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Black Americans see a range of problems with how Black people are covered in the news, and few are hopeful that will change in the foreseeable future, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of nearly 5,000 Black adults.
On several questions, Black Americans are far more likely to view news coverage of Black people in a negative rather than positive light:
- Almost two-thirds of Black adults (63%) say news about Black people is often more negative than news about other racial and ethnic groups; 28% say it is about equal and 7% say it is often more positive.
- 57% say the news only covers certain segments of Black communities, compared with just 9% who say it covers a wide variety of Black people.
- Half say coverage is often missing important information, while only 9% say it often reports the full story.
- 43% say the coverage largely stereotypes Black people, far higher than the 11% who say it largely does not stereotype. An additional 43% say both of these things happen about equally.
These critical views of coverage of Black people are widely shared within the Black population, regardless of age, gender and even political party affiliation.
The survey asked Black Americans if they ever come across news that is racist or racially insensitive about Black people in some way. About four-in-ten (39%) say they see this kind of racially problematic news extremely or fairly often, and an additional 41% say they sometimes see such news.
Those who report coming across racially problematic news coverage of Black people at least sometimes see a few different reasons for this. About half (51%) say outlets pushing agendas is a major factor, and 45% say the same about journalists not being informed. Others say racist views among people at the news outlet (42%), the speed of the news cycle (37%) and a lack of Black staff at the news outlet (36%) are major reasons for racist or racially insensitive coverage.
Just 14% of Black Americans are highly confident that Black people will be covered fairly in their lifetimes, saying that is extremely or very likely to happen. Far more (38%) think that is not too likely or not at all likely to happen, while an additional 40% say it is somewhat likely. (More details on Black Americans’ views of how Black people are covered in the news are in Chapter 1.)
How can news coverage of Black people improve?
Black Americans identify a few steps that could improve what they see as flawed coverage. And one factor consistently stands out – making sure that journalists are informed about the issues affecting Black people.
The survey asked about the importance of several practices for journalists when covering Black people, finding that:
- 76% of Black Americans cite coverage of all sides of an issue as extremely or very important.
- A similar percentage, 73%, say it is extremely or very important for journalists to understand the history of the issues in the story.
- A majority (59%) say journalists personally engaging with the people they cover is of high importance.
- Roughly half (48%) see having journalists advocate for Black people as extremely or very important.
Among those who report at least sometimes seeing racist or racially insensitive coverage about Black people, nearly two-thirds (64%) identify educating all journalists about issues impacting Black Americans as an extremely or very effective way of making coverage fairer.
Substantial shares also say including more Black people as sources (54%) and hiring more Black people as newsroom leaders (53%) and as journalists (44%) at news outlets would be highly effective. Details on these findings are in Chapter 2.
These are some of the key findings of the Center’s nationally representative survey of 4,742 U.S. Black adults conducted from Feb. 22 to March 5, 2023. We undertook this study to take a closer look at the relationship between Black Americans and news in the United States.
- Black Americans see several problems in news coverage of Black people. Most say that Black people are covered more negatively than people in other racial and ethnic groups.
- Black Democrats and Republicans, as well as Black adults across all age groups, are similarly critical of news coverage of Black people.
- Educating all journalists about issues impacting Black people and history is among the steps Black Americans say would help the situation.
- Many Black Americans say Black journalists are better at understanding them and covering issues related to race, though few see a reporter’s race as a key factor in determining the accuracy of news in general.