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Media still segregated: White women lawmakers get twice coverage of blacks

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Polls,Martin Luther King,Media,Race and Diversity

In its coverage of the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, the mainstream media is talking the talk of civil rights, but a new study finds that the media isn't walking the walk as it gives white politicians the bulk of coverage in the nation's daily newspapers.

The authoritative Political Research Quarterly has just published a study that finds white female House and Senate members get over twice the coverage of black female politicians and four times that of Latinas in the House.

The result, said Georgia State University's political science professor Sarah Allen Gershon, is that Latino and black women House members are getting the shaft by "slanted coverage" and "media bias," making it much harder for voters to size up the minority politicians.

"African-American and Latina congresswomen continue to face an uphill battle in seeking the attention of the mainstream media," said Gershon. "The disproportionately small amount of coverage received by these women may limit their ability to communicate their messages and activities, thus hampering their efforts to build electoral support."

The study looked at the newspaper coverage of 22 white female lawmakers, 11 blacks and five Latinas. The unnamed white women received an average of 22 newspaper stories each in 2006, the year studied; African-American women House members received 10 stories and Latino congresswoman five. The study suggests that coverage hasn't changed much in seven years.

The study also found that the limited coverage of African American and Latina women was more negative than for whites.

"Many Latinas and African American women in this sample were criticized in the local press for running in noncompetitive races, for failing to engage noncompetitive challengers and for engaging in dishonest or corrupt activities (e.g. misusing public funds). In contrast, Anglo women tended to be criticized for their legislative and political behavior as well as their ideological leanings," said the study.

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Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.