Interjournalistic discourse about African Americans in television news coverage of Hurricane Katrina

Kirk A. Johnson, John Sonnett, Mark K. Dolan, Randi Reppen, Laura Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article examines how on-air conversations between journalists indicate how US television coverage of a race-related crisis can reflect racial ideology. Using critical discourse analysis, we examined interjournalistic discourse about African Americans in national network and cable news programs that aired after Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans. While we expected conversational semantic items from conservative Fox News to reflect racial ideology, we also found such discursive elements from politically moderate and progressive news organizations such as CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. These findings are consistent with Anxiety Uncertainty Management theory, which predicts that exposure to stressors in unfamiliar settings causes individuals to think in ethnocentric, dichotomous, stereotypical ways. Our research underscores the impact of white privilege on language, communication, and news production, and the need for cultural competence training to enhance journalists' ability to discuss racial matters with ease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-261
Number of pages19
JournalDiscourse and Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • African Americans
  • Anxiety Uncertainty Management theory
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • New Orleans
  • discourse semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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