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Former Baltimore Ravens NFL running back Ray Rice and his wife Janay arrive for a hearing at a New York City office building November 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Media bias

Black celebrities more likely to be portrayed as criminals in domestic violence coverage

By WITW Staff on January 7, 2016

New research from the University of Maryland has found that black athletes, musicians, and actors receive heightened scrutiny from media in domestic violence cases. The study, which examined 330 news articles and covered approximately 66 celebrities between 2009 and 2011, was led by Joanna Pepin, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology. The study found that black celebrities were three times more likely than white celebrities to be portrayed as criminals in media covering domestic violence. Furthermore, news articles were two-and-a-half times more likely to provide excuses for men’s violence against their partners while reporting on white celebrities, than when they covered black celebrities.

Pepin said the thing that surprised her most about the data was the contradictory nature of the excuse-making for white celebrities. “Some research suggests black men are more likely to be shown as addicts or prone to violent anger but I found these depictions most often in news articles about white men,” explains Pepin. “White celebrities benefited by highlighting substance abuse and anger as an excuse for violence while escaping the stigmatization of being deemed an addict or criminal.”

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