Professors Entman and Gross Receive Grant to Study Media and Racial Appeals

November 30, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            MEDIA CONTACTS: Taylor Tibbetts

November 29, 2012                                                                        202-994-1462; [email protected]


The George Washington University Receives Grant to Study Media Responses to

Racial Appeals During 2012 Presidential Election

Project Aims to Provide Media with Best Practices to

Avoid Perpetuating Racial Stereotypes in Campaign Coverage


WASHINGTON - As the country’s first African American president prepares to take office for a second term, two George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs professors will study how mainstream media responded to racial appeals during the 2012 presidential election. With support from the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Robert Entman, J.B. and M.C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, and Kim Gross, Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs, will explore how both the media and ordinary citizens responded to racial appeals during the 2012 campaign. Additionally, the research aims to provide journalists with best practices to avoid perpetuating racial stereotypes of African Americans.

"My colleagues and I are exploring the subtle appeals to some voters' prejudices that have replaced crude, obviously racist messages in politicians' toolkits,” said Professor Entman.  “Through experiments and close analysis of media images, we'll figure out how to sensitize journalists and citizens to coded racial communications – which we hope will discourage politicians from using such tactics."

The researchers’ first objective is to better understand the nature of racial language and appeals in the context of the 2012 presidential election.  To do so, Professors Entman and Gross—along with colleagues Andrew Rojecki of the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Carole Bell of Northeastern University—will analyze campaign communication from the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as national and local media coverage of the campaign.

“Because the messages conveyed by the media can inadvertently contribute to racial tension, those who seek to influence the media’s coverage must understand both the messages being conveyed and the range of potential effects,” said Professor Gross.  “Ultimately, this research will advance our understanding of how politicians and journalists promote or undermine racial stereotyping at a moment of sustained attention to a black male leader.”

As a result, the scholars hope to better understand if racial cues work for politicians, altering citizens’ candidate evaluations or generating anxiety, enthusiasm or other emotions.  Finally, the researchers will host a major public event that provides a retrospective look at the role of race in elections, with a specific focus on the 2012 presidential election.  This event will aim to influence opinion leaders and media decision-makers with the hope of generating less racialized campaign coverage in the future.

The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs teaches how ideas and information are communicated through the media.  The school combines liberal arts education with professional training, promoting a combination of theory and practice through its master’s and two undergraduate degree programs.  The faculty consists of award-winning journalists and internationally recognized research scholars. 

- GW -