Networked News, Racial Divides:

Power, Privilege & Public Discourse in Progressive Communities

Sue Robinson

(Cover Art by Claire Michelle Miller)


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Networked News, Racial Divides Cover


Against conventional wisdom, pervasive black-white disparities pair with vitriolic public conversation in politically progressive communities throughout America. Networked News, Racial Divides examines obstacles to public dialogues about racial inequality and opportunities for better discourse in mid-sized, liberal cities. The book narrates the challenges faced when talking about race through a series of stories about each community struggling with K-12 education achievement gaps. Media expert Sue Robinson applies Bourdieusian field theory to understand media ecologies and analyze whose voices get heard and whose get left out. She explores how privilege shapes discourse and how identity politics can interfere with deliberation. Drawing on network analysis of community dialogues, interviews with journalists, politicians, activists, and citizens and deep case study of five cities, this reflexive and occasionally narrative book chronicles the institutional, cultural and other problematic realities to amplifying voices of all people while also recommending strategies to move forward and build trust.

  • Tracks how information flows through a media ecology being reconstituted by social-media platforms, applying field theory.
  • Explains why some voices are heard in mainstream information patterns while some voices challenging the status quo are not—even in highly progressive places.
  • Provides a series of real-world, realistic recommendations for any professional communicator facilitating public dialogues about race and racial disparities.
  • Engages with the concept of community trust and explores how to build trust among groups where distrust reigns.
  • Utilizes and explains network ethnography, a mixed, robust, and relatively new methodology for tracking information in local communities.