Some teenagers use AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney to make heroic profile pics or generate parts of their history-class essays. Emily Ocasio, an 18-year-old from Virginia, made her own AI software to prove local media in Boston dehumanizes Black homicide victims in crime coverage.
Ocasio, who won $175,000 in scholarship money for her behavioral and social sciences project as part of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, told CNN she hopes to publish her findings in a scientific journal. She used her software to analyze 5,042 cases to determine if The Boston Globe published additional information about Black homicide victims beyond just statistics.
What she found was that Black men under 18 were 30 percent less likely to get humanizing coverage; Black women were 23 percent less likely to get it in news stories, according to Ocasio's research.
Ocasio said she was able to use archived stories from The Globe that went as far back as the 1970s in order to study biases and get some "understanding that entire communities are being left behind."
The teen, who said she's of Puerto Rican descent, said she wants to continue researching racism and inequalities and create tools for other news outlets to determine whether they've been reporting with biases against some communities.
Ocasio's project seems to echo previous research done out of Chicago, as reported on by The Marshall Project. A 2020 study published in the American Sociological Association showed that homicides in predominantly Black neighborhoods received less news coverage than those occurring in white neighborhoods. Furthermore, "the coverage of murders in Black areas was less likely to portray victims as complex human beings." The study was based on all print and digital coverage of homicides in Chicago for the year 2016.
Hispanic homicide victims in the same study also got less coverage than white victims, who were twice as likely "to be discussed in terms of their relationships and roles in the community." That year in Chicago, there were 765 murders.
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