Small East Texas Town Branded As Racist After 1998 Hate Crime Has Only Partly Recovered

Posted: September 14, 2011 in east texas, james byrd jr., jasper, racism


Newswise — As a Sept. 21 execution date looms for a man convicted for his role in chaining and dragging a black man to his death, attention again will be focused on the small East Texas town of Jasper, vilified worldwide as racist after the murder in 1998.

But a study done over a 13-year period by researchers Cassy Burleson, Ph.D., and Mia Moody, Ph.D., in Baylor University’s department of journalism and media arts, shows that the reputation of Jasper — population of about 8,000 — was fueled largely by stereotyping of the town by major global media. In contrast, the community’s weekly newspaper — The Jasper Newsboy — had a head start in understanding the city’s true politics and culture, which helped other journalists report the event more realistically relatively soon after the coverage began.

However, by the time major media began to portray the tragedy as an exception to the rule in Jasper, the damage had been done — and continues to affect the city’s reputation and cultural and political climate today, the researchers said. An article about their study of how media globally handled coverage will be published in November in the Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas.

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