When is the “Racist” Designation Truly Applicable? News Media’s Contribution to the Debatability of Racism

Danielle K. Kilgo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Since the U.S. 2016 presidential election, journalists and news organizations have been forced to confront shifting racial, social and political climates, and re-evaluate practices and norms. However, news coverage of racism is complex, especially because the conceptualization of racism in society is discordant, and the parameters of racism are heavily debated. News coverage can contribute to this debatability, specifically when it presents issues of racism with certain linguistic and topical features. In a content analysis of social media posts from six of the Facebook pages maintained by national broadcast and newspaper organizations, the present study explores contextual and linguistic representations of racism, and how social media users on Facebook engage with news posted by these organizations. Results suggest representations in news coverage signal a public debate about what is and is not racism. Coverage heavily emphasized prominent figures, while social media audiences amplified Trump’s presence in social networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-204
Number of pages19
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 22 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • digital media
  • journalism ethics
  • news media
  • politics
  • racism
  • social media
  • topic modeling


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