Special Section on Media Reform | New Beginnings: Racing Histories, Democracy and Media Reform

C. Riley Snorton


Elaborating on some of Edward Said’s key theories on writing, this paper interrogates the historical periodizations that serve to constitute communication and antecedents of media reform. Critically examining the concept “critical juncture,” a term utilized by Robert McChesney to describe a transformative moment in the history of communication in the United States, this paper explores the relationships between and among deployments of history, claims to democracy, and processes of agenda-setting in the media reform movement. I argue that many characterizations of communication, and the crucial historical moments that constitute it remain fundamentally partial in order to derive a necessary rhetorical force to support a media reform agenda that takes U.S. national policy as its primary focus. Particularly attentive to U.S. black racial formation and activism in the late 19th to late 20th centuries, this paper examines what may be some “critical disjunctures” between Africana studies and communication, racial justice and media reform. I first examine each of McChesney’s critical junctures, paying particular attention to the specific sociohistorical processes that shape and construct black racial identities during these times. The second part of the paper considers the values of historical claims in the service of positioning democracy as a progressive social project in the United States. I conclude by offering several epistemological and practical changes that might serve to incorporate racial justice models in the media reform movement.

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