The Washington, D.C. 1991 Riots in Mount Pleasant: An Analysis of Local Press Coverage

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Studies in the field of communication have found that the U.S.A. mainstream (English-language) news media coverage of minorities is characterized primarily by the portrayal of minorities only in the context of the problems or difficulties that they pose to society. In addition, because of cultural values and customs, the media, when covering minorities, tend to focus on the event itself rather than on the underlying causes of the event. Thus the coverage tends to be stereotypical. In order to address these issues, this thesis analyses the content of coverage of the 1991, Washington, D.C. Mount Pleasant civil disturbances in two English- and two Spanish-language newspapers. A quantitative content analysis was employed in order to determine the extent and type of coverage provided to Latinos two weeks before the disturbances, the week of the disturbances, and the week after the disturbances. For the same period, a thematic content analysis was used to contrast the frameworks used by the English-language press in comparison to the Spanish-language press. The assumption was that by having cultural proximity to and understanding of the Latino Community, the Spanish-language press provided a more thorough coverage of the event. The results, however, show that both presses failed to provide a comprehensive coverage of the event. In fact, the results seem to indicate that both presses followed journalistic news values and patterns more closely than they followed cultural values. The most notable difference between the two presses was that they incorporated the news values and patterns into their own cultural bias.