The data for this study was obtained from a content analysis of Fox straight news programming, from October 4, 2010 – November, 1 2010 between 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., which included Fox news desk programs: “Happening Now” and “America Live.” A total of 30 hours of Fox programming was examined in this time period. This section explains how Fox News stories were reviewed and categorized, and provides the results of the study.
In conducting this content analysis, there were 30 hours of news programming reviewed, and there were a total of 33 news stories pertaining to Latinos and African-Americans that were analyzed. The multiple short introductions, lead-ins, and previews of the 33 news items reviewed often times provided vivid imagery and commentary, were not included or analyzed in this study.
The news stories that were identified fit into several stereotypical categories adapted from Entman’s common portrayals of minorities by media outlets, that they are: poor and lazy, loud and demanding, and criminals and suspects in crimes (Dixon 2008). In addition, these stories were also analyzed to determine how Fox New’s reporting of African-Americans and Latinos were framed by modifying Tankard’s 11 framing focal points to four: images, commentary and rhetoric, source selection, and statistics and charts (de Vrese, 2005).
Some common themes emerged in this study.
Latinos as Crime Suspects
In many cases, the 33 news stories identified fit into more than one category. For example, Latinos in Fox’s news coverage were frequently targeted as crime suspects and as poor and lazy in relation to immigration and undocumented workers stories. News items involving undocumented workers were accompanied with frames that included images of what looked like poor people crossing the U.S. border (either at night or during the day), and included commentary and rhetoric which labeled them as “illegals” and “law-breakers.”
Hall explained that imagery and news agencies are not always mutually exclusive or separate as they provide frameworks of interpretation to fit a clear narrative (as noted in Griffin, 2009). Griffin (2009) added that the framework used by the viewing audience to interpret this information, “is provided through the dominant discourse of the day” (p. 337). Recently, there has been much attention given to the issue of undocumented workers and immigration in the U.S. and immigrants coming through Mexico to the states, and Fox heavily reported on this issue. In this content analysis, the issue of immigration and undocumented workers with the focal point being Latinos on the U.S. and Mexico border, was a story that was most reported on by Fox.
Latinos and Immigration
One particular news story that illustrates the level of negative stereotypical frames that Fox engaged in which might raise fears of its viewers related to Latinos and immigration, and involved a political television advertisement produced by Nevada politician, Sharon Angle, which was heavily criticized by Latino groups. The Fox News anchor was defending the commercial’s controversial content. In this political ad, Latinos were shown as menacing, scary, as images of Latino actors shown as gang members and criminals were prevalent in this advertisement. In addition, the advertisement stated that, “illegal aliens are streaming across the border,” insinuating that one can’t be safe with this menace on the loose, and that this politician will keep you safe from this threat. This same negative quote was repeated by the news correspondence as if it were fact, not to mention the offensive language and dehumanizing nature of these remarks.
Latinos and African-American’s Depicted as Poor and Lazy
An additional theme emerged, which was Fox’s negative stereotyping of both Latinos and African-Africans as poor and lazy. Visual imagery and commentary and rhetoric frames were most employed in portraying these negative stereotypes. One such example was a report titled, “shattered dreams” about the foreclosure crisis, and issues related to modifying these loans. The correspondent interviewed African-Americans and sought comments about the Obama administration’s home loan modification program, and showed them in long lines to fill out forms to qualify (depiction of poor minorities and in this case, as demanding a handout). Fox commentators expressed their negative rhetoric and disapproval of the program, noting that the wrong people were being rewarded, and those who pay their bills on time were being mistreated. This seems to be a good example of network news outlets forming, framing, and portraying a certain group in a stereotypical manner to its audience.
Dixon explained that evidence suggests that network news may form both racial views and racial prejudice of its audience (2008). Dixon (2008) said that because of network news continued framing practices, negative perceptions of African-Americans and racial prejudice might be exacerbated by this network’s constant negative news coverage for those who watch it.
Depicting Both Groups as Loud and Demanding
The stereotype least perpetuated by Fox was that of minorities as loud and demanding, but as with previous stereotypes mentioned, the tools that were used to carry out these frames were visual imagery and rhetoric. In addition, the only stereotypical category that consistently used all frames (imagery, rhetoric, source selection, and statistics) was of these groups depicted as criminal suspects.
One such example was a report of an attempt by an Arizona lawmaker to repeal the 14th amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to immigrant children born in the U.S. In this news story there was some visual imagery of groups of Latinos, scathing commentary by this politician and the Fox correspondent repeating the phrase “illegals born in the U.S.” In addition, the source selection for this story came from the PEW Foundation (a conservative think tank) and claimed that in 2008, there were 340,000 “illegals” born in the U.S.
In addition, reporting involving African-Americans was framed in a manner that depicted this group as loud and demanding, implying that one should be fearful of this group. For example, Fox often showed African-Americans raising their voices and being loud in response to Fox correspondent’s questions about controversial issues. Fox sometimes framed President Obama in the same way. In one report noting his low approval ratings, Fox framed the President as angry and demanding, running old footage of a speech from the 2008 election and him screaming about,” hope and change.” Again, this frame depicted him as loud and demanding, to be feared.
Some of the stories, like the above about Obama’s low approval ratings, tied in other negative stereotypes of African-Americans and Latinos as poor and uneducated and looking for a handout. The frame often applied was that of rhetoric and commentary, implying that President Obama was changing the fabric of the country with his administration’s policies of handouts, making people dependent on government programs.
Visual Imagery and Framing
The research showed that of all the news stories analyzed for this study, the one’s involving the framing of Latino as criminals, dominated Fox’s news content. In much of the setup to stories about immigration, Latinos were framed as ominous and scary people, as visual imagery of what looked like groups of people crossing the U.S. border in the dead of night (often with infrared cameras) was frequently shown. This same footage was also used in the actual reports on immigration, or video footage of what looked like Latino men and women being arrested by U.S. border patrol agents, in handcuffs and escorted into police vans.
Most of the reporting by Fox in this content analysis which involved Latinos and African-Americans were framed negatively, as was noted. There was very little coverage, if any at all, which focused on portraying these groups positively. The Fox news coverage that might have been categorized as positive, or less negative, was some of the coverage of the trapped Chilean minor’s rescue operation. Even so, much of that coverage focused on the poor state of the Chilean people, and the American technology that was necessary to execute the rescue.
Statistics and Charts Used in News Framing
In addition, frames that reported on crime statistics were often times confusing and contradictory, such as a story of male African-African armed robbery suspects in South Florida, and an FBI report about the individuals at large. Visual imagery of mug shots of these suspects along with scary surveillance footage accompanied the story. This kind of imagery was usually dark, scratchy, and unrecognizable and may have added an element of anonymity and unpredictability, which might have created more fear, as compared to clearer footage. In this case, the desk reporter communicating with the field reporter commented that armed robberies were on the rise in South Florida, and the field reporter agreed, even though the statistical graphic displayed showed that armed robberies in South Florida have decreased, since 2007.
The Data is Overwhelming
This content analysis has demonstrated that Fox is engaged in perpetuating negative stereotypes about Latinos and African-Americans. Whether it is the obsessive nature of its news content involving Latinos and immigration, or what they commonly referred to as “illegals,” which often times depicted Latinos as criminals and as poor and lazy. Other stories about African-Americans often depicted them in the same manner, as crime suspects, and as poor and lazy, as well as being loud and demanding.
de Vreese, C. H. (2005). News framing: theory and typology. Information Design Journal Document Design 13 (1), 51- 62. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Dixon, T.L. (2008). Network news and racial beliefs: exploring the connection between national and television news exposure and stereotypical perceptions of African-Americans. Journal of Communication, 58, 321-337. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.
Griffin, E. (2009) Communication: a first look at communicationtheory (7th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.