An Examination of Portrayals of Race in Hurricane Katrina Coverage
Student researchers

Shannon Kahle, Nan Yu, & Erin Whiteside (Graduate Students)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


Race is an issue in Hurricane Katrina. Portrayals of race in newspaper photographs may reflect the issue.

research question

How do newspaper portray race in Hurricane Katrina?


This study uses a content analysis to explore portrayals of race in newspaper photographs from four national newspapers covering Hurricane Katrina. Using stereotyping as a theoretical background, the study analyzes the relationship between a person's race and the valence of the photo. Both the photo itself and the individual persons in the photographs are used as the unit of analysis.


Several trends were found, including the very different ways in which African-Americans and Caucasians were depicted in terms of both their activity in the photo and their social identity.


The study found that the photographs analyzed reinforced negative stereotypes about African-Americans, while conversely depicting Caucasians in a powerful and active role or activity.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University