Futures at Stake: Why Louisiana Needs Better Policy to Protect Children’s Identities in the News Media


  • Sarah Walker Student


The purpose of this paper is to examine how the identification of youth names and photos in relation to criminal acts in the news media produces major negative effects, and to provide policy suggestions for Louisiana to address and prevent these ramifications. First, the paper will provide theoretical background into the current forms of color-blind racism, symbolic racism, and structural/institutional racism which dominate American society and allow seemingly non-racial mechanisms to criminalize and control Black Americans. These ideologies and larger institutional inequalities not only lead to Black children facing an increased risk of arrest and criminalization, but further allow for the mention of an arrest in a news article to inappropriately symbolize guilt regardless of the outcome. This understanding will help explain why the current law in Louisiana meant to protect youth from being exposed in the media, known as the Children’s Code, actually contains loopholes which allow Louisiana news outlets to damage the identity of Black children in their articles, and disproportionately mention Black children in relation to particularly serious or heinous crimes. By using examples of reform initiatives from newsrooms around the country and evaluating a case study for a pair of articles written on a Louisiana youth, I propose a policy amendment to the Children’s Code prohibiting the identification of youth and their criminal record under all circumstances, and further propose ways in which media outlets can take initiative to alter publication practices that currently serve to preserve and spread damaging, racialized messages.