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News Value of African-American Victims: An Examination of the Media's Presentation of Homicide

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 71-88
Date Published
18 pages

Police data for all homicides in Indianapolis during 1995 and articles about these homicides in the city's major newspaper were studied to determine the presentation of homicide in the news and the relationship between race and media coverage.


The research focused on the characteristics, including number of victims, sex, and race, that resulted in more articles and more words in the Indianapolis Star. The data were analyzed by a comparison of means, a measure of association for categorical variables, and multiple regression. Results revealed that from January 1995 through June 1996, the newspaper published 227 articled that described murders that occurred in 1995.These articles represented some 77,397 words. Cases involving white victims had an average of 2.7 articles, whereas cases involving black victims had an average of 2.06 articles. The averages for the categories of suspect's race were almost identical. Cases involving female suspects resulted in an average of one additional article per case. The average number of articles was two for single-victim murder and three for multiple-victim murders. In addition, more words were written about murders with multiple victims, African-American suspects, female suspects, white victims, and female victims. Results indicated that the 106 murders were not provided equal amounts of space and that murders of white victims received more attention in the news than did murders of black victims. Findings supported the conclusion that news organizations perpetuate the public's general devaluation of crimes involving African-American victims by providing less attention to murders of African-American victims. Tables, notes, and 46 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1998