Racial justice protests influenced local news reporting

A new study from the Media, Inequality, and Change Center (MIC) at the Annenberg School for Communication examines how large-scale activism and heightened public discourse around systemic racism and police brutality influenced local reporting on policing in 2020. Through an analysis of a full year of coverage by local newspapers in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Louisville, the report assesses the types of sources journalists cited, how police officers and civilians are portrayed, and the context the news stories provided around policing and racial justice.

TV camera in front of a crowd of people.

As the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer ignited a surge of protests against police brutality and system racism in the United States, the media fell under increased scrutiny for how they depicted policing, race, and communities of color.

The report’s authors—Susanna Dilliplane, deputy director of The Aspen Institute’s Planning and Evaluation Program; MIC’s associate director, Briar Smith; and Annenberg doctoral student Louisa Lincoln—analyzed coverage of policing published over the course of 2020 by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Louisville Courier-Journal, and Philadelphia Inquirer.

The study, “Policing 2020: Local news reporting during a year of protest,” found that the newspapers’ coverage reflected and responded to the public’s focus on race and policing. The researchers observed more inclusive sourcing practices in some of the coverage, less dehumanizing language (e.g., “suspect” and “offender”), and greater use of information that challenged the police or helped to situate policing in the context of racial justice.

This story is by Alina Ladyzhensky. Read more at Annenberg School for Communication.