Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Kevin Hull

Abstract

Building on Du Bois’ (1903) concept of double-consciousness, Critical Race Theory, and communications theories including Gatekeeping, this dissertation aims to provide understanding of the experiences of Black broadcast journalists at a racially contentious time in American history. In 2020-2021, following the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, and during a global pandemic, a “racial reckoning” ensued throughout the nation. The reckoning, which continued through the writing of this dissertation, was a salient issue for news media. Through my positionality as a Black female forever journalist, I interviewed 29 Black journalists who were working in local television stations around the U.S. in 2020 to gain insight into their roles, relationships, and pressures within the newsroom, while telling stories for the Black community. Gatekeeping and Critical Race Theory were used to understand their relationship to predominately white newsroom structures and their colleagues. I used gatekeeping, Social Identity, Standpoint, and framing to explain how Black journalists navigated their relationships and communicated with the Black community online, such as Black Twitter, and offline in daily community coverage. Themes for roles that emerged in the analysis were: 1) Black journalists as representation for the Black community (past, present, future); 2) Black journalists as Gatekeepers of Blackness, against misinformation and negative coverage); and 3) Black journalists’ dual identity of adhering to professional norms vs. embracing racial identity. Themes for relationships were: 4) newsroom culture of management, news team, and industry, including their connections to official sources; and 5) relationships with the Black community. Themes for pressures were: 6) internal vs. 7) external pressures for Black journalists. I also discuss stress, exhaustion and burnout of Black journalists resulting from these pressures. In conclusion, through their experiences, double-consciousness is reimagined as multi-consciousness. I introduce the concept of Gatekeeping Blackness, comprised of 14 tenets, to describe the process in which Black journalists center stories about the Black community, leave out harmful stories while being mindful of journalistic ideals, uplift counternarratives of marginalized communities, and advocate for a more culturally diverse, anti-racist newsroom culture.

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