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Whiteness and news: the interlocking social construction of ‘realities’

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Title: Whiteness and news: the interlocking social construction of ‘realities’
Author(s): Dolan, Kevin M.
Director of Research: Nerone, John C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Nerone, John C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Roediger, David R.; Christians, Clifford G.; Ono, Kent
Department / Program: Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline: Communications
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): critical journalism studies critical whiteness studies journalism multiculturalism white incumbency identity objectivity diversity ethnography sociology of news
Abstract: This dissertation examines how mainstream U.S. journalism consistently serves white racial interests and the racial status quo, or what I call white incumbency, despite its push for diversity and its stated aims to improve coverage of nonwhite communities. It is based on an in-depth ethnographic study of two daily newspapers and extensive one-on-one interviews with 61 journalists. I found that although journalists strongly identify with the need for more diverse coverage in newspapers, they emphasize individual and personal stories that avoid recognition of historical racial power imbalances, exhibiting what Ruth Frankenberg calls power-evasive race cognizance. Journalists also demonstrate a number of often contradictory identifications and self-understandings about themselves and their work, such as commitments to diversity and not taking sides, but these conflicts are almost always resolved in favor of white incumbency. Journalistic conventions and practices, such as the watchdog function and its emphasis on public institutions, routinely produce stories that replay and reinforce racial hegemony by portraying nonwhites as problems or people seeking “special privileges.” Also, journalistic repertoires about those conventions and practices avoid interrogations of journalists’ ongoing complicity in the maintenance of white incumbency.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Kevin M. Dolan
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05

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