On Race, Migration in the Community local media stories and common stereotypes

A research by Anna Lerner, Sandra Roberts and Callies Matlala with the assistance of Media Monitoring Africa and Media Development and Diversity Agency found in 2009 that on average, 2.7 percent of South African newspapers coverage addressed the issues of race and migration, directly or indirectly, with some variation between newspapers.

It further found that white people appeared to be over-represented as sources (in proportion to population demographics), but since the target audiences for the newspapers differ, it is not clear what this means.

Other findings are that:

  • 26 percent of the items appeared on the first three pages, and 61 percent of these were crime stories, suggesting a high degree of newsworthiness.
  • 19 percent of known authors were guest or letter writers, suggesting an opportunity for NGOs/CBOs to provide input.
  • News stories made up 55 percent of content; opinion pieces and letters/readers feedback each made up 10 percent; features and news analysis made up 6 percent; editorials made up 2 percent.
  • Local stories made up the largest proportion of content (51 percent), followed by provincial (24 percent), then regional (21 percent), with international stories making up 1 percent. Limpopo Mirror sourced a large number of stories from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
  • Crime made up the largest percentage (13 percent), followed by Arts/Entertainment (11 percent), Religion/Traditional Practice (10 percent), Racism/Xenophobia (8 percent), South Africa (national, including South African government and parliament) (5 per cent), and Profiles and Personalities (just under 5 percent). Eight of the 46 newspapers accounted for 66 percent of the crime stories.
  • Crime appeared prominently in coverage, being the most prominent topic of coverage, with the greater proportion of propositions being about crime, and police being the second most prominent source (7 percent).
  • The proposition “Group is criminal” appeared overwhelmingly in relation to Zimbabweans (over one third of the time), and was challenged only once. It was also the most commonly featured proposition about Zimbabweans.
  • The language used to describe migrants/foreigners was mainly “neutral”. However, the potentially stigmatising term “illegal immigrant” was used, together with inaccurate use of terms to describe migrants.

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