A Glimpse Of Racial Bias Progress Within America’s News Media

Isaac Newton Farris Jr
7 min readMar 15

Racial bias in the way American Blacks are portrayed on and in TV and print mainstream news media is not a new phenomenon in America. But the attentive, proactive, and positive way American TV and print mainstream news media have reported on an American Black story in the last 2 weeks, is a first and very new phenomenon that hopefully will become commonplace.

The late American Black PBS anchor Gwen Ifill coined the phrase, “ Missing White Woman Syndrome”, to describe the mainstream media’s racial bias practice of covering missing or endangered American White women while almost ignoring missing or endangered American people of color. To determine how bad the racial bias is, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) sampled 3,600 articles from American TV, radio, newspaper, and online news organizations about missing people that appeared last year, between January and November of 2021. CJR then matched its data with age, gender, and race data tracked by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System ( NamUs).

What CJR’s research found was “ if you’re young, white, female, and a resident of a big city, the coverage you’d receive if you went missing is vastly out of proportion “ than the coverage a person of color would receive. CJR data revealed an American White young adult woman who is reported missing in New York could be covered in 67 news stories, but an American Latino male of the same age would appear in only 17. A middle-aged American Black man would be expected to receive four or fewer mentions in the press. An American Black man who went missing in St. Louis would only garner 12 news stories, while a young American White woman from the same town would attract ten times the media coverage.

To dramatize how prevalent racial bias is in covering missing or endangered American people of color compared to the coverage of American Whites, the CJR developed a tool called Are You Press Worthy?”, it allows anyone to test their own…

Isaac Newton Farris Jr

Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center.