News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

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If all you knew about black families was what national news outlets reported, you are likely to think African Americans are overwhelmingly poor, reliant on welfare, absentee fathers and criminals, despite what government data show, a new study says.  Major media outlets routinely present a distorted picture of black families — portraying them as dependent and dysfunctional — while white families are more likely to be depicted as sources of social stability, according to the report released Dec 13 by the racial justice organization Color of Change. “This leaves people with the opinion that black people are plagued with self-imposed dysfunction that creates family instability and therefore, all their problems,” said Travis L. Dixon, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who conducted the study. Such stereotypes fuel political rhetoric and inform public policy, such as Congress’s consideration to “gut social safety net programs,” he said. "There is no question that the right wing has exploited the unwritten rules of news media reporting to change the written rules of policy. With widespread and harmful effect, they have done so not only through their own media platforms but also through their influence over purportedly neutral and evenhanded news outlets across the country," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change. 


News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds A Dangerous Distortion of Our Families (read the report)