Perceptiveness of U.F.S. students towards racial messages in newspapars
Snyman, Carina Francis
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In 1998, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) received a request from two professional bodies, The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the Association of Black Accountants of South Africa (ABASA), to investigate two newspapers. The BLA and ABABSA claimed that The Star and The Mail & Guardian were allegedly guilty of racism. The HRC consequently appointed two research authorities, Claudia Braude (qualitative content analysis) and The Media Monitoring Project (quantitative content analysis), to investigate these allegations. Several newspaper editors and journalism institutes questioned these findings. According to them, the research was "considerably weakened by the absence of research into media consumers" (HRC report, 1999). They based their arguments on the premises that the research focused primarily on the content of the respective newspapers, and not on the interpretation of the readers/audience of the papers. In the final section of the report, the HRC concluded that "the media can be characterised as racist institutions" (HRC report, 1999). By not considering the opinion of the media receivers, the HRC report failed to make a credible and valid impact. An investigation on the audience's interpretation of these racist messages was called for. The population sample of the study was drawn from students between the ages of 18 and 25; the future readers and interpreters of newspaper messages. The sample included a variety of nationalities in order to determine to what extent race plays a role in the interpretation of the mass media messages. The content of three newspapers (Mail & Guardian, The Citizen and The Star) was analyzed over a period of a nine weeks based on the same guidelines determined by the MMP report (i.e. quantitative content analysis categories). Newspaper items were analyzed by monitoring items in which race was explicitly stated and implicit to the content. Once the content analysis was completed, examples of specific newspaper articles, which have been selected on their racist content, were supplied to the respondents. After reading the items, the respondents were asked to complete a questionnaire based on the selected newspaper articles. An exploration of the media as an institution and the interpretation of the respondents on the other side of the spectrum provided a relative holistic encapsulation of racism in the media The data gathered from the survey indicated a statistical significant difference between the responses of the White and the Black respondents. Although all the items presented to the respondents contained implicit or explicit racist messages, the respondents did not perceive these newspaper items as racist.