Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation

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At a time when political candidates leverage fear of immigrants and Muslims into votes while the nation debates issues of policing and people of color, the need for media coverage more finely attuned to race and prejudice could not be more clear.   

But instead of informing audiences, many of the fastest-growing news programs and media platforms are playing on old prejudices and deep rooted fears to compete for increasingly narrow audiences. Using the same tactics once employed to mobilize political parties, they send fans coded messages and demonize opposing groups as their audience share soars and website traffic ticks up.

Race-baiter is a term born out of this tumultuous climate, coined by the conservative media to describe a person who uses racial tensions to arouse the passion and ire of a particular demographic. Even as the election of the first black president forces us all to reevaluate how we think about race, gender, culture, and class lines, some areas of modern media are working hard to push the same old buttons of conflict and division for new purposes.

In Race-Baiter, veteran journalist and media critic Eric Deggans dissects the powerful ways modern media feeds fears, prejudices, and hate, while also tracing the history of the word and its consequences, intended or otherwise.

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About Eric Deggans

Eric Deggans is NPR’s first full-time TV critic. He came to NPR from the Tampa Bay Times newspaper in Florida, where he served as TV/Media Critic and in other roles for nearly 20 years. He also serves as a contributor and media analyst at MSNBC/NBC News. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is also the author of Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, a look at how prejudice, racism and sexism fuels some elements of modern media, published in October 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan.

He has guest hosted CNN’s media analysis show Reliable Sources many times, joining a select group of journalists and media critics filling in for departed host Howard Kurtz. In 2013, he was awarded the Florida Press Club’s first-ever Diversity award, honoring his coverage of issues involving race and media. That year, he also received the Legacy award from the National Association of Black Journalists’ A&E Task Force, an honor bestowed to “seasoned A&E journalists who are at the top of their careers.” Eric also serves on the board of educators, journalists and media experts who select the George Foster Peabody Awards for excellence in electronic media.

Journalist

Eric is the first full-time TV critic for National Public Radio. He served as TV/Media Critic for the Tampa Bay Times, guest host of CNN’s Reliable Sources and freelance contributor to Salon, Huffington Post, and CNN.com.

Pundit

Eric has appeared as a pundit and expert on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, PBS’ The NewsHour, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and many other outlets.

Author

In Race-Baiter, Eric dissects the powerful ways modern media feeds fears, prejudices, and hate, while also tracing the history of the word and its consequences, intended or otherwise.

Public Speaker

Eric is available as a keynote speaker, instructor and thought leader on a wide range of topics, including: race issues, media, pop culture, social media, brand identity, music, online technology and much more.

Previously on social media…

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So…the guy who handled Disney’s PR so badly he was forced out within months - and the company CEO was eventually replaced- still got paid for the full length of his contract, essentially earning $150,000 PER DAY. https://t.co/e5ZOee86q7

The tweet says “Longest tenured still on air.” https://t.co/QrR2HsI5gu

Journalists - if you have doubts at all about how to cover this event, please look over this guidance… https://t.co/aZv90Crwhz
Deggans photo
#NABJ Headquarters ✊🏾🖊️🎙️💻 📷 🎥 📝 🔈 @NABJ
🧾As Tyre Nichols' family, Memphis citizens, the Black community & nation cope with his tragic murder, footage of the horrific death will be released soon. NABJ extends condolences to the family & offers this guidance to newsrooms, members & colleagues: https://t.co/VqGZeqkeHj https://t.co/NglQGJwSbT

I’m happy when I’m done with them! Does that count? https://t.co/yXGlmqRk8P

This may be a foregone conclusion, given that the debut episode has drawn 22 million viewers. but HBO Max announced today that The Last of Us has been picked up for a second season. Given how this season ends - I've seen advance screeners - this will be interesting. https://t.co/0b8ej8ybjc Deggans photo

📷 Jimmy Kimmel 20 years in: A late night TV nerd visits the longest tenured late night host still on air Have to admit it now. I am a late night TV nerd. I still remember waking up on a Saturday night in 1976, after my mom and I had fallen... https://t.co/S5p3H2qtIk

I'm a late-night TV nerd. I've visited tons of shows: the original Arsenio Hall Show, Saturday Night Live, Letterman, Colbert. So I was excited to hang w/ Jimmy Kimmel, who is surprised as anyone that he's the longest-tenured host still on air. READ: https://t.co/e96NVRU5S8