Tracking Race Representation in the St. Petersburg Times
Purpose, Data Collected For this multicultural report, I wanted to take an objective-as-possible look at race and gender representation in the St. Petersburg Times. I decided the best way to do this (with the time and space allotted) was to closely examine every photograph in the national and local sections of the SPT in four editions and let the data speak for itself in terms of representation. I started this project believing the SPT did a fair job at objective reporting the news in Tampa Bay and beyond. Data Collected Every photograph depicting a person in the “Nation and World” and “Tampa Bay” sections of the SPT print edition on 3/22, 3/23, 3/25 and 3/26 was counted. Top News Stories Ray Sansom trial, Tampa runoffs, Scott signs teacher bill, woman shot dead in home invasion, Watson trial, Libya bombing, Japanese earthquake/tsunami.
Methods I went through every page of the “Nation and World” and “Tampa Bay” sections of the SPT print edition on the dates previously mentioned. In these sections, I noted the amount of photographs, size of photograph, placement on the page (above or below fold) and the people shown in the photograph in terms of race and gender. The table below shows the breakdown of photographic representation in the SPT over the days I closely monitored the paper. I also categorized the story by content, including “news, crime, lifestyle,” etc. to add specificity to the data (see separate document for the data breakdown). Race identification is not a cut and dry matter. When necessary, I did research beyond the article to try to determine a person’s origin. This happened mostly with photos depicting Hispanic men and women. Photos are counted by the actual number of photos in the paper and not be the amount of people in the photo. For photos with multiple people, I categorized by race (i.e. “more than one white male” or “multiple people of different races, genders”).
Lifestyle <ul><li>Lifestyle reporting over these four editions was more than predominately white. Leisure coverage was all white . </li></ul><ul><li>Only photo during this period to include a black family was crime related (mourning the death of a St. Petersburg woman killed in home invasion). </li></ul><ul><li>Data suggests a gap in minority community reporting in St. Petersburg. </li></ul>
Crime <ul><li>Even if the SPT representation of black men and women reflects U.S. Census data, it seems a disproportionate number of black men and women are depicted in crime-related stories. SPT photo representation of black people is under 10%, but crimes showing black people account for 4% of the total number of photos (180). </li></ul><ul><li>White crimes accounted for 13 percent of the photo representation. </li></ul><ul><li>Unable to find reliable, official crime data on the number of crimes in Pinellas County, I took a look at the booking in Pinellas County on 3/26. Here are the approximate figures: </li></ul><ul><li>White: 65% (71/109) </li></ul><ul><li>Black: 28% (30/109) </li></ul><ul><li>Hispanic: 6% (7/109) </li></ul><ul><li>Asian: .009% (1/109) </li></ul>
Crime <ul><li>The majority of white crime depicted in these issues was “white collar” (extensive photographic coverage of Sansom and Winters and Yonkers trials). </li></ul><ul><li>No white females were represented in photos as having had committed a crime. Three photos showed white women as victims of abductions (either herself or her children). </li></ul><ul><li>The white males not committing white collar crimes were portrayed as “crazed” in the story content or photo representation. Examples include a man being extracted from his cell for trial. There were a number of stories on men sexually abusing children. No white males were represented as committing crimes such as home invasion, drugs. </li></ul>
Columnists/Newsroom Representation <ul><li>Over the four issues monitored, a total number of SPT columnists or contributors’ headshots appeared 19 times (some more than once): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>White male headshots: 16 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>White female headshots: 2 (both of Sue Carlton) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black male headshots: 1 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(13 of 16 headshots pictured here.) </li></ul></ul>
Missed Opportunities for Representation? <ul><li>With Hispanic residents of Pinellas county underrepresented, and with no Middle-Eastern American presence, these two stories were a missed opportunity for representation. </li></ul><ul><li>A story on the rising number of Florida Hispanic residents shows a city limits sign. A photo of actual Hispanic residents could have increased Hispanic representation in the SPT. </li></ul><ul><li>The only photos depicting Middle Eastern people in the SPT over this period was world news. This story about a judge using sharia law instead of Florida law in a lawsuit involving a Tampa mosque was a missed opportunity to represent the Middle Eastern or Islamic population in Tampa Bay. </li></ul>
Conclusions Even though I only collected data from four print editions of the SPT , I saw clear patterns and trends regarding photo representation. It’s important to keep in mind that as journalists, we want to give an accurate report of news in our community and beyond. We can’t decide who commits crimes, or who is seeking political office, or even the race/gender of columnists or reporters at our news outlet. To an extent, news does not create itself. And, on the other hand, consciously including photos based on race and gender is not authentic or objective—and doing so chases the “diversity” standard that public and private sector entities alike are obsessed with these days. I do think the SPT could do a better job representing race in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County by attending events that have a minority audience . Over the four days I monitored the paper, the community events/lifestyle/leisure photos were all white. This might involve reporting on events in different neighborhoods not generally included in SPT events coverage.
Sources Pinellas County Census: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/12103.html Florida Census numbers: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12000.html St. Petersburg Times readership: http://www.tampabay.com/mediakit/sptimes_features.html Pinellas County crime statistics: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/f6415429-152e-4fde-a392-0dac0e50f74f/Pinellas.aspx