Black males, statistically speaking, are more likely to be represented in the media negatively. Media direction about black men and boys are dominantly steered towards stories around crime.When researching news broadcasters or media publications, provocative language is used to engage the reader, whether it positive or negative. This in turn, creates labels on social groups which develops into stigmas about said social groups. The REACH Media Analysis Report, which is an independent report raising the aspirations and attainment of black boys and young black men to government. The aim of this report is to take in the negative stereotyping of young black men, and to focus on improving the social influencing from the media. Thus identifying issues impacting on black boys’ achievements and aspirations. The REACH chairman’s foreword states: “Almost every week there are reports of the educational failure of young Black men; of increasing gang membership and criminality including murder; of deprivation; and over-representation in prison and mental health institutions.” (Lewis, 2007)
The REACH report is based more on positive changes for future generations, rather than criticising the stigmas we are already aware of. It sets out a concise framework of goals to reach by 2010: Strong resourced networks of black role models, resources for use in schools, and positive images and portrayals about black men in the broadcast and print media, to move away from negative stereotyping. They also set out further goals by 2020: Significant reduction in the attainment gap at GCSE level for black boys, change in the profile of black men chosen to represent universities, and most poignantly, improvement in self-image, self confidence and self esteem of black boys. Their goals developed over various methods of research. Primary research began from black boys and families in local communities to offer their views, community engagement workshops, questionnaires, and finally consultations with commissions for Racial Equalities, Human Rights and the Youth Justice board.
“It is important to look at potential impacts for this group, beyond some of the headline grabbing statistics. For example, Black boys and young Black men may grow up with the perception that they are doomed to fail. Without the appropriate parenting, family or friendship support and surroundings, it could be all too easy for Black boys to begin the trajectory to fulfil what they believe is a foregone conclusion.” (REACH Report, p19, 2007)
We then move to ‘Media Representations of Black Young Men and Boys’ a report of the REACH media monitoring project. This report offers an extensive analysis of media coverage of black men and boys in British news. It slightly criticises the original REACH report, saying: “The social identity and public image of black young men and boys is conditioned by long standing and deep-rooted structural issues, not just contemporary events or their current reporting in the news media.” (Cushion, Moore, and Jewell, 2011) However, it is worth noting that this report also highlights the impact the REACH report had on media outlets. More on this to follow.
There is a discourse around journalism, not just surrounding black men. Journalism aids society in understanding their position in the world and it solidifies an institutional hierarchy. Using black men and boys for example, there is a journalistic construct where stereotypes are evident, and seen as necessary for this hierarchy to comfortably exist in society. This report aims to examine the extent to which it perpetuates stereotypes, by monitoring 16 weeks worth of broad news coverage, spanning over a year. This report I deem to be a progression from the REACH Report, as it not only looks at the analysis of news texts, but also examines journalistic practices and everyday experiences of reporting, to deem whether this changes how certain stories are reported.
Graph 2.1: Comparison of subject matter within the coverage of black young men and boys (n499) and the coverage of all young men and boys (n3412), Cushion, Moore, and Jewell, 2011.
This comparison of subject matter coverage spans over 400 news items of both all men and boys, and black men and boys. Clearly, the highest subject matter for both categories is the reportage of crime. One of the second largest categories for black men and boys was discrimination at 5.2 per cent. Contrasting to that, the second largest category for all men and boys was education, at 10.8 per cent. If we look specifically at what types of stories are within news coverage for black men, the highest story is one of the young person as victim of murder at 153 stories. Just under this, is the young person as perpetrator of murder, at 107 stories.
Even though there is a similar representation of crime in the media across all young men and boys, there is still a significantly larger negative viewpoint steered towards black men in journalism.
For over 400 news items, for 70 per cent of this to be centred around crime associated with young black men and boys, it is clear that the current representation of black men in the media is creating a distorted image.
This report also looked into any mentions of the REACH Report in mainstream news between 1 December 2008-30 November 2009. This included all national newspapers, regional publications, and online versions of black and minority ethnic newspapers.