Michael Huspek


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Black Press, White Press, and Their Opposition: The Case of the Police Killing of Tyisha Miller

Author Michael Huspek discusses the social and political significance of the black press in this article. In his view, the black press is a significant “counterpoint and counterpart” to the white press. The essay critically analyzes white press practices. The article is a case study of two Southern California newspapers’ coverage of the 1998 shooting death of a 19-year-old African-American woman by four white Riverside police officers. One newspaper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, is a mainstream daily, and its counterpart is the weekly Black Voice News. The essay provides a brief account of the police shooting of Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, and its aftermath. It then uses an oppositional thesis to analyze critical differences in the coverage in the black and white press. The essay concludes with a discussion of the significance of the black press as social force and site for critical media study. It discusses how the white press manages issues of race and class in response to ongoing challenges presented by the black press and its readership. The author argues that the white press can offer critical, institutional, historical analyses, but still not get it right if they continue to be conducted in the service of a logic of containment that is bent on perpetuating readers’ ignorance of institutional racism and violence. In its oppositional mode, the black press restores visibility to groups otherwise rendered invisible; it amplifies voice and so militates against caricatured depictions of incivility and criminality; and it reaches out across color and race divides that are maintained by its white counterpart. Importantly, the messages produced and transmitted by the black press are meant as nonviolent correctives to the symbolic and physical violence that results from dominant institutional practices, including those of the white press.

black press, police killing of civilians, Riverside, California

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 31, Nos. 1-2 (2004): 217-241