AEJMC Archives

AEJMC Archives


Next Message | Previous Message
Next in Topic | Previous in Topic
Next by Same Author | Previous by Same Author
Chronologically | Most Recent First
Proportional Font | Monospaced Font


Join or Leave AEJMC
Reply | Post New Message
Search Archives

Subject: AEJ 96 PomperK MAC Press coverage about immigrants, 1985-94
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 22 Dec 1996 09:48:50 EST

text/plain (735 lines)

       Reinforcing stereotypes:
       Press coverage about immigrants by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times
and Chicago
       Tribune, 1985-1994
         submitted by:
         Katrin Pomper
         E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
         Ohio University
         74 1/2 West Union Street
         Athens, OH 45701
         Tel: 614-589-5017
         e-mail: [log in to unmask]
         Reinforcing stereotypes:
         Press coverage about immigrants by the New York Times, Los Angeles
Times and Chicago Tribune, 1985 to 1994.
                This paper examined three major U.S. dailies concerning coverage about
immigrants over a time period of 15 years. All  papers devoted the most coverage
towards illegal immigrants. A shift in coverage about immigrants from the 1980s
to the 1990s was observed. The greatest attention in their reporting received
Hispanic and Asian immigrants while immigrants from Canada and Oceania were left
out. European immigrants were covered only during a short time period after the
breakdown of the Eastern Bloc. Illegal immigrants were most mentioned in
association with crime, government  or foreign affairs activities.
         1. Introduction:
                The United States is the home country of people with the most
diverse backgrounds. It is considered the immigration country per se. Some 55
million people have come to the US since English immigrants established a
settlement (Simon, Alexander, 1993). The origin of the immigrants has changed
over the times. Europeans arrived during the last until the middle of this
century. After the number of Europeans decreased in the 1960s people coming from
Central and South America and the Caribbean superseded them. In the decades of
the 1970s and 1980s more people from Asia immigrated to the U.S. With the
political changes in the former Eastern Bloc countries a temporary wave of
immigrants (mainly Jews) arrived in this country. During the 1990s the newly
arrived come from the South, mainly Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Political turmoil and economic problems caused the recent influx of Hispanic
immigrants. Five groups of immigrants reached peaks in their numbers of arrivals
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            during the last ten years: Caribbean's (including Cubans) in 1988,
Filipinos, Chinese and Mexicans in 1989 (Statistical Abstract, 1990).
                Throughout US history there has been a tendency to assimilate
people of different cultural backgrounds and races into the American "melting
pot." Individuals gave up their identity in order to join the mainstream. This
theory of the  "melting pot" suggested that cultures blended together to form
American citizens (Glazer, 1963).
                Due to the undiminished continuous stream of new immigrants the
"salad bowl" concept became more and more acceptable in recent years. It holds
that the various cultures maintain their own identity while contributing to
American culture as a whole (D'Innocenzo, 1992). If one looks to  states such as
Texas, California, and Florida, one recognizes the increasing importance of
Spanish as a second language. One can find individuals who are living in the
United States but do not speak English because their living environment does not
require it of them.
                Critics predict cultural infiltration and a loss of living standard
for U.S. workers. Another argument states that the high number of immigrants
will reduce job opportunities. Particularly the influx of illegal immigrants
crossing the border in the South stirs public fears. As a result, the
Mexican-American border is on the way to becoming North Americans  "Berlin
                In the process of constructing this threatening image of illegal
immigrants and immigrants in general in the American public, the media plays an
important role. How can it be that in a nation founded by immigrants, the
resistance towards new immigrants, no matter if legal or illegal, is rising. One
reason can be found in the gatekeeper function of the media. Through the
dissemination of more and more negative images of immigrants in the American
news media this stereotype will be reinforced. Mostly negative news about
immigrants reaches the news columns of papers or air time of broadcasters.
Wilson and Gutierez claimed that "the perspective of American values, attitudes
and ambitions brought to society have largely been
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            those of gatekeepers and others with access to the media" (Wilson
and Gutierez, 1995).
            Information concerning people of color that does not get processed
through the media is filtered, almost entirely through members of the dominant
Anglo-culture. Initially, people of color (Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos,
and Asians alike) were excluded from news reports. However, their continuing
presence and increasing number soon leads to their being reported as threats to
society. Depending on the group the overall image is positive or negative.
Asians are generally described as hard working, well educated and successful
entrepreneurs. The stereotypes portray Hispanics as poor, dependent on welfare
and resistant to American culture (keeping their language).
         2. Statement of the problem:
                This study examined contemporary news coverage about immigrants in
the U.S. One should assume that in a nation of immigrants this is not supposed
to be a big issue. However, public sentiments and discussions about whether to
allow or restrict the flow of immigrants indicates that the issue is still a
"hot topic," particularly if one wants to gain votes in elections.
                The question  this study addressed is how the press covered legal
and illegal immigrants from 1985 to 1994. Major immigration legislation such as
the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 whose objective was to reduce
illegal immigration occurred during this period. It forbade emploment of illegal
aliens. Another bill, however a more liberal one, passed the Congress in 1990,
which allowed the admission of 700,000 immigrants per year until 1994. It also
provided Salvadorans with protected status for a limited time period.
                Despiote protective legislation public opinion on immigrants is
increasingly hostile. While surveys in 1965 indicated that 23 percent of the
respondents wanted to keep out refugees, the number increased to 49 percent in
1975 and 66 percent in 1980 (Simon and
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            Alexander, 1993). The image of  certain groups of immigrants in the
public shows great
            differences. While Asians and Europeans are more preferred, Hispanic
groups receive unfavorable ratings. Cubans (9%), Haitians (10%), and Mexicans
(25%) are considered as bad for the United States and therefore ranked at the
end of the popularity scale. Japanese (47%), Chinese (44 %), Poles (53 %), and
Germans (57 %) receive better evaluations by the American public (Simon and
Alexander, 1993).
                The news media contributed to the formation of the overall negative
and threatening picture of immigrants. It  associates immigrants with crime,
increasing job competition and infiltration of new cultural values. This study
investigated  how the press portrayed the immigrants during the 1980s and 1990s.
Is there a correlation of coverage and public opinion about immigrants? Are
there shifts in the coverage? Which group of immigrants gets the most attention?
In what context does the press report about immigrants? Are there similar
patterns of coverage newspapers? Does the location of a paper influence the
coverage about immigrants? In other words, is the ethnic population  a factor in
the news selection process? Does the press favor a certain group of immigrants?
These are questions  this study tried to answer
                Previous studies  of newspaper portrayed of Latinos and
Asians-Americans revealed a pattern of distorted, unrepresentative and demeaning
coverage. The same can be said about the racist image the press has provided
about African Americans in the past. This content analysis focused on coverage
of immigrants in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times to
determine if this overall impression has changed and if so in which direction.
Wilson and Gutierez  assert that for the most part  "the mass media treated
groups (Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and African Americans - the author)
not in the mass audience by ignoring or stereotyping them" (Wilson and Gutierez,
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
         3. Literature Review:
            Coverage of minorities and immigrants
                The coverage of special groups or minorities has been subject of
considerable research. A few studies especially looked at immigrants. Martindale
examined the coverage of Black Americans in the New York Times over a period of
50 years. As a result, she concluded that the mainstream press has presented
minorities as outside rather than as a part of American society. In the
beginning Blacks were only covered by the media when they caused problems for
white society. The papers gave relative inattention to black problems, and the
cases of black protest in the 1960s seemed to indicate that the papers failed to
provide readers with background information. The quality became better in the
1970s. Martindale's second study concerning the portrayal of minority groups
confirms that some were initially invisible in the news. However, in the 1990s
coverage climbed sharply especially for Latinos. Unfortunately, the very large
percentage of the articles was devoted to crime committed by Latinos, Martindale
analyzed. She also noted the same pattern for Asian Americans.
                Ma and Hildebrand explored how the Canadian Press reported about
the ethnic Chinese community over a time period of 20 years. They observed that
the amount of coverage and diversity of stories grew dramatically. However, the
largely positive slant of most 1970s stories was later balanced by neutral and
negative coverage. Cultural stories were augmented by crime, economics and
immigration stories which led to negative coverage. The number of news items in
papers increased and so did the size of the Chinese community. Another finding
of Ma's and Hildebrand's study is a shift in topics. Traditional stories such as
features on lifestyle, food, cultural themes gave way to hard news and opinions.
                The basis of Simon and Alexander's book was a study of major U.S.
magazines, newspapers, legislation and public opinion polls concerning
immigrants over a time period of
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            100 years (1880-1990). It documents tension, ambivalence and
confusion presented by the
            print media regarding immigration politics in the United States. The
authors thoroughly show, how each new group of immigrants is viewed as
undesirable. These immigrants frequently characterized as aliens to American
culture, because they possess different cultural values, speak different
languages, and have lifestyles which  are resistant to assimilation. Some of the
stirred fears Simon and Alexander report are the dilution of the cultural
strength of America (language), criminal tendencies, increasing job competition
with Americans or, their effect on  public welfare rolls. The media, the authors
argue, increasingly distinguished between legal and illegal.The researchers
claimed that the New York Times was less proimmigrant than other publications.
Throughout the 1980s Simon and Alexander found the paper was concerned with the
U.S. treatment of those seeking refugee status. It expressed sympathy for
Haitians, but did not support granting them refugee status. The New York Times
also expressed concerns that illegal immigrants take jobs. On the other hand, it
acknowledged that illegals work hard, pay taxes, and used few government
services (Simon and Alexander, 1993).
                Brosius and Eps examined the impact of the four key events on the
news selection in the case of violence against aliens and asylum seekers in
Germany. The researchers found similar quantitative aftermath coverage in print
and electronic media. Not only the amount of coverage peaked after the key
events occurred, but also the shape of the reporting.
                In another study Heeter, Greenberg, Mendelson, Burgoon, Burgoon,
and Korzemy investigated the cross media coverage of Hispanics in American news.
During a constructed week in September 1980 Hispanic representation in six
papers, five radio and television stations in Southwestern cities was analyzed.
The authors found that crime coverage was dominated in  radio. Newspapers had
the highest frequency of stories per issue. The city with the highest Hispanic
population dedicated more news space to coverage of Hispanic people.
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            Public opinion towards minorities and immigrants
                It is widely known that increasing immigration (not only in the US)
sparked off a public discussion about whether to stop the influx through
restrictions or to welcome the new immigrants. The power of the media in the
agenda setting process should not be underestimated. Some studies have focused
on the relation of media and public attitude about immigration. Hofstetter and
Loveman conducted 500 telephone interviews, asking people about their attitudes
towards immigration into the U.S. (Hofstetter and Loveman, 1982). Then they
compared their answers with the media exposure of the interviewees. As a result,
Hofstetter and Loveman found a high level of consistency in attitudes towards
immigrants from various areas of the world. Attitudes to  immigrants from the
Middle East were least consistent. Respondents in San Diego viewed immigrants
from Canada, Western Europe and Africa as not having particular effect and in
positive terms. Attitudes towards immigrants from Mexico were highly hostile.
Respondents perceived the impact of undocumented immigration primarily in
economic terms.
                Gunter conducted a national telephone survey over two months about
how people view the coverage of social groups in the media. He found the group
involvement of the respondent was an important predictor of credibility
judgment. The higher the involvement was, the more unfavorable coverage was
perceived. The print media was the most trusted medium.
                A more descriptive picture illustrates the article by Bailon, the
president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (Bailon, 1995). He
claims that the national media has helped to foster an atmosphere of
anti-immigration hysteria. According to Bailon, Latinos especially are portrayed
as economical burdens. Immigrants are  seldom a source for the reporter because
of the inability of journalists to speak the immigrant's language. Bailon
continues to criticize the lack of depth in the reporting. Although print media
is not excellent in dealing with the issue, papers and magazines are less
biased, concludes Bailon.
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
                Miller confirmed that whenever immigrants make the news it is
always in a negative context. Cued by popular sentiments, the governors of
California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona
            have sued the federal government for billions of dollars to recover
costs those states have spent on illegal immigrants. Miller calls on the media
to improve the quality of reporting and ease worries about immigrants.
         4. Research questions:
                This study compared three major U.S. newspapers in their coverage
of immigrants over a time period of ten years. The newspapers were chosen
according to their importance and size. Another factor was the geographical
location which could influence the coverage either in positive or negative
terms. All three newspapers cover cities that were or are still traditional
places of immigration.
                Hypothetically, it could be argued that cities with a high
percentage of foreign born citizens have greater interest in news about
immigrants. This could be reflected in a higher quantity of articles. Another
question this study examined was which group of immigrants received the most
coverage in all three papers: legal or illegals? Was there a change in the
amount of coverage within the ten years? What were the topics with which
immigrants are most associated? Which ethnic group received the highest
attention by the press? Was there a stereotypic pattern of reporting about
certain groups of immigrants in all three papers? Finally, was there is an
association between news coverage of a certain group and the location of the
newspaper carrying that coverage?
         5. Methodology:
                Three newspapers were selected for this study according to their
importance as national opinion leaders, their circulation and direct involvement
in immigration aspects caused through
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            geographical location. These newspapers were the New York Times,
Chicago Tribune, and
            Los Angels Times. Among these three papers the New York Times has
the highest circulation number with 1.012.915 million, followed by the Los
Angeles Times with 993.675, and Chicago Tribune with 678.081 items per weekday.
All three cities are characterized by a high percentage of foreign born
population. New York has within its city limits 2.300.047 people whose
birthplace is located outside the U.S. Los Angeles and Chigago have 1.767.900
and 469.187 people within their city limits who were born outside the U.S.
(Census of population and Housing, 1990; Editor and Publisher Yearbook, 1995).
                As one can see these papers are located in traditional immigration
areas. Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are very large local newspapers.
The New York Times is both a local as well as a national paper. It is an elite
newspaper because its read by many decision makers in this country and abroad. A
ten-year time period was examined for each newspaper. During that time Congress
passed at two major bills concerning immigration in 1986 and 1990. Additionally,
new refugees from  El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, East Europe as well as China
arrived in the U.S.
                The sample consisted of 296 cases. The sample was drawn out of the
index of each newspaper until 1988 under the term "Immigration." Starting from
1989 the sample was selected with the help of the Nexis/Lexis search program.
Every 10th story was selected. Because of numerous editions of all papers the
sample was chosen from the late edition of the New York Times, the home edition
of the Los Angeles Times and the final and sports edition of the Chicago
Tribune.  All sections of the paper were included in the selection process of
the items. Each article was regarded separately and coded for section/page,
type, news source, major player of the article, number of references to groups
and main topic. All textual items were measured by counting the paragraphs.
Photographs and infographics were simply counted.
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
                The following categories were established to identify the items:
            I. Section/Page:  For this coders determined whether the items
appeared on the front page, in the first section of the paper (other than front
page), on the editorial page or in any other section of the paper. The other
sections included metropolitan, business, lifestyle and feature sections.
            II. Type of Story: The type of story determined whether the item was
identified as a news story, an editorial, a feature or other (letter to the
editor, an editorial cartoon etc.). Editorials in this context included all
opinion pieces or analysis stories written about immigrants. Features included
human interest stories, personality profiles etc.
            III. News Source:  The news source category determined whether the
item was provided by a news agency/wire service, by a correspondent, a
staff-writer, a non-staff-writer or other. Non-staffers were experts such as
university professors or representatives of the government or its agencies. The
term "other" counted for private persons who wrote letters to the editor.
            IV. Major Player: This term was used to identify who stands in the
center of the article. There were four options: legal, illegal, both (related to
immigrants), and other. Federal government or Congressional representatives, for
example, counted for other.
            V. Number of References: Here the coder had to decide which group of
immigrants according to geographical origin was mentioned in the item. Multiple
choices were possible. Number 10 referred to a more or less neutral mentioning
of immigrants without differentiation into legal nor illegal immigrants. The
term other counted for government officials.
            VI. Main Topic of the Article:  The 15 standardized subcategories
used by Stempel were employed. Only one choice was possible. The term "other"
applied for articles about culture.
                To test reliability, four students coded 20 news items of the New
York Times. The overall intercoder reliability was 90.9 %. The percentage of
agreement in determining type, source and length of items was 95 %. Agreements
on the paper, date and art were 100 %. The level of significance for this study
was set at 0.05.
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
         6. Results:
                The random sample of 296 items consisted of 76 articles from the New
York Times, 130 from the Los Angeles Times and 90 from the Chicago Tribune. Out
of the 296 articles, 34 (11.5%) items were placed on the front page. The
majority of 158 (53.4 %) were found in the first section of the paper. A total
of 35 (11.8 %) items were assigned to the editorial section. Finally, 69 (23.3
%) were placed in the other sections of the paper. Overall a total of 66
articles were illustrated with one or more photos. In 28 items infographics were
found. Of the 296 items, 155 (52.4 %) were written by staff members of the
papers, 51 (17.2 %) were provided by the wire services, 44 (14.9 % ) by others,
27 (9.1 %) by correspondents and 19 (6.4 %) by non-staffers.
                Surprisingly, out of the total sample of 296 items 107 (36.1 %)
were dedicated to legal immigrants, 83 (28 %) to illegal immigrants, 27 (9.1 %)
to both and 79 (26.7 %) to other. In all three papers there was no reference
made to Canadian and Oceanian immigrants.
            Table 1:
            Overall references to groups
            Group:                                      Number                          %
            Canada                                        0                                          0
            West Europe                         16                                        5.4
            East Europe                         32                                      10.8
            Africa                                      16                                        5.4
            Asia                                        65                                      22.0
            Latin America/Caribbean             99                                      33.4
            Mexico                                      82                                      27.7
            Middle East                         19                                        6.4
            Oceania                               0                                          0
            Immigrants in general                       80                                      27.0
            Other                                       10                                        3.4
            Total:                                      296                                     100.0
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
                Table 1 shows Hispanics and Asians received the greatest attention
by the press. In contrast to this, there was no article about immigrants from
Canada or Oceania during the
            analysed time period. West European and African immigrants did not
atract the media either. This overall result indicates the press reports
unproportional about Hispanic immigrants. For the public (readers) it seems all
immigrants come from either Mexico, Latin America or the Caribbean. As a result,
the press delivers an unrealistic and subjective picture of reality to its
            As the author hypothesized was the distribution of the topic
concerning immigrants.
            Table 2:
            Overall Distribution of topics
            Topic:                                              Number:                         %
            Politics/Government                         110                                     37.2
            Diplomacy/Foreign affairs                     40                                    13.5
            Agriculture                                     0                                        0
            Crime                                                 34                                    11.5
            Accidents/Disaster                              8                                     2.7
            Health                                                  8                                     2.7
            War and Defense                                 3                                     1.0
            Economic Activities                           26                                      8.8
            Transport/Travel                                3                                     1.0
            Public Moral Problem                                    3                                     1.0
            Education/Classic Art                                 10                                      3.4
            General Human Interest                        25                                      8.4
            Other                                                 26                                      8.8
            Total:                                              296                                     100.0
                The previous table gives information in which context the three
papers cover immigranys. While immigration is a political issue, the main focus
of reporting is on government and politics as well as foreign affairs.
Immigrants are generally mentioned in association with government regulations or
agreements with other countries concerning
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            immigration. The third rank of coverage about immigration is crime.
Unfortunately, this pattern
            reinforces the public opinion about immigrants and does not
contribute to a better image. Other underlaying topics of news reporting are
economic activities and human interest issues. However, compared to the other
amount, the percentage of coverage is low.
                In order to see differences of quantitative coverage  among the
three papers the ten year
            time period was collapsed into two five years sections. here, the
differences and shifts in the coverage were clear to see.
            Table 3:
            Distribution legal/illegal immigrants by paper
                                                        1985 - 1989
                                        legal                                   illegal
                                        Number: %                       Number: %
            New York Times              11              40.7                    16              59.3
            Los Angeles Times           34              70.8                    14              29.2
            Chicago Tribune             25              69.4                    11              30.6
            Total:                              70              100                     41              100
               x = 7.64                                         df= 2                                   p< 0.02
                                                             1990 - 1994
                                                legal                           illegal
                                        Number: %                       Number: %
            New York Times              7               26.9                    19              73.1
            Los Angeles Times           12              44.4                    15              55.6
            Chicago Tribune             18              69.2                      8             30.8
            Total:                              37              100                     42              100
               x = 9.439                                        df = 2                                  p < 0.008
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            The table indicates a significant shift in the coverage towards more
about illegal immigrants. Except the Chicago Tribune the papers tend to report
more about illegal immigrants. This finding additionally supports the hypothesis
that the press parallels public opinion, where the discussion about illegal
immigrants is already overheated. The press does not make any efforts to correct
this image.
                The trend is more obvious if one collapses all three papers
together and compares the change towards more coverage about illegal immigrants.
The percentages show a significant move towards more reporting about illegal
immigrants. In othe words, the press reinforces the distorted image about
            Table 4:
            Distribution legal/illegal immigrants by time
                                1985 - 1989                                     1990 - 1994
                        Number:         %                       Number:         %
            legal               70                      63.1                    37                      46.8
            illegal             41                      36.9                    42                      53.2
            Total:              111                     100                     79                      100
               x = 4.9411                               df = 1                                          p < .05
                The next table shows the coverage preferences of the papers toward
certain groups of immigrants. Hispanic immigrants received in both time periods
the highest media attention.This indicates a racist reporting of all examined
papers. Europeans, people from Oceania and Canada do not matter. They are close
to American culture. People of color whose culture differs is represented by the
pres as a threat.
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            Table 5:
            Mention of a group by time:
                                        1985-1989                               1990-1994
                                        Number: %                       Number: %
            Canada                                0                  0                    0                  0
            West Europe                   7               5.0                     7               5.0
            East Europe                 22              14.2                    10                7.1
            Africa                                5               3.2                   11                7.8
            Asia                                32              20.6                    33              23.4
            Latin America/Caribbean     48              31.0                    51              36.2
            Mexico                              43              27.7                    39              27.7
            Middle East                 12                7.7                     7               5.9
            Oceania                       0                   0                   0                  0
            Immigrants general          35               22.6                   45              31.9
            Other                                 5                3.2                    5               3.5
               x = 12.34                                df = 10                         p< 0.232 (not significant)
                The next table shows that the preferences of coverage about a
certain group of immigrants are similar among the papers. Hispanics (Mexican and
Latin Americans including the Caribbean) were most mentioned in the papers,
followed by Asians and East Europeans.
            Table 6:
            Mention of a group by paper
                   New York Times               Los Angeles Times             Chicago Tribune
                        Number:    %            Number:   %              Number:                    %
            Oceania       0                  0            0                  0            0                   0
            West Europe   6               7.9             7               5.4             3                3.3
            East Europe   7               9.2           11                8.5           14               15.6
            Africa                6               7.4             3               2.3             7                7.8
            Asia                18              23.7            29              22.3            18                20.0
            LatAm./Car. 23              30.3            43              33.1            33                36.7
            Mexico              19              25.0            42              32.3            21                        23.3
            Middle East   6               7.9             4               3.1             9               10.0
            Oceania       0                  0            0                  0            0                0
            Immigrants G. 23            30.3            39              30.0            18                20.0
            Other                 3               3.9             1               0.8             6             6.7
            x = 23.56                           df = 10                                   p > .01 (significant)
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
                The next table shows the context (topic) in which legal or illegal
or both are mentioned most. It indicates that the press reinforces the overall
image of immigrants in the public. The group of legal is mentioned in relation
with government activities or within the context of Foreign Affairs. There are
also 13 items about economic activities and 6 about crime. When compared with
the group of illegal immigrants, the emphasis was  quiet the opposite.There were
22 crime stories and 4 stories about economic activities which have a reference
to illegals. However, the number of articles related to government is as high as
for legals. Both groups together are mostly mentioned in contexts of government
            Table 7:
            association of group by topic
                                legal                           illegal                         both
                         Number:        %               Number: %               Number: %
            Politics/Gov.          18           16.8            26              31.3            12                44.4
            Dipl./For.Aff.         23           21.5            11              13.3              1                 3.7
            Agriculture      0               0            0                  0            0                0
            Crime                    6            5.6           22              26.5              1                 3.7
            Accidents/Dis.           3            2.8             4               4.8             0                0
            Public Health            2            1.9             0                  0            1                 3.7
            Popular Amus.     0              0            0                  0            0                0
            War/Defense      0               0            1               1.2             1                 3.7
            Economic Act.          13           12.1              4               4.8             5               18.5
            Transp./Travel           0               0            1               1.2             1
            Public      Moral        0               0            1               1.2             0                0
            Science          0               0            0                   0           0                0
            Education        8            7.5             1                1.2            1                 3.7
            Human Interest   14          13.1           14               12.0             1             3.7
            Other                   20           18.7             2                2.4            3               11.1
            Total:                107           100.0           87              100.0           27              100.0
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
         7. Conclusion:
                Generally, the frequencies of mentioning a certain group of
immigrants indicated that Hispanics (Latin Americans, Caribbeans, and Mexicans
together) received the highest media attention during the examined time period.
Clearly a pattern was found in the topic choice. The most items about immigrants
dealt with either government activities or foreign affairs, followed by crime
and economic activities. This picture, dismissed by the three papers, fits
exactly the public image of immigrants. In other words, the press overcovers
Asian and Hispanic immigrants, but almost ignores Europeans. This indicates a
crearly racist pattern.
                As stated before, the number of items that dealt with illegal
immigrants rose in the 1990s compared to the 1980s. This shift in coverage
parallels the increasingly negative image of this group. Looking at each paper,
this trend can be confirmed, except for the Chicago Tribune. Here, the majority
of articles were concerned with legal immigrants. One has to take in
consideration Chicago's location, far from borders to the South, and its role as
a traditional arrival point for European immigrants. With this shift in coverage
towards more illegal immigrants the press helps to keep the public fears alive.
                All three papers have the same preferences in covering a special
group of immigrants. New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune run
most of their stories with references to either Latin Americans or Mexicans.
However, it was remarkable that the New York Times  decreased its coverage about
Mexicans from the 1980s to the 1990s. Instead, it increased the coverage about
Asian immigrants, which has more relevance to the location of New York in the
1990s. Overall, Asians are ranked second in the coverage of the papers. In the
case of the Los Angeles Times the amount of coverage about Asian immigrants
shrank. East European immigrants ranked third in the overall coverage of all
three papers because of the breakdown of the Eastern Bloc at the end of the
1980s. The quantity of articles about this
            Reinforcing stereotypes...
            group however decreased in the second period. Remarkable and worth
mention is the fact that
            the frequently a general reference is made to immigrants instead of
naming a spezific group. Particularly the Los Angeles Times has the highest
number of such articles.
                A very strong support of the author's hypothesis was found in the
analysis of topics versus group of immigrants. Legal as well as illegal
immigrants were most often mentioned in the context of government activities and
foreign affairs. While legal were third most mentioned with economic activities,
consequently in more positive terms, illegals were third most mentioned in the
context of crime. This main finding strongly confirms the assumption that the
media (press) reinforces the stereotypes which are existing in the public. This
becomes even more obvious if one compares certain groups of immigrants with the
context in which they are mentioned most. The table in the appendix indicates
that Mexicans more likely to be mentioned with crime and Asians with economic
                Summarizing all the findings, one can say that coverage about
immigrants in the print media was not improving. The papers failed to address,
except the Chicago Tribune ,  public hostility to immigrants. Instead, they
associated illegals with crime and legals with economic benefit and hard work.
The papers also follow a pattern of a slightly racist coverage. Europeans are
not a concern; however, Hispanics and Asians are because they are seperated from
American culture and therefore more threatening.
                Overall, this study offers a gloomy picture of immigration
coverage. Even America's most elite paper, the New York Times, and two other
major dailies reflect public bias against immigrants.
                For future studies a comparison with the electronic media is
desirable. Additionally, the author thinks that instead of a sample all articles
or a larger sample should be included in the analysis. This will give a more
accurate picture.
         8. Bibliography:
            D'Innocenzo, Michael and Sirfeman, Joseph.: Immigration and
Ethnicity. American Society -   "Melting Pot" or "Salad Bowl?"  Greenwood Press:
            Editor and Publisher Yearbook, 1995
            Simon, Rita J.  and Alexander, Susan H.: The Ambivalent Welcome:
Print Media, Public     Opinion and Immigration. Westport, CT: Preager, 1993.
            Wilson, Clint C. and Gutierez, Felix: Race, Multiculturalism, and
the Media: From Mass to         Class Communication. Sage Publications, 1995.
            Wilson Clint C. and Gutierez, Felix: Minorities and the Media:
Diversity and the End of Mass   Communication. Sage Publication, 1985
            US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census: Statistical Abstract of
the United States,      1990. Washington D.C., US Government Printing Office, 1990.
            Bailon, Gilbert: "Immigration issue provoke poor reporting by the
press." In: ASNE Bulletin,      March 1995, p.42-43.
            Brosius, H.-B. and Eps, P.: "Prototyping through key events: news
selection in the case of        violence against aliens and asylum seekers in
Germany." In: European Journal of       Communication, 10 (3, 1995): 391-412.
            Gunther, Albert C.: "Biased Press or Biased Public? Attitudes toward
Media Coverage of       Social Groups." In: Public Opinion Quarterly, 56 (1992):
            Ma, Jianming and Hildebrand, Kai: "Canadian Press Coverage of Ethnic
Chines Community;       A Content Analysis of The Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun,
1970-1990." In:         Canadian Journal of Communication. 18 (1993): 479-496.
            Heeter, Carrie; Greenberg, Bradley S.; Mendelson, Bradley E.;
Burgoon, Judee K.; Burgoon,     Micheal and Korzemy Felipe: "Cross Media Coverage
of Local Hispanic American      News." In: Journal of Broadcasting. 27 (4 Fall):
            Hofstetter, Richard C. and Loveman, Brian: "Media Exposure and
Attitude Consistency about      Immigrattion." In: Journalism Quarterly 59 (2,
summer ): 298-302.
            Martindale, Carolyn: "Coverage of Black American in five newspapers
since 1950." In:        Journalism Quarterly. 62 (2, summer): 321-328, 436.
            Martindale, Carloyn: "Only in Glimpses: Portrayal of America's
largest Minority Groups by      the New York Times, 1934 -1994.", Paper presented
AEJMC Annual Convention,        Washington, D.C.,  1995
            Miller, John J.: "Immigration, the Press and the New Racism." In:
Media Studies Journal, 8,       3(summer, 1994): 19-28.
            Census of Population and Housing, 1990
         9. Appendix:

Back to: Top of Message | Previous Page | Main AEJMC Page



CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager