South Bronx Students Release Study Revealing Unbalanced Coverage of Youth Crime by The New York Times

On Thursday, January 25th, 2001, high school students from Arturo Schomburg Satellite Academy in the South Bronx released a study of The New York Times coverage of youth and crime. The youth-conducted study, "In Between The Lines: How The New York Times Frames Youth" found troubling evidence of unbalanced and misleading news coverage by one of America's most influential and respected newspapers.

New York City Media Watch member Joseph Vazquez said "Our study documents inaccurate and biased coverage in The New York Times that we believe contributes significantly to the stereotypes that too many people have of young people of color."

The 22 page study documents that despite the decrease in youth-perpetrated crime--down by 33% nationwide since 1993--The Times over-reported youth crime, giving the opposite impression. Only one of the 93 articles captured in the three months studied mentioned that youth crime was down. "I joined New York City Youth Media Watch because all I see in the news are young people being criminals." Says Media Watch member La'Toya Ware, 17, "When the news media commits the crime of inaccurate reporting, youth do the time."

Media Watch staff Lisa Figueroa said "Their coverage included more youth-on-youth crime articles than adult-on-youth crime articles, even though adult-on-youth crime is far more common." Other alarming findings include: youth of color are less likely than white youth to be quoted on their cases, and more likely to be pictured in handcuffs and prison-issued clothes than white youth; and incarceration, regardless of its ineffectiveness, is the only solution to crime presented in the coverage in the study period. "Every day, people cross the street to avoid Black, Latino and Asian youth," said Media Watch member Hayden Mendoza, "police look at us with suspicion, stop us and pat us down, and elected officials continue to push for prison expansion over education."

The study, available at www.Interrupt.org, included several recommendations to The New York Times, and other news outlets, including that coverage include a more balanced portrayal of youth victims and perpetrators. Specifically, more balanced reporting would include quotes of youth and youth advocates, particularly in articles that examine trends in and solutions to juvenile crime. Media Watch staff Pia Infante said "We hope this study encourages news media outlets to examine their own coverage of youth and crime, and to make sure that their coverage reflects reality by representing youth of color fairly."

New York City Youth Media Watch members include Shaquesha Alequin, 18; Hayden Mendoza, 18; La'Toya Ware, 17; and Joseph Vazquez, 18, and project staff Lisa Figueroa and Pia Infante. It is a joint project of We Interrupt This Message, a national, non-profit media strategy and training center and Youth Force, a youth-led center that supports organizing and advocacy for social justice in the South Bronx. New York City Youth Media Watch is funded by the Youth Media and Communications Program of the Open Society Institute, and the Rose and Sherle Wagner Fund.

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