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The Republic and HBO's The Wire PHIL-255-01: The Media

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race relations AND mass media

police AND mass media

african americans in mass media

mass media and minorities

media bias

minorities in mass media

mass media and criminal justice

Articles in Popular & Scholarly Periodicals and in Newspapers

Articles in Scholarly Journals


Baltimore Riots in the Media

MacDonald, Heather. "The Riot Show! (Cover story)." National Review, June 1, 2015, 32,  

The article takes a critical approach to media coverage of the April 2015 riots in Baltimore, Maryland following the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal injury while in police custody. According to the author, cable news networks such as CNN (Cable News Network) glamorized the racially-motivated violence and also misreported accounts of officer-civilian interactions.

Feeney, Nolan. How Critiques of Baltimore Media Coverage Echo 1992., May 5, 2015,
Zurawik, David. "Don't Blame the Messenger for Riots." The Baltimore Sun, May 3, 2015
Hanley, D. C.  Getting past the optics of resistance to fight racism in Baltimore and israelThe Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 34, no.4 (2015): 20-21.

The sounds of sirens, surveillance planes, helicopters and armored military vehicles filled the streets of Baltimore, MD on April 27 following the funeral for Freddie Gray, 25. Another young black man dead from wounds sustained in police custody. More nonstop news coverage, playing and replaying images of mayhem, looting, arson -- and ignoring other scenes of peaceful protesters condemning yet another brutal police action committed in a black community in America. After spending days helping his fellow citizens get through the crisis, Heber M. Brown, III, senior pastor at Baltimore's Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, drove to DC to discuss the similarities of the civil right struggles facing Palestinians, Ethiopian Israelis and black Americans. That being said, Brown suggested that corporate news had sensationalized Baltimore's uprising in much the same way it has treated protests by Palestinians -- focusing on the rage instead of the reasons. Brown advised supporters to push past the optics of resistance.

Zurawik, David, and John Fritze. "Donna Edwards' complaints about 'thugs,' 'occupiers,' part of a growing controversy." Baltimore Sun, January 5, 2016.
"Race and Beyond: Choosing Our Words Carefully." US Official News. May 21, 2015,

Not long after Sunday’s violent shootout at a Twin Peaks Restaurant in Waco, Texas, my Twitter newsfeed lit up with comments that linked what many media outlets termed a “brawl” to the public protests and disturbances last month in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. The comparison was largely unfavorable, as many noted a race-tinged discrepancy in the language used to describe two separate acts of lawlessness.

Police in the Media

Schaefer, Brian P; Steinmetz, Kevin F. Watching the Watchers and McLuhan's Tetrad: The Limits of Cop-Watching in the Internet Age. Surveillance & Society 12, no. 4  (2014): 502-515.

The Internet is considered by many to be a boon for political activists, such as cop-watchers -- a free, open, and widespread medium, in which to disseminate political messages. To elucidate these limitations and to provide a word of caution about the political potential of the Internet, particularly for video-activists/cop-watchers, the theoretical work of Marshall McLuhan is used to understand how the Internet, as a medium, shapes and limits political messages. Using McLuhan's tetrad, this study examines, how the Internet is problematic for cop-watching groups. In particular, the Internet is said to yield consequences through how it enhances or intensifies how the viewer experiences political messages through speed; retrieves the importance of the narrator; renders previous media increasingly obsolete, yet opens up new avenues for commercial dominance; and creates additional reversals or other problems for video activism, such as the mass proliferation of surveillance and formatting discussion in counter-productive ways.

The Problem of Levy

Michaelson, Jay. "A Jew and a Lawyer Are Sitting in a Bar..." The Forward. March 03, 2006. Accessed October 16, 2017.

Watching “The Wire,” HBO’s serial drama about the gritty underbelly of the Baltimore streets, one sometimes gets the impression of honest men and women trapped in a hopeless machine of corruption, violence and despair. Many of the show’s most likable characters are killed off, while those who remain have a world-weary look in their eyes. Skillfully written and shot, in part by acclaimed filmmaker Ed Burns, “The Wire”is rife with moral ambiguity — perhaps the only defensible position in a system gone haywire.


Race in the Media

CalvinJohn Smiley & David Fakunle.  From "brute” to "thug":”The demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26 (2016):3-4. DOI:10.1080/10911359.2015.1129256.

The synonymy of Blackness with criminality is not a new phenomenon in America. Documented historical accounts have shown how myths, stereotypes, and racist ideologies led to discriminatory policies and court rulings that fueled racial violence in the post-Reconstruction era and have culminated in the exponential increase of Black male incarceration today. Misconceptions and prejudices manufactured and disseminated through various channels such as the media included references to a “brute” image of Black males. In the 21st century, this negative imagery of Black males has frequently utilized the negative connotation of the terminology “thug.” In recent years, law enforcement agencies have unreasonably used deadly force on Black males allegedly considered to be “suspects” or “persons of interest.” The exploitation of these often-targeted victims’ criminal records, physical appearances, or misperceived attributes has been used to justify their unlawful deaths. Despite the connection between disproportionate criminality and Black masculinity, little research has been done on how unarmed Black male victims, particularly but not exclusively at the hands of law enforcement, have been posthumously criminalized. This article investigates the historical criminalization of Black males and its connection to contemporary unarmed victims of law enforcement. Action research methodology in the data collection process is utilized to interpret how Black male victims are portrayed by traditional mass media, particularly through the use of language, in ways that marginalize and devictimize these individuals. This study also aims to elucidate a contemporary understanding of race relations, racism, and the plight of the Black male in a 21-century “postracial” America.
Dixon, T. L. . Black Criminals and White Officers: The Effects of Racially Misrepresenting Law Breakers and Law Defenders on Television News. Media Psychology, 10, no.4 (2007): 270-291, doi:10.1080/15213260701375660.

Participants were exposed to a crime story embedded in a newscast in a 3 (Officer Race–Black, White, or Race Unidentified) × 3 (Perpetrator Race–Black, White, or Race Unidentified) × 2 (Prior News Viewing—Heavy, Light) factorial design. Afterward, participants were asked the likelihood that the depicted officer and perpetrator were either White or Black. In addition, participants were asked how positively they viewed the officer who was featured in the story. Results revealed that race unidentified perpetrators were rated as having a high likelihood of being Black. In addition, heavy news viewers were more likely than light news viewers to express a high likelihood that the unidentified officer was White. Finally, heavy news viewers were more likely than light news viewers to have positive perceptions of unidentified officers, but not of Black officers featured in a newscast. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed in light of cultivation and chronic activation. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]


Jae Hong, Kim, and Joseph Abisaid. . "The influence of community structure on crime news coverage: structural pluralism, ethnic diversity, and local crime news." Communication & Society  (2015): 97-113, DOI:10.15581/

This study examines patterns of local newspaper crime coverage in terms of the community structure model, which is derived from the research of Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien. A total of 32 metropolitan statistical areas and primary metropolitan statistical areas, classified into four different categories of community according to the structural characteristics of structural pluralism and ethnic diversity, were selected for inclusion in this study. Crime news reports from the major newspaper of each selected community were analyzed based on the types of crimes (violent crime vs. property crime). These data were then compared to FBI crime statistics. In terms of the results, ethnic diversity was found to be a more important factor than structural pluralism in explaining the high proportion of violent crime coverage and the lesser amount of reportage of property crimes, as well as the discrepancies between the newspaper crime reports and the FBI crime statistics. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]