The volume brings together authors from different geographical areas (North America, Europe, and Australia) and from different disciplines (particularly communication, linguistics, and psychology). Contributions are organized around five themes, corresponding to the five sections of the book: defining features and constraints; tools of intergroup communication; social groups in their context; intergroup communication in organizations; and future directions.
Chapter Five: News Media and Intergroup Contexts
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News Media and Intergroup Contexts
CRAIG O. STEWART
News represents an important site for intergroup communication—for many people, particularly where face-to-face intergroup contact is low, local or national news is a source of information, and often of negative stereotypes, about out-group members (van Dijk, 1987). News media can also represent a site for mediated intergroup contact for its viewers, which can have the potential for either positive or negative effects on intergroup attitudes (Harwood, 2010). Two local news events, both of which became national news, illustrate these potential influences. In 2007, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Alfredo Ramos, killed two White teenage girls in a drunk driving incident. News about this tragedy focused not on Ramos’ drunkenness, nor on drunk driving as the primary cause. Rather, the news focused on his identity as an “illegal immigrant,” and on immigration as the primary cause. Local news emphasized Ramos’s outgroup status, while national news outlets such as Fox used this story, arguably, as a way to attack immigrants and pro-immigration policies. News media constructed Ramos as a synecdoche for illegal immigrants, and illegal immigrants as a synecdoche for Latinos. News of this sort clearly has the potential to negatively affect Whites’ attitudes toward Latinos, especially in a city where direct intergroup contact is low, and consequently harm intergroup relations between these groups (Stewart, Pitts, & Osborne, 2011).
Conversely, it became a local, national, and international...
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