KPRC had the lowest percentage of negatively biased coverage among the primarily English-language stations, at 48 percent. No articles from this station were coded as positive, and only about 6 percent were balanced. Articles run by KPRC on this subject were found from July 14, 2015, to June 10, 2021, and totaled 52. Of these articles, 17 were primarily about bond reform while 35 were primarily about defendants.
Ten of the 17 articles primarily about bond reform were either about felonies or did not specify the type of bond being discussed, risking conflation of reforms among its viewers.
Fifty-one percent of articles about defendants were about Black defendants, which is an over-representation relative to the 20 percent Black population in Harris County; this disparity is compounded by the fact that 83 percent of all “defendant” articles include a mugshot. Similarly, nearly 30 percent of defendants were allegedly involved in homicide cases in some way—indicating that these types of cases are likely over-covered.
Law enforcement was referenced in 35 total articles, making it the most common reference for KPRC, with 25 articles coded as negative. Crime Stoppers was referenced in 13 articles and police unions in 5 articles; all articles that referenced these two groups were coded as negative. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office was referenced in 13 articles, with 6 coded as negative.
Other findings from KPRC relate to coverage of judges, reporter trends, and changes in coverage over time. Local district or felony court judges were identified by name in 8 articles; interestingly, 7 of those were coded as negative, which raises questions about the potential motivations for referring to judges by name.
This station report is part of a larger analysis of bias in media coverage of bond reform in Harris County. Read the full report, and see evaluations of other stations: KTRK (ABC affiliate), KHOU (CBS affiliate), KRIV (FOX affiliate), KXLN (Univision affiliate), and KTMD (Telemundo affiliate).
Before releasing this report, we contacted KPRC to ask the following questions.
- Does your station have any policies to ensure that racial or ethnic groups are not disproportionately represented in your coverage of the justice system, in particular stories concerning bail bonds? If so, when was that policy implemented and is that policy presently being followed?
- Does your station have a policy on naming judges, attorneys, or other individuals associated with a criminal case in your coverage of the justice system, in particular stories concerning bail bonds? If so, when was that policy implemented and is that policy presently being followed?
- Does your station have a policy to ensure your coverage of the justice system distinguishes an arrest from a conviction in a criminal case? If your station has covered the arrest of an individual, is it your policy to publish a follow-up story if the charges are dismissed or the individual is found not guilty? Why or why not?
- Crime Stoppers Houston lists you as a partnering organization in their annual report. What is the nature of this partnership, and what activities (financial or otherwise) does this partnership entail? How much editorial control or influence does your station give to Crime Stoppers Houston?
We received a response from KPRC, asking the report authors to sit down with their reporters. In early December, co-author Elaine Hennig met with KPRC staff to share findings and recommendations.
You can contact KPRC to request unbiased coverage through their website.