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The ""most surprising finding"" of this study, according to Martindale, is that the American press has continued to make substantial progress in providing more coverage, and generally less stereotypical coverage, of black life in this country. That's the good news. The bad: Since American society remains largely segregated and most whites know little about blacks other than what they read or see in the media, journalism's obsession with crime and conflict still leads white readers to perceive blacks as a threat. Now that black dissatisfaction is seldom expressed in forms that involve mass violence, newspaper executives seem to have lost their sense of urgency about the appalling poverty that persists in many inner cities. They are still loath to explore the problems of local blacks, although they do report racial inequities in other locales. Indeed, the entire culture of journalism works against thoughtful coverage of social ills: reporters get ahead by pursuing powerful people, not the poor. Martindale analyzes samples of press coverage of four major metropolitan dailies--The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Constitution, and Boston Globe--from 1950 (when coverage of black Americans was virtually nonexistent) to 1980. The rest of her information dates back to the late 1960's when the issue was discussed at countless conferences and commission hearings and probed in professional journals. Martindale's major suggestions are that media executives make an effort to establish better communication networks with the black community and hire or develop experts on urban and racial problems; that the press focus more on the problems of local blacks and the frustrations of life in inner-city ghettos; and that efforts to bring more blacks into the media be renewed. There is important information contained here, especially the material on how many basic journalistic practices work against meaningful coverage of racial issues. However, much of the book is a rehash of papers and symposia of the 1960's. The study would have benefited immensely from more on more recent press coverage and from interviews with prominent black journalists. Martindale herself admits that perhaps the work's biggest flaw is that the four large dailies she chose to study may not be entirely representative of the American media.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Greenwood