Study: News weak on kids’ coverage

Nearly half of the stories that featured children focused on crime

Local television news coverage of children and children’s issues leaves much to be desired, according to a report conducted by Oakland-based policy and advocacy org Children Now.

Among the findings: The presence of children in society is under-represented, and the level of crime committed by and against kids is distorted.

Study, conducted before Sept. 11, examined newscasts on major affils in Gotham, L.A., Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Des Moines for a month, making it the most nationally representative study of children in local TV news coverage to date.

While kids account for more than 25% of the nation’s population, they account for only 10% of all local news stories.

Nearly half of the stories that featured children focus on crime (45%), followed by health (24%), lifestyle issues (19%), education (9%) and politics and economics (3%).

Profile in peril

“By portraying children, particularly children of color, as perpetrators and victims of crime this frequently, local news fosters an environment where children are seen as constantly in peril,” Frank Gilliam, a UCLA professor who conducted the research, said in a statement. “This tends to lead to one of two actions by parents and policy makers: either bubble-wrap our children to protect them or support punitive measures against them.”

The release of the study coincides with the broadcast of a PBS TV series on the issue, “Local News,” which is airing throughout October.

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