be, I wondered?

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