Segments in this Video

Negative News Footage (02:43)


In the late 1960s and 1980s TV images from black neighborhoods in Miami have been images of crisis and confrontation. Residents of Liberty City talk about the negative media coverage.

News Coverage After McDuffie Verdict (02:12)

The McDuffie case triggered an explosion of news coverage of black neighborhoods of Miami. In May of 1980 a six man, all white jury found four police officers innocent of charges related to the beating death of a black man.

Newsroom after McDuffie Verdict (01:45)

TV crews from local stations and national networks were on location to record events and report about the troubles in Miami. May 1980 was one of the rare occasions in which the entire news room operation was focused on one event.

Rally Coverage After McDuffie Verdict (02:43)

Highlights from the rally were part of the CBS and NBC network coverage. The images from Miami would have a shock effect on the rest of the country. The sequence of shots was almost identical in separate reports, both simplified events.

Media and the Black Community (02:15)

In the newsroom police scanners were the main sources of information about sporadic violence in Liberty City. Danger to news crews became one of several important factors in what was covered and how. Many shots were of riot aftermath.

Potential Impact of Media Coverage (01:36)

In addition to the danger faced by news crews, the media's view of its own role during the crisis had an important role in the coverage. Local stations took on a more active role than usual in response to the crisis after the McDuffie crisis.

Missing Context for Race Relations (03:05)

Before the McDuffie case, Nathaniel La Fleur was beaten and accosted with racial slurs as police carried out a drug bust at the wrong address. This was one of several volatile cases covered locally in Miami but not reported nationally.

Role of TV in Racial Problems (01:51)

Miami was one of hundreds of cities to experience troubles in the 1960s. President Johnson called for the establishment of a commission to investigate causes and solutions. The role of TV had become a center of controversy.

Written Media Guidelines (03:11)

The Justice Department encouraged guidelines at major broadcast stations. They addressed "dos and don'ts" of covering volatile situations like race riots. The Kerner report did not look at the long term effects of coverage of race relations

Coverage of Race Riots in 1980 (02:33)

In the first three days the emphasis of local and national news coverage was related to stories on fires and destruction; deaths and injuries; and interviews with officials and black spokespersons.

Major Focus on White Victims (02:13)

During the week of May 19, 1980 the networks presented a total of five interviews with business owners. At local stations this part of the story was given greater emphasis. Several community residents felt this did not tell the full story.

Minimal Coverage of Vigilante Attacks (03:10)

An initial burst of violence against whites occurred in the hours following the McDuffie verdict. Over the next two days blacks bore the brunt of the deaths and injuries. Little attention was given to innocent blacks being killed by whites.

Double Standard in Race Reporting (02:07)

During the riots in Liberty City in May of 1980, there was almost no network coverage of the vigilante style attacks against blacks. There were several network reports about blacks who were accused of attacking white motorists.

Media Role in Selecting Spokespersons (03:50)

Many different voices that may deserve to be heard are forced to compete against each other for recognition and air time. Those who are given a voice are also given power to help set priorities for social and political action.

Media Creation of Spokespersons (03:43)

The same national black spokespersons were interviewed by virtually all of the local media. Marvin Dunn was the media favorite among local news stations. Receiving high visibility created a dilemma for Dunn who felt used by the media.

Narrow Interpretation of Events (04:11)

Marvin Dunn discusses being used by the media to report what was going on in the black community. He wonders why the news media did not call on a variety of people to comment on the race riots happening in Liberty City, Florida in 1980.

Gaps in Media Coverage (02:52)

The history of Liberty City was only portrayed in the media by the history of its violent eruptions. A community resident gives background on the city and its black communities.

Conditions in Liberty City (02:35)

Liberty City was originally planned as public housing for soldiers returning from WWII. With thousands of new families moving in overcrowding and deterioration developed. Between 1960 and 1980 the unemployment rate tripled.

Economic Disparity in Miami (03:03)

Some of Miami's poorest whites live in trailer parks in Liberty City. In May of 1980 images from these areas spoke about the polarizing impact of events. Interviews show a wider range of perspectives than TV images suggested.

What Is News? (04:06)

TV coverage raised broader questions about what news is. What is covered by media depends on the market climates. Reporters listen to police scanners and check in regularly with agencies to find out if there are any stories worth covering.

Delayed Coverage of Race Relations (02:55)

Reporters are given the responsibility to decide what is newsworthy. Personal judgement plays a major role in these decisions. Liberty City is getting more news coverage than ever before because the media is reacting to events.

Credits: Race against Prime Time (01:16)

Credits: Race against Prime Time

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Race against Prime Time

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This case study in media bias examines how ABC, CBS, and NBC network affiliates covered civil unrest in Miami’s predominantly black Liberty Hill neighborhood following the 1980 acquittal of police officers for the killing of a local resident. Taking viewers behind the scenes of the newsrooms that reported the story, the documentary examines the ways in which television reporting typically represents African-Americans—local broadcasters anoint black community spokespersons, characterize whites as victims and blacks as rioters, and fail to place the disturbances within the context of decades of racial injustice. (58 minutes)

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL49732

Copyright date: ©1985

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Highly teleliterate...A persuasive indictment of media stereotypes.”  —The Village Voice

“An admirable work which gets down to particulars.”  —The New York Times

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

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Only available in USA and Canada.