Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Manship School of Mass Communication
Since its inception, in 1827, the black press worked to “plead [its] own cause.”[i] Following the 1968 Kerner Commission report, white newsrooms desegregated, and the number of black newsrooms sharply declined. Black journalists transitioning to the white press faced new editorial and psychological challenges.
Today’s black press functions as a shell of its former self, creating a vacancy for media that represent the needs and interests of the black community. Mainstream cable news programs possibly provide a solution to this void -- black journalists and pundits. Using a triangulation approach, this dissertation explores this possibility by examining the impact of race on black, cable news practitioners’ discourse and looking for framing patterns in the discourse of these practitioners on the 2015 Baltimore protests, Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address and the Bill Cosby sexual assault scandal. This possibility is also vetted by examining whether these media practitioners embrace a black racial identity.
With few exceptions, the findings revealed these practitioners largely offered discourse through the lens of black experience. They created narratives portraying the Baltimore protests as a community fight against systemic racism, former president Barack Obama as the people's champion and comedian Bill Cosby as an eschewed entertainer. Race further impacted black media practitioners' discourse through employer-mandated limitations, on-air interactions with colleagues, considerations of audience reactions and more.
Still, most media practitioners analyzed tossed objectivity aside to serve as a defender of the black community. Also, survey results indicated a positive relationship between centrality and private regard among respondents, but they showed less optimism on public regard. This study adds to the literature on framing theory, black racial identity, the black press and triangulated methodology.
Few, if any other studies comprehensively examine the psychological variances of black racial identity and their correlation to news discourse. Continued class and racial inequality require black media practitioners to help close these gaps. However, those employed in cable news can uniquely use their discourse to raise both black and white consciousness of the issues.
[i] Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, “To Our Patrons,” Freedom’s Journal, March 16, 1827, Retrieved from:https://web.archive.org/web/20150209163534/http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/pdfs/la/FreedomsJournal/v1n01.pdf, 1.
Platenburg, Gheni Nicole, "“All of Our Skinfolk Ain’t Our Kinfolk;” a Triangulation Study of the Impact of Black Racial Identity on the Discourse of Media Practitioners’ Coverage of Social Justice, Political and Celebrity News" (2018). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4674.
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