January 24

Week 3-Social Construction of Blackness

Blackness in Network News- Black Image in the White Mind (60-77)

RJ: How does network new socially construct Blackness?

In class: discussion of network news.

Discussion of “I know Black People” How does this clip interact with “lay theories” of race that the white subjects interviewed by Rojecki hold?

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23 Responses to January 24

  1. Sara Watson says:

    In this article, the author provides a number of reasons why news companies in the media portray “blackness” in a socially constructed way through demands of the market, political pressure, the current state of the economy, etc. The news socially constructs teh appearance of blacks by frequently relating or connecting them to narratives of crime and victimization, thus constructing African Americans as a “distinct source of disruption”. In comparing this to the portrayal of Caucasions, the number of stories being covered is dramatically smaller. By doing this in a number of different ways the news is constructing images that contribute to the first component of racial animosity or the exaggerated sense of group differences recorded in negative sterotypes. This can also be done to increase the “entertainment” of the story in hopes of increasing profits or dramatizing a story to increase the number of viewers. Unfortunately the author finishes by saying the key point is that “there is nothing in ‘reality’ that compels the presentations of African Americans that the media offer”. Basically saying that what is portrayed is not the truth but what will sell and continue to sell.

  2. Kate Schreiber says:

    Network news, most notably ABC (and we can deduce from an abundance of similarities and statistics that NBC and CBS do the same thing) are contributing to an increase of prototypical thinking among those who are watching the news, one of the few sources of media that one would assume isn’t tainting people’s thinking in a negative way. These news channels, shows and stations are inevitably depicting Blacks in news stories merely as people involved in crime or as an athlete/ entertainer. With the unbelievable statistics found in the review and analysis of video taped episodes as well as written transcripts, it is almost appalling to see the ratios of white coverage and participation on the news in comparison to that of Black or even Latino coverage or participation in the news. There are fewer (by a major count) Black “experts” that appear on the news and one astonishing example was the ratio of white to Black non-government experts that was 36:1! That’s unbelievable and doesn’t seem right. With the prototypical theory and the idea that through cultural lessons and occasionally personal experience most people use ideal examples of one category to represent that entire category. The way that the network news is indeed socially constructing this idea of “blackness” is by allowing the prototypical thinking that associates Blacks with crime or sports (only) to continue in our society. Those statistics were unbelievable. The news networks would be the places I would have formerly had faith in fighting off unfair portrayals (whether subconscious or not) of Blacks. But, even before I finished the article, I realized it doesn’t surprise me, I had just never thought about it before.

  3. Kenneth Clady-Mason says:

    Network news creates a moral division between African Americans and all other races; it causes most of the public to determine that African Americans can either be criminals or entertainers. The majority of news media concerning African Americans portrays them as criminals, while the lesser portion focuses on their abilities to please the public through entertainment. In response, the public approaches the characterization towards African Americans with both animosity and underestimation. The criminal portrayals in news cause non-Black viewers to believe that the majority of African Americans (if not all) seek to harm each other and everyone else, which brings about animosity amongst them as a way to protect themselves from their “Black Enemies.” The entertainment portrayals in the news cause non-Black viewers to believe that most African Americans serve no other purposes; examples such as sports, music, movies, and even stand-up comedy are areas where African Americans have shown themselves talented and where non-Blacks feel that they belong. Because of this, these non-Blacks underestimate their abilities to be productive, educated, intelligent, and leading members in America.
    The news media created portrayals, assumptions, and characterizations also arouse a stigma towards African Americans. Sadly, many African Americans are susceptible to these beliefs and accept them. This is not due only to the over representation of African Americans in crime and entertainment, but also their under representation in political progress, academic success, and social issue resolution. In short, the media causes people, even African Americans, to believe that the African American race serves no productive purposes. The news media dedicates most of the positive and productive credibility to the Euro-American race.

  4. Becky Esrock says:

    In this article, it addresses the role network news plays in the social construction of blackness. Their construction mirrors the reality of society, and they promote racial discrimination and push race on their viewers sometimes unconsciously. The article asserts how “network news helps to construct Whites’ sense of what blackness means, what traits a representative African American possesses” (60). This is the general discussion throughout the course of the article. A lot of the analysis centers on data analysis of both videotapes and transcripts. From this, the involvement of Blacks in news stories and moreover their place in society is evident. One piece of information derived from the data collection is that “approximately 75.5 percent of the stories focused exclusively on Whites” (63). This is not proportional to society, especially when the topic of the news story is considered. The stories featuring blacks placed them in roles such as that seen in sports or crime features. This only fosters additional discrimination and animosity by the public, who rely on media for much of their racial construction of society. In a data sample that looks at the later years compared to earlier years, “proportionally, Blacks appears three or four times more often than Whites in crime or sports stories…The network’s coverage more heavily features African Americans in stereotypical roles” (66). The stereotyping of Blacks by the media helps Whites transfer this image to their lives. Rather than breaking down these common misconceptions, the media chooses time and again to portray blacks in stereotypical positions because it is easier. It is easier to do this and conform to the market and corporate pressures than to rebel. By no one taking a stand, the media distorts reality and prolongs the discrimination of present day society; thereby, inhibiting the breakdown of these prejudicial racial classifications and judgments.

  5. Courtney King says:

    This article states that the news company do not present racist materials or negative perceptions of blacks intentionally but that they are a bi-product of “[news] tacitly obeying norms and following cultural patterns of which journalists are only imperfectly aware, and of responding to pressures from elites and markets which news organizations are disinclined to challenge”(77). Although it is stated that this is not a conscious discussion the majority of the African-Americans seen on the news are either a part of a crime story or an entertainment story, such as sports or music. By depicting Blacks as only criminals and entertainers the majority culture only seems them as so. There are so few stories on these lines about Whites that there is now a association between Blacks and criminals and entertainers. This allows for Whites to assume that all Blacks fall into one of the two categories and not know they can be these ideas are negative because it is the only thing being seen. The mass media has done a disservice to their audience by neglecting the positive or any major representation of Blacks. The world is only seeing the negative and associate negative aspects to Blacks.

  6. Amber Kerrigan says:

    Throughout this discourse, the author gives multiple motives as to why news medias characterize “blackness” in a socially constructed way. Economically, politically, and through marketing, the media controls the stereotypes we have today that are always changing. By constantly relating African Americans to stories of crime, poverty, and indifference, the news creates a different culture within our own, separating “blacks” from “whites”, producing and constantly constructing a negative stereotype. In closing the article, the author concludes that if this is in for the economy, it will continue to be discreetly recognized in the media.

  7. Alyx Smagacz says:

    The network news socially constructs blackness by what they chose to include in their news session. The article said that the events in which Blacks caused or were involved with an event that was newsworthy would always be on the news whereas the events that did not contain non-whites, but only whites, there were only three fourths. This shows how the black society is portrayed on the news. By only showing a negative side that a group of people might have, and barely showing the negative side of the other group makes these two groups look different. This makes a negative attitude towards the black society due to the negative attention that they get on the news. Also the use of the word black for a negative connotation has been used and shapes the way people think about blacks. The fact that things that are dark and black usually represent bad things, so naturally if you say someone is black it is going to be referenced with those other connotations as something bad.

  8. Diana Bartolo says:

    Network News socially constructs blackness as a negative consequence that dramatically affects society as a whole or rather the majority (whites). By this I mean, that if blacks do get air time on television they are most likely to have committed a crime and therefore whites are forced to socially construct the typical “black person.” When white persons see black negative images, they automatically default into believing that black people are uncontrollable and therefore classify them as a lower-class. The network news target blacks in crime, sports, and entertainment, in order to increase ratings but also to see the differences that exist between white and black culture. In general, the news finds black stories the most appealing to the majority (whites) because whites are typically shown in bland stories. For example, the news will show white persons in big corporations, institutions, and government agencies(69). In addition, the news constructs blackness due to the beliefs a society upholds, or mainstream culture. Network News does not challenge the discrimination black persons face rather they go against policies that aid blacks into getting a job such as affirmative action. The word blackness becomes reconstructed due to society’s outlook on what or how a black person should be; yet never will it have a positive connotation because the question of “what is race?” wouldn’t come into play.

  9. Lisa Sorensen says:

    Network news socially constructs “blackness” by choosing what they highlight in their news stories. The many prototypes that are described “serve as ideal examples of categories”(61) causing a bias view. This causes stereotypes to be formed because of what is presented in the media and news. On the contrary, the network news does not show the negative aspects of whites on the media nearly as much as they do with African Americans. Therefore, when shown an African American “in a White-dominated, high-status setting-an exclusive restaurant, for example-is a waiter”(62). Because of what network news chooses to show, African Americans are more known as the criminal, or “to be a member of the serving class”(62).

  10. Jessica Steele says:

    The network news in America tends to represent African Americans in a certain light. The representation is frequently incorrect. The author points out that “the news conveys a sense that America is essentially a society of White people with minorities” (63). Most of what is seen on the news is White people, in all topics of news stories. The topics where the representation between Blacks and Whites is most similar are sports and discrimination. More exposure in these areas and not others, such as politics and health and science, feeds the stereotypes that African Americans can generally be categorized as athletes and subjects of discrimination. Another area where African Americans are misrepresented is in crime stories. African Americans are more frequently seen as crime-doers on the news and the news does not put the story into the context of the personal experiences the person has had. Instead, the African Americans are again put into a pool of generalities.
    With the frequent exposure of African Americans being misrepresented in a seemingly unbiased medium, it is unfortunate, but not surprising, that White America will frequently associate Blackness with the negative stories that they witness on the news. Those misrepresentations further stereotypical thinking. The fact that the word “black” has come to be associated with negative connotations shows that there is still a separation in America between the White population and the Black population. That feeling will be difficult to overcome when the message is consistently being subconsciously relayed to American citizens through network news.

  11. João Pedro says:

    The author introduces a variety of reasons for the disparities of images between Whites and Blacks: mainstream culture, politics and elites, presumed tastes and target audiences, media organizations and so forth.
    Although images of knowledge Blacks appear on TV, the numbers are ridiculous when compared with White appearances. White dominance on TV is appalling: in 1997 almost ¾ of stories were entirely about Whites and only 2,9% focused exclusively on Blacks. These images promote a White America, fostering a racial hierarchy based on White supremacy – Black are thus introduce as a minority, as outsiders. Black images mainly appear when referring to sports and crime. These prototypes establish a social cognition, fostering racial stereotypes based on racist representative images. Whites expect Blacks to be criminals, servants or sportsmen, fostering a vicious prototypical cycle. Indeed, Blacks are barely heard in topics such as electoral politics, foreign affairs, health/smoking, government hearings and so forth (frequently, these are restricted to White experts). These narrow and stereotypical Black roles are also embraced by media organizations, based on presumed audience tastes.
    The systematic and incomplete media racial images leads to an incongruent racial scenario. Today “skin color is often sufficient to stimulate expectations of stereotypic behavior,” innate to the proliferation of TV images (p. 61). Hence, the news foment racial exclusion, socially constructing African Americans as a source of disruption.

  12. Donald Duncan says:

    The interesting topic of the reading is the author’s identification that the almost of stories covered by the major new networks to the usage of soundbites used in stories. Approximately 75.5 percent of stories focused exclusively on White (p. 63). Even though the US population is majority White, the soundbites from minorities on hot topics (i.e. political, international, health, etc.), are extreme rare compared to opinions in sports and entertainment topics. However, networks may limit the use of minority soundbites because of the prototype theory that minorities may not understand topics outside of sports and entertainment despite a quality reputation in society.

  13. Jacob Heaps says:

    The article does a good job of emphasizing the way that “blackness” is portrayed on network news. The media in today’s society holds a special power of speaking to masses, and portraying any bias they deem appropriate. The frantic pace of many news shows creates prototypes because the viewer has “limited time to work through all the tacit assumptions prototypes embody.” (60) By looking at Table 4.1, it becomes obvious of the way the media “constructs the prototypical black person.” (64) Sports, entertainment, discrimination, and crime are all associated with the black race in today’s society. The debate of race rises from social aspects, and the bias of network news only influences it.

  14. Stephanie Morales says:

    In “The Meaning of Blackness in Network News” it argues that there is a fixed prototypical way of thinking of Black people. This article argues that the news network follows this stereotypical way of thinking for Blacks and it is through this fixed pattern that we still believe these social “norms” which have been implicated years ago. People learn about the world through media and it is through this social cognition that we develop these social human judgement. This article explains Prototype theory that people have this mental representation of a concept which is based off ideal characteristics and cultural lessons. In this article they took a close look at ABC’s world news and their studies showed that Blacks are hardly ever represented in the way Whites are. 75.5% of News stories are white while only 6.35 are about non-white activity- which includes Latinos, Blacks, and Asians. Its interesting because while these Whites get minutes dedicated to their stories, all others get combined and mixed in to separate segments. They also got a closer look at the sound bites and noticed that whites cover all the scientific things like health, technology, disasters, rescues, even weather when on the contrary all the stories that Blacks cover are sports, entertainment, and stories about discrimination. Blacks just seem to be associated with their negative associations for their research they also found that Blacks appeared 4 times more often than Whites in crime stories. They seem to almost be trying to make sure that Blacks fit their negative sides but also make them appear to be Liminal. When it came to stories covered by Experts there was a ratio of 15 black vs. 700 white experts. The News obeys the cultural patterns and norms that society has created. There is obviously a absence of Blacks being important roles in News and also in the sense where they can be beyond their prototypical Black person. There has yet to be a challenge to the injustice that Blacks are subjected to these negative traits, improper social behaviors, and destructive connotations.

  15. Kiarra Hodge says:

    First, I want to say that this isn’t the first time that a test like this has been done. Another test that I read about was done in the 90s also, but was only for the news in the Los Angeles area. Their test produced the same results. Picking and choosing how certain stories should be portrayed on the news while only allowing a certain amount of black experts on their shows is how network news socially constructs Blackness. It’s unfortunate that only newsworthy stories about blacks have to be on crime and drugs, poverty, sports, black issues, and etc. By doing this, blacks tend to be given certain roles or traits that they can uphold. This is a very prototypic way of thinking when it comes to minority groups in general. Maybe the news stations are trying to appeal to their viewers, but portraying a minority group a certain way furthers the stereotypes that could easily be changed. One point that the article makes is that while it may be so that young Blacks partake in a much high rate of crime than Whites, the news fail to show the underlying issues that may contribute to the much higher rate of crime. In short, the average White American doesn’t have to experience issues that most minority groups have to.

  16. Brittany Sheehan says:

    This article addresses the role that network news plays in the social construction of blackness. “An overview of ethnic representation in the 1997 three-network sample is revealing. Approximately 75.5 percent of the stories focused exclusively on Whites” (63). By limiting the news coverage of people that are non-White, the networks are creating negative stereotypes of various ethnic groups. For example, the times when Blacks were mentioned occurred when the focus of the news story was on crime, human interest, or sports/entertainment. When Blacks are only depicted as criminals or entertainers, the negative stereotype is reinforced. The news rarely makes an effort to portray Blacks in a light that is different from the prototypical role already established. When Blacks are only mentioned in the news because they are an athlete or a criminal, people assume that Blacks must be in one of those two categories. If the news were able to focus on more positive attributes, people would be more likely to believe that Black people have the ability to be intelligent, successful, and prosperous in life, just like every other American. Therefore, network news is able to social construct “blackness” when they choose to highlight certain aspects of their news coverage.

  17. Whitney Davis says:

    According to this chapter, the Network News constructs a more negative than positive image of Black people. An example given in the chapter is the Network News use “of terms such as blackmail, black hole, or black market which reflect the negative symbolic associations of darkness written deep in the Western Culture” (pg 7). The Network News also expresses that Black people are not as good as White people by constructing a White prototype for humans. The Network News does this by having a lot less speaking roles for Black people compared to the amount of speaking roles they have for White people. Since “Prototypes serve as ideal examples of categories”, this leads viewers to believe that White people are the ideal example among humans. (pg 2) The Network News also tends to place Black people in a narrow minded category of two stereotypes – criminals and athletes.

  18. Linnea Zrioka says:

    The article demonstrates that the media constructs the Black image as the “prototypical Black person…he or she is an entertainer, sports figure, or object of discrimination”, through this they are “pigeon holed” into roles and traits (Rojecki 64). The patterns of stories shown on the news enhance the Black image as a distinctly different group from whites and from the white community. Stories about technical knowledge/expertise such as science and economics hardly feature an African American’s voice or opinion (Rojecki 63). Blacks appeared more often than whites in crime or sport stories and they appeared less in political or governmental roles (Rojecki 66). The frequent appearances in crime and victimization stories, “constructs African Americans as a distinct source of disruption” (Rojecki 67). The networks associated welfare with the black image. Associations like these signify that people in the category of “black persons” will have ”disfavored traits and behave improperly” (Rojecki 77). The viewer may not consciously make the judgment that African Americans have certain roles or traits in society when they watch the news, but the “presence and absences of Black in key roles and situations create implicit racial comparisons” (Rojecki 77).

  19. Candice Kosanke says:

    Network news socially constructs Blackness by using prototypes. Prototypes are “ideal examples” of a certain category. They affect the way viewers think of Blacks, although audiences usually don’t even realize that prototypes are in effect.

    One way network news uses prototypes to negatively affect Blacks is by featuring Whites far more than Blacks. According to Rojecki, 75.5% of the news stories were about Whites. This leads viewers to the subconscious conclusion that a White person represents the average American better than a Black person does. Just as many people think of sparrows as the “ideal example” of a bird, many people think of Whites as the “ideal example” of an average American citizen.

    Furthermore, network news socially constructs Blackness even more by means of the topics of the few news stories that do feature Blacks. Those news stories almost always portray Blacks in stereotypical roles, casting them as sports figures, entertainers, or lower-class criminals. According to Rojecki, Blacks are featured in crime and sports stories three or four times as often as Whites are, but they are featured in political stories only one-third as often as Whites are. This leads viewers to believe that the prototypical Black is either a sports/entertainment figure or a criminal, not a political or academic figure. And when it comes to interviewing experts, Whites are shown far more often than Blacks. When Blacks are interviewed, it is mostly on so-called “Black issues” like crime, drugs, unemployment, and homelessness.

    A more subtle way that networks socially construct Blackness is by frequently using the word “black” in a nonracial, but negative, way. Some examples that Rojecki lists are “blackmail,” “black hole,” and “black market.” Although these words have nothing to do with race, the negative connotation of the word “black” indirectly affects how people view Blackness.

    In these ways, network news socially constructs Blackness. Since most people believe that what they see on the news represents the larger picture, many viewers think that what the news shows indicates the traits that a representative African American possesses. In other words, if the news portrays most Blacks in the news as criminals or entertainers, many people will subconsciously make the assumption that most Blacks in general are either criminals or entertainers. And because of the way prototypes work, people will not often notice exceptions to those stereotypes; they will normally notice only those examples which fit their preconceived notions, and dismiss any other examples as mere exceptions.

  20. Elise Peterson says:

    Network news is driven by money in America, which is allocated by things such as viewer numbers and ratings. This gives network news the incentive to sensationalize reporting; choosing the most dramatic and thrilling news stories to air on TV. Our culture today loves to see the shocking and bizarre on television, so that is what the network constructs in their reports. This means that the largest portions of news programs are spent on topics such as crime reports. For whatever reason we would rather see a portion about a murder than a heart felt op-ed segment. Many would probably deny this preference (myself included), however there is research to back these statistics up.

    This construction of the news seems to play into black prototypes in America, as they are more frequently reported in the crime and sports news. This only aides in reinforcing stereotypes in America. It is not necessarily caused by some deep racism in all newscasters, but perhaps by the profit-driven nature of the news business. As news consumers, the American viewers are really the ones who dictate what appears on the news. So, what does this say about American society today?

  21. Dominick Campagna says:

    Throughout this article I thought the statistics presented really helped out the argument on how blacks are represented in the media. If you just watch the news and know nothing else about society then maybe one could make the assumption of what they think about a certain race because everyone has their own opinion. From my own standpoint, I don’t judge a certain group of people by what I see in the media, every person is different and he or she should not be categorized due to someone’s mistakes made. These stories on the news are just major headlines, no one is trying to prove a point on who is bad or better then the other. Yes the information in this article was put together well, but overall I feel that my opinions are made from my own experiences with other people and learning who they truly are.

  22. Merissa Acosta says:

    This article is about how Network news is continually portraying Blacks in a stereotypical way. The article proves this statement by talking about an analysis they performed on both videotapes and transcripts from news programs from ABC, NBC and CBS. What they got from this analysis is that these news programs make America seem as if it consists of mostly Whites, with minorities. The article says, “Whites do dominate nearly every arena of American society. On the other hand, as these images display America’s status and power hierarchy, they also my serve to reinforce it…America is essentially a society of White people with minorities – the very word rings pejoratively – as adjunct members who mainly cause trouble or need help.” So, Network news stories mainly have whites as the heroes, and Blacks, Latinos, etc as the ones who are causing trouble or are in desperate need. Not only are the stories content creating discrimination, but also the amount of times that someone from the African American race are quoted in these stories. A study was done that showed how drastic the ratio of Whites the Blacks were. Whites dominated the Networks news. For example, under news stories about Disasters/Rescues and weather events, Whites were quoted 143 times while Blacks were quoted only 5 times. Network news categorizes Blacks as being an, “entertainer, sports figure, or object of discrimination.”

  23. Becca Mahar says:

    The media plays such a major role in framing and reinforcing race. The article states that around 75 percent of the news stories focused on whites only. I find this to be a little bit shocking becuase I feel like the news is the news, and we have stories and videos that are internationally sharred. Despite my shock, it does seem evident that African Americans have a larger role in certain areas of the news such as the sports section, or sadly the more violent stories. Clearly this is going to generate and reinforce the stereotypes we already have. I did a study for another course last semester examining the role of the media in the 2008 Presidential election. I found that the news covered each candidate in a different way, and as viewers is was almost subliminal. This article however is exploring the lack of coverage for African Americans, but what is really disappointing for their culture is that even the coverage they receive is not all that beneficial to them in terms of breaking through stereotypes. A political cartoon for instance exemplifies the stereotypes we employ, Obama in air jordans and a basketball court with a referee (Hilary was his opponent in the cartoon). Every form of media we are fed facilitates these stereotypes of the typical black person. Even movies like American History X. A movie that highlights the painful history of harassment, also points out certain images and emotions we tie to the African American Race. I also did a study on this movie, and I came to the conclusion that it is such a double edged sword. Even in attempting to educate and fight racism we are still conceptualize things through a crooked lense.

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