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Abstract

A large literature indicates that Black males are overrepresented as criminals in traditional newspapers and broadcast news. However, little scholarly attention has been paid to online-only city newspapers. The authors conducted a content analysis of a social media based city news website in a Southeastern state. Multiple coders assessed 8,142 stories that ran over the course of three years and found that, in line with previous research, Black males were disproportionately portrayed as criminals, were more likely to have mugshots accompanying their stories, and were more likely to have their race mentioned in the text of the story than any other demographic group. Furthermore, the website interface design exacerbated the portrayal of Black male criminality. The authors also found that White females were most likely to be portrayed as philanthropists and award winners. Our results offer strong support for scapegoat and power structure theories, and limited support for racial threat and market share theories. We argue that intersectional theoretical and methodological approaches are necessary to understand media portrayals of race/ethnicity, gender, social class, and other important social characteristics.

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