Uncovering Race: A Black Journalist's Story of Reporting and Reinvention

Uncovering Race: A Black Journalist's Story of Reporting and Reinvention

by Amy Alexander
     
 

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From an award-winning black journalist, a tough-minded look at the treatment of ethnic minorities both in newsrooms and in the reporting that comes out of them, within the changing media landscape.

From the Rodney King riots to the racial inequities of the new digital media, Amy Alexander has chronicled the biggest race and class stories of the modern era in…  See more details below

Overview

From an award-winning black journalist, a tough-minded look at the treatment of ethnic minorities both in newsrooms and in the reporting that comes out of them, within the changing media landscape.

From the Rodney King riots to the racial inequities of the new digital media, Amy Alexander has chronicled the biggest race and class stories of the modern era in American journalism. Beginning in the bare-knuckled newsrooms of 1980s San Francisco, her career spans a period of industry-wide economic collapse and tremendous national demographic changes.

Despite reporting in some of the country’s most diverse cities, including San Francisco, Boston, and Miami, Alexander consistently encountered a stubbornly white, male press corps and a surprising lack of news concerning the ethnic communities in these multicultural metropolises. Driven to shed light on the race and class struggles taking place in the United States, Alexander embarked on a rollercoaster career marked by cultural conflicts within newsrooms. Along the way, her identity as a black woman journalist changed dramatically, an evolution that coincided with sweeping changes in the media industry and the advent of the Internet.

Armed with census data and news-industry demographic research, Alexander explains how the so-called New Media is reenacting Old Media’s biases. She argues that the idea of newsroom diversity—at best an afterthought in good economic times—has all but fallen off the table as the industry fights for its economic life, a dynamic that will ultimately speed the demise of venerable news outlets. Moreover, for the shrinking number of journalists of color who currently work at big news organizations, the lingering ethos of having to be “twice as good” as their white counterparts continues; it is a reality that threatens to stifle another generation of practitioners from “non-traditional” backgrounds.

In this hard-hitting account, Alexander evaluates her own career in the context of the continually evolving story of America’s growing ethnic populations and the homogenous newsrooms producing our nation’s too often monochromatic coverage. This veteran journalist examines the major news stories that were entrenched in the great race debate of the past three decades, stories like those of Elián González, Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, Tavis Smiley, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and the election of Barack Obama.

Uncovering Race offers sharp analysis of how race, gender, and class come to bear on newsrooms, and takes aim at mainstream media’s failure to successfully cover a browner, younger nation—a failure that Alexander argues is speeding news organizations’ demise faster than the Internet. 


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Amy Alexander writes with the precision of the seasoned journalist she is and the expansiveness of the wise cultural critic she has become. Her book is at once a trenchant look at the competitive world of the highest reaches of journalism and an on-the-ground narrative of the transformations in the ways we understand race, identity, and work. Her experience is unique, but her perspective is universal.”─Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Colored People
 
“Amy Alexander has done it! A gifted storyteller . . . she has written the essential memoir for journalists of color. . . . A powerful and irresistible narrative that introduces us to one of the most important African American journalists in the United States and helps us better understand the world of print and online journalism.”—Ruben Navarrette Jr., author of A Darker Shade of Crimson
 
“In wrestling with two difficult subjects—the challenges faced historically by people of color in the American news media, and the recent usurpation of traditional journalism by the Internet—Alexander writes with a clearly felt sense of passion and urgency, and she thoughtfully discusses key events of the last few decades, such as the Rodney King incident and its aftermath and the questionable role of media stars during traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake.”—Kirkus Reviews

"A timely and compelling look at issues of race and lack of diversity that have dogged America's newsrooms for generations."—Tananarive Due, American Book Award winner

“Amy Alexander's analysis of the damage done to public awareness and understanding throughout the 20th century because of the failure of traditional journalism to adequately integrate staff could not come at a better time. It reminds consumers today that though they now have access to an integrated rainbow of sources of news online the responsibility now shifts to them to integrate the sources of news and opinion they aggregate.”—Bill Kovach, author of The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect

Library Journal
Alexander, who has been a staff writer at the San Francisco Examiner and a contributing writer at the Washington Post and Boston Globe, among other publications, focuses on how journalists of color disproportionally suffer from downsizing during hard economic times despite their important role in reaching new audiences who better reflect the demographics of an increasingly diverse American society. Through the lens of her career in newspapers, the Internet, and radio, Alexander criticizes the mainstream media's failure to pay attention to minority points of view and offers examples of the bias and groupthink that can arise in homogeneous newsrooms. In the epilog, the meatiest section of the book, she addresses the sidelining of professional journalists in the Internet age and the pros and cons of the rise of advocacy and niche journalism, where commentary tends to displace reporting. VERDICT Alexander's observations about race and the media are more interesting than her discussion of career history, which could have been enlivened with more personal details. An optional purchase in a crowded field.—David Gibbs, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews

A consideration of how the mainstream media has grappled with race over the last 20 years.

Veteran journalist Alexander (Fifty Black Women Who Changed America, 1999, etc.) uses her own career as a lens for critically examining the industry's efforts toward diversity, and how those efforts are faring through the Internet-era upheaval of newspapers and print media. She fears that the middling gains made by people of color in journalism since the 1990s have been eroded: "financial challenges in the news business are diminishing the numbers of talented, experienced reporters and editors of color." Alexander sees many ominous trends, noting, for instance, that even though more reporters of color cover the White House, suggesting a more diverse era, "the Obama administration's arrival coincided with the downward spiral of legacy news organizations." She combines this argument with a look back at her own experiences in print, radio and online journalism. The author is most engaging when she provides incisive overviews of insider topics such as the Boston Globe plagiarism scandal involving Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle, which seemingly represented a racial double standard, and the media mergers which she argues have made equitable minority representation even more difficult to attain. In wrestling with two difficult subjects—the challenges faced historically by people of color in the American news media, and the recent usurpation of traditional journalism by the Internet—Alexander writes with a clearly felt sense of passion and urgency, and she thoughtfully discusses key events of the last few decades, such as the Rodney King incident and its aftermath and the questionable role of media stars during traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. However, because long sections are devoted to her CV and personal travails, the author's return to these central themes becomes unwieldy, creating a book that's neither true memoir nor social polemic.

Perceptive regarding the fractures within the journalism industry, but at times pedantic.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807061015
Publisher:
Beacon Press
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,209,783
File size:
498 KB

Meet the Author

Amy Alexander is an award-winning content producer. The 2008 Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute, she has contributed to many prominent publications, including the Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Village Voice, Washington Post, and the Nation. She has also written for Salon.com and TheRoot.com, and was associate producer of NPR’s Tell Me More, with Michel Martin. Her three previous books include Lay My Burden Down, coauthored with Alvin Poussaint, MD. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


From the Hardcover edition.

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