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HBCU Students Express Less Trust In Mainstream Media, Gallup Survey Shows

(Black PR Wire) MIAMI
Students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are confident that First Amendment rights are secure, but are more likely than other college students to favor limits on First Amendment press freedoms during campus protests, a Gallup report has found. The report, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, is a follow-up to an April survey of 3,072 U.S. college students (including HBCU students) on their views of First Amendment rights. The new report compares findings from the national sample with responses from 302 full-time students at HBCUs, as well as 357 Black students at other colleges.

The report shows that while a large majority (75 percent) of HBCU students view freedom of the press as secure, 56 percent – double the percentage of national college students at 28 percent – believe college students should be able to prevent reporters from covering campus protests. Correspondingly, HBCU students express less trust in the media than the national sample.

This study sought to better understand how U.S. college students interpret their First Amendment rights, and the role that their environments and backgrounds play in shaping their views. Among the other key findings, HBCU students are similar to the national sample in that the majority support free speech and press rights, but HBCU students and Black students at non-HBCU colleges are slightly more likely to entertain restrictions.

For example, HBCU students tend to be more sympathetic to various reasons protestors may want to block coverage of an event. While students in the national sample are largely divided on curtailing press access, HBCU students tended to agree that the following reasons were legitimate to do so: The people at the protest or public gathering believe reporters will be biased (73 percent); the people at the protest or public gathering say they have a right to be left alone (73 percent); and the people at the protest or public gathering want to tell their own story on the internet and social media (62 percent). The large majority of HBCU college students, 73 percent responded that they have little or no trust in the media to report the news fairly and accurately, compared with 59 percent of the national sample.

HBCU students are however much more likely than the national sample of college students to view their student-run media as playing a very important role in creating a place for an open exchange of ideas on campus, 51 percent to 24 percent, respectively. HBCU students (40 percent) and Black students at non-HBCU colleges (27 percent) are less likely than the national sample (51 percent) to rely on traditional news sources to get an accurate depiction of what is happening in the world.

At the same time, HBCU students still rely on traditional news sources (40 percent) more than social media (32 percent) and digital-only news sources (25 percent). In contrast, Black students from non-HBCU colleges, trust digital-only news sources (37 percent) and social media posts (33 percent) more than traditional news media (27 percent). “Freedom of the press, speech and assembly were traditionally seen as critical to minority groups who wanted to express their grievances. However, this study reveals that African-American students are more likely to favor restrictions on the press when covering campus protests than their white counterparts.

“African-American students are also more skeptical of the press’ ability to report in an unbiased manner. Students at HBCUs also believe that the right to assembly is threatened. We clearly need to understand how all Americans can enjoy their First Amendment rights so that we can, among other things, make progress on the issues that divide us,” said Jeff Herbst, president and CEO of the Newseum Institute.

This report is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to promote press freedom and information access, and ensure that the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment are preserved. Knight Foundation recently supported the launch of the Knight First Amendment Institute in collaboration with Columbia University.
For more information, visit knightfoundation.org.

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