An Analysis of Racial Bias in Newspaper Coverage of “Bloody Sunday” and the March for the Right to Vote

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McKitrick, Anne-Marie
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This study analyzed newspaper coverage of Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery march for the right to vote for Black Americans. Through critical race theory, news framing theory, and the theory of Orientalism, I conducted a content analysis of two American newspapers (one published locally in Alabama and one major-city newspaper) to determine the similarities and differences with respect to representation of race in the news media. Results demonstrate that the Alabama newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, reported on this event with more racial bias than did the major-city newspaper, The New York Times. The two newspapers also covered similar stories in different manners, with the major-city newspaper being predominantly supportive in tone and the Alabama newspaper being predominantly oppositional in tone. The New York Times reported significantly more slurs (all through quotes) while the Montgomery Advertiser reported significantly more stereotypes (primarily through journalistic prose). This finding showed bias in reporting as The New York Times quoted slurs to tell the story, while the Montgomery Advertiser stereotyped black people while telling the story. The findings point to more differences than similarities in how the two newspapers covered the events and inform the main conclusion that the Montgomery Advertiser reported the event with more bias. This conclusion is significant because the content of a news story and the tone through which a newspaper reports a story—specifically the marches for the right to vote—is the message the readers receive.
Bloody Sunday, race theory, news framing theory, American newspapers