Invisible Ink

It is Asian Pacific Heritage Month and AAPIP is proud to release Invisible Ink: Media Representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Invisible Ink explores news media coverage of AAPIs through a pre-pandemic snapshot. It seeks to answer:

  • How often are AAPIs included in, or the focus of, stories related to economic inequality, and how are they portrayed?
  • When such articles cite statistical data, are AAPIs included or intentionally omitted?
  • How are AAPIs portrayed when featured in news articles and what are common themes?
  • Do these news articles perpetuate the model minority narrative or do they illustrate diverse experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?

Invisible Ink finds that news coverage of Asian Americans was so sparse, it was as if it was written in invisible ink. Given the power of the media to shape the perceptions and decisions of philanthropy, policy makers, and other key decision makers, it is critical for news media to accurately and robustly include AAPI people in the course of covering the full spectrum of issues, including economic inequality. Coverage reinforced underlying themes of the model minority myth and news coverage focused on Pacific Islanders was virtually non-existent. In particular, for articles related to economic inequality and that mention at least one racial group, the report notes:

  • Less than a third of this set of news articles mention Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders.
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the explicit focus of these articles less than 4 percent of the time.
  • Only 2 percent of these news media articles feature disparities in Asian American or Pacific Islander communities.
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are included in the data cited in these articles only slightly more than a quarter of the time.
  • In some cases, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were excluded from the data in these news articles because the original data sources did not include AAPI people. However, newsrooms omitted AAPI data 37 percent of the time, even when the data were available.

Host Organizations:

Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is a professional membership association founded in 1981 by a group of AAPI journalists seeking to support one another and to encourage more AAPIs to pursue journalism. Today, AAJA continues to champion the development of AAPI representation and leadership in journalism through trainings, opportunities, and resources for their 1,800 members, as well as through nurturing and maintaining a network and community of AAPI journalists globally.

Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) is a justice-minded national philanthropic affinity group that has provided unique, irreplaceable community spaces for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, alongside people of color, LGBTQ people, and other allies in philanthropy. Established in 1990, AAPIP expands and mobilizes resources for AAPI communities, building democratic philanthropy in service to a vibrant and inclusive democracy. We work through an intersectional racial justice perspective that informs and motivates our work at the national level and regionally through a chapter network.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions.

This report and the broader work of AAPIP is made possible because of the generous contributions made by members and other grantmaking institutions. We also thank the Long Family Foundation for their support of this project, along with the research assistants and the many individuals who provided feedback on earlier versions of this report.

It is our hope that this report sparks important conversations about AAPI representation in the media and beyond – and that those conversations continue past AAPI heritage month. Download the full report below.

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