America's Newsroom Spa Shootings

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Fox News failed in its coverage of the Atlanta shootings

Fox covered the story significantly less than its cable news counterparts, while failing to include Asian American voices and ignoring the larger context of anti-Asian hate

  • In the aftermath of last week’s shootings at several Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, Fox News largely failed to include Asian voices and frequently ignored important context about the wave of anti-Asian sentiment in the country. Fox also gave considerably less coverage to the shootings than its cable news counterparts -- spending less than one hour discussing the shooting in the day and a half after it happened. In comparison, CNN and MSNBC each devoted over five hours of coverage in the same period.

    The March 16 shootings in Atlanta were yet another attack on the Asian American community, which has seen anti-Asian hate crimes skyrocket in recent months. According to data from Stop AAPI Hate, there have been nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian violence over the last year, with Asian women being the primary target of these attacks. While law enforcement officials have yet to determine the exact motive of the shooter, advocacy groups like the Asian American Journalists Association stress that it is crucial for coverage of the Atlanta shooting to provide context on the current rise in attacks on Asian Americans. 

    In the direct aftermath of the shootings, Fox News had significantly less coverage than CNN and MSNBC. From the first reporting on the shootings in the evening of March 16 through noon on March 18, Fox News covered the story for only 57 minutes, compared to 5 hours and 29 minutes on CNN and 5 hours and 53 minutes on MSNBC. 

    In what little coverage Fox did give to the shootings, the network frequently failed to mention the greater wave of violence against Asian Americans taking place across the country. Out of Fox’s 28 segments on the shootings, just nine (32%) included context on the increase in violence against Asian Americans. In contrast, CNN mentioned that context in 69 out of its 95 segments (73%), while MSNBC mentioned the surge in violence in 59 out of its 67 segments (88%). Fox’s minimal coverage of the wave of anti-Asian attacks was also highly problematic, featuring debates over whether the context of race should be considered and hosts stressing that possible racial motivations for the violence don’t matter at all. 

    In the three days after the shootings, Asian American voices were almost entirely absent from Fox’s coverage. According to Media Matters’ internal database, from March 16-19, while hosts and guests denied racial motivations and failed to connect the shootings to the increase in anti-Asian hate, only four Asian American guests or correspondents appeared on the network to discuss the shootings. Representation of the Asian community on CNN and MSNBC was significantly higher, with the networks having 75 and 77 appearances, respectively, by Asian American guests or correspondents.

    Fox’s failure to provide substantial coverage and accurate context of the Atlanta shootings is irresponsible, especially in light of its endorsement and spread of racist rhetoric about COVID-19.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “gun,” “shot,” or any variations of “shoot,” “kill,” “murder,” or “wound” within close proximity of any of the terms “spa,” “parlor,” “massage,” “Atlanta,” or “Aaron Long” from March 16 through 12 p.m. EDT March 18, 2021. We timed any discussion or reporting of the shootings. For every segment we timed, we recorded whether it mentioned the recent wave of increase in violence against Asian Americans. 

    To determine the number of Asian American guests, Media Matters searched our internal database for all guest segments from March 16-19, 2021, that at least mentioned the Atlanta shootings. The database includes all original cable news programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC from 6 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday.

    After we reviewed each segment for whether any participant mentioned the shootings, we recorded each segment participant. We counted each participant once per episode in which they appeared.

    We coded each segment participant’s race or ethnicity. We based the individual’s race or ethnicity on their self-identification or on publicly available biographical information, and we used categories as defined by the U.S. Census with the addition of “Middle Eastern” as defined by the U.S. State Department. Not all percentages add up to 100 due to some segment participants identifying with more than one race or ethnicity.

    We coded segment participants as “white” if they self-identify as white or are of European descent, “Black” if they self-identify as African American or Black or are of African descent, “Latinx/Hispanic” if they self-identify as Latino/Latina or Hispanic or are of Spanish/Latin American descent, “Asian American/Pacific Islander” if they self-identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander or are of Asian descent or Pacific Island descent, and “Middle Eastern” if they self-identify as Middle Eastern or are of Middle Eastern descent.