Moment or Movement? U.S. News Coverage of Racial Issues in a Digital Era
Nielsen, Carolyn Elizabeth
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This dissertation examined how reporters cover racial issues at a time when violence by police against African Americans has risen to a new level of salience among journalists. Drawing on Democratic Theory, I created a taxonomy of journalism about race across three paradigms: Traditional, Interactive Race Beat, and Journalism 3.0. I then performed a narrative analysis of coverage across the three paradigms. I employed the lens of Critical Race Theory to analyze coverage of three racial moments: the election of the U.S.’s first African American president, the rise of The Black Lives Matter Movement, and the civil unrest following the killing of an unarmed Black teen by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Next, I conducted interviews with journalists in each paradigm to assess influences on their reporting and interpreted their responses using theories of new institutionalism. Overall, I found Traditional journalism broke with previous norms to more closely resemble the coverage patterns found in born-digital Journalism 3.0 coverage, which showed racism as systemic, foregrounded the lived experiences of the oppressed, leveraged social media to monitor and interact with the audience, and eschewed the professional norm of objectivity. This work illustrates a fundamental shift in Traditional journalism at an important time of national reflection on racial issues and it presents a benchmark for studying emerging Interactive Race Beat and Journalism 3.0 coverage.
- Communications