Free Beacon analysis shows how homicide coverage downplays the race of minority offenders.
Frank James, the man arrested for Tuesday’s New York City subway shooting, is a black nationalist and outspoken racist who railed against whites, Jews, and Hispanics. A careful reader of the New York Times could be forgiven for overlooking that. In a nearly 2,000-word article on the attack, James’s race is not mentioned. The same is true for the coverage offered up by Reuters; the Washington Post only mentioned James’s race in relation to his condemnation of training programs for “low-income Black youths.”
Media critics on the right say that the conspicuous omission of James’s race from these news reports illustrates a trend among prestige papers, which deemphasize or omit the race of non-white criminals while playing up the race of white offenders. But is it a real pattern?
Yes. A Washington Free Beacon review of hundreds of articles published by major papers over a span of two years finds that papers downplay the race of non-white offenders, mentioning their race much later in articles than they do for white offenders. These papers are also three to four times more likely to mention an offender’s race at all if he is white, a disparity that grew in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020 and the protests that followed.
The Free Beacon collected data on nearly 1,100 articles about homicides from six major papers, all written between 2019 and 2021. Those papers included the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Minneapolis’s Star-Tribune—representatives of each paper did not return requests for comment for this article. For each article, we collected the offender’s and victim’s name and race, and noted where in the article the offender’s race was mentioned, if at all.
The data suggest an alarming editorial trend in which major papers routinely omit information from news reports, presenting readers with a skewed picture of who does and doesn’t commit crime. These editorial choices are part and parcel with the “racial reckoning” that swept newsrooms in the wake of Floyd’s murder, which saw journalists dramatically overhauling crime coverage to emphasize the view that the criminal justice system is racist at the root—perhaps at the expense of honesty about individual offenders’ crimes….