Black Suspects Are Covered Disproportionately by NYC’s Late-Night TV Newscasts

Graphic from the “Not to Be Trusted: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC” press release issued by in March 2015.
Graphic from the “Not to Be Trusted: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC” press release issued by in March 2015.

Editor’s note: This news item was originally published in Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column.


"Four major broadcast television stations in New York City have continued to give disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects, a Media Matters analysis found," Daniel Angster and Salvatore Colleluori reported Monday for Media Matters for America. "Between August 18 and December 31, 2014, the stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights still covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a notably higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City. … " 

The authors also wrote, "WABC Showed The Most Suspects Involved In Crimes, While WNYW Showed The Least. From August 18 to the end of the year, the local Fox affiliate, WNYW, aired crime stories involving 41 suspects, while WABC ran reports involving 212 suspects. The crime coverage on WCBS and WNBC was similar, with 140 suspects identified by each station. … "

They added later, "In an analysis of the effects of race and reporting published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media in 2009, four communications professors explained that consuming reporting that over represents black crime can have a negative effect on the perception of African-Americans as a group."

The authors noted similar results in other cities. They also wrote, "In the 2000 book The Black Image in the White Mind, professors Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki analyze various forms of television programming to determine how the perception of African-Americans is affected by their portrayals on television. Chapter 5 of their book discusses how 'local television news portrays Blacks in urban communities with a limited palate that paints a world apparently out of control and replete with danger.' They also write that the 'accumulated impression from these images is that race alone suffices for comprehensive identification of criminals—that being African American is almost tantamount to guilt.' … "

According to, which collaborated with Media Matters for America on the analysis, 75 percent of the crimes that New York City reporters covered on the air involved black suspects. Meanwhile, only 51 percent of crimes in the city involved black suspects.

Rachel Ferguson, director of communications and public affairs at WCBS-TV, said by email, "WCBS-TV will decline to comment."


Dave J. Davis, general manager of WABC-TV, said in a message, "I know our News Director Camille Edwards has had some dialogue with the report's author, but we have not verified the information, or studied the methodology. At this point, I would just say that WABC/Eyewitness News works every day to be fair and impartial in its news coverage. We believe that's one of the reasons it is the most preferred news program in the New York area, especially among minority viewers."

NBC-owned WNBC and Fox-owned WNYW did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more at Media Matters for America and