Portrait of protesters at a protest for George Floyd in Philadelphia.
What stories are you telling in your reporting? At Modifier, we believe an important part of making journalism that serves our communities is taking a step back to analyze the metanarratives present in our coverage.
white signs with black text reading "don't give up" "you are not alone" and "you matter" are attached to a chainlink fence.

Study: Person-Centered Terms Encourage Stigmatized Groups’ Trust in News

In 2022, the Modifier team worked with the Center for Media Engagement on new research investigating the effect of person-centered terms on stigmatized groups’ trust in news. The results of the report reveal how small changes in language can shift attitudes. Person-centered terms bolstered trust in news and helped some groups feel more holistically represented and humanized in news coverage. In order to better connect with stigmatized groups, news organizations should use person-centered language in news articles and engage in conversations with their sources about their preferred terms.

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Demonstrators kneel and raise their fists in solidarity with George Floyd.

How local news in Philadelphia covered the George Floyd protests

In the days after George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, cities across the U.S. broke out in protests, and local and national media raced to cover the events as they unfolded. In 2021, we conducted rigorous research on the coverage of protests in Philadelphia by analyzing hundreds of articles, headlines, images, and sources. We came away with many key findings and recommendations specific to protest journalism and breaking news. 

But, just as important, we learned that newsrooms don’t need to conduct full-scale academic research to discover and understand patterns in their coverage. With a little time and honest discussion, journalists can get this bird’s-eye view and make changes that improve their work. Content analysis doesn’t have to be perfect and peer-reviewed – it just has to be useful!

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Is your newsroom seeking to learn more about its reportage or embarking on a research project to examine your editorial practices? If so, our team is always interested in new opportunities to dig into these thorny conversations and come out with a roadmap for better journalism.

Contact us below to learn how research can help your newsroom.