Monday, November 21, 2011

New Report Examines Portrayal and Perception of African American Men and Boys in the Media

In recent years, several studies have been conducted on the coverage and portrayal of African American men and boys in the media.  Results have shown that black men and boys are overrepresented in crime related stories with little coverage on topics such as education, leadership and business. 

This month, a new report adds to this growing body of research, commissioned by the Heinz Endowments' African American Men and Boys Task Force:  "Portrayal and Perception:  Two Audits of News Media Reporting on African American Men and Boys."  Researchers analyzed Pittsburgh's news media for three months, with the results showing that the largest block of news stories linked to African American men and boys involved crime:  86 percent for television newscasts and 36 percent for two daily newspapers.  They found scant coverage of  "quality of life" topics such as the arts, environment, education, leadership/community and business/economy.  Also found was the near-absence of positive coverage of young black men and boys ages 15-30.   Interview subject Jahmiah Guillory, a 19 year-old college student stated about the media, "They don't show...positive African American men that have obtained degrees within business and marketing and that are moving in a positive direction.  They only show the guys getting caught with drugs...And that affects our overall perception of different ways to become more economically fit as African American males."

The report states that when the Heinz Endowments decided to conduct this research two years ago, the foundation was not expected to be surprised by the results.  But it was expressions of concern from local residents during community meetings that led the task force to include the power of storytelling in its strategy for finding ways to improve life outcomes for black men and boys.  Findings have also encouraged efforts to support projects that put media in the hands of African American males, to tell their own stories and challenge stories told about them.

The report includes recommendations specific to Pittsburgh, but can be easily adapted for your city.  Among the recommendations are for local media to actively find and feature everyday examples involving African American men and boys, and to partner with and engage readers and viewers; and for the African American community to be proactive in inviting media to events in your neighborhoods, introducing them to influential people they may be seeking or missing, and to use/grow the local blogosphere as a vehicle to highlight positive stories.

For more on the report's findings and recommendations, read the full report HERE.

Related website:  Learn about the work of the 2025 Campaign for Black Men and Boys working to address this issue at


Anonymous said...

As an African American female I am aware of the misrepresentation of AA males in media. It is important to remember America was built upon racism and segregation, this means black people should actively seek out media outlets that enhance racial pride and solidarity instead of relying on traditions that work to dismember us as a unified group.

Tracey said...

Thank you for your comment. I agree with you, black men and boys need to tell their own stories instead of relying on mainstream media. The more that can be done, it can help to counteract the negative images.