Dr. Keonte Coleman, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, is an award-winning broadcast journalist and prolific researcher/writer. His areas of specialty include broadcast journalism, news production and leadership, media diversity, higher education leadership and diversity in Journalism and Mass Communication Education leadership.
He was listed at No. 3 on the Black Enterprise list of “33 Black Scholars You Should Know.”
His recent work includes the Poster Presentation, “JMC Deans of Color Lead with a Purpose: A Qualitative Study,” at the 2019 AEJMC Convention in Toronto, Canada, and a refereed paper presentation and panel session by the same name at the 2019 AEJMC Southeast Colloquium at the University of South Carolina.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University, a master’s degree from Syracuse and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
He spoke to Beverly Keel about his upcoming textbook, research of the portrayal of Black men on TV news and his love of the Dallas Cowboys.
How is your semester going? What challenges have you faced and how are you dealing with them?
I think this semester is going about as well as can be expected with all of the various challenges impacting our campus and the nation. The biggest challenge that I’m facing is trying to establish the same level of connection with my students as I would in a normal semester while being respectful of everyone’s situation. I do not require students to turn their cameras on during class because I do not want to add any undue stress to a student if they do not prefer to show their living arrangements. This makes it difficult to know if the students are being engaged if I’m not able to see facial cues.
What can you tell us about the textbook you are co-writing with Dr. Cruikshank and Dr. Eschenfelder, which is called Producing for Television, Digital, and the Field: The Comprehensive Guide?
This textbook will occupy a unique space within the journalism world by being a comprehensive news producing textbook. Other broadcast journalism textbooks might include a section or chapter on television news producing, but our text will focus solely on producing. We will have three sections that focus on television news producing, digital news producing, and field producing. Each of the authors worked multiple years in these fields before earning our doctorates. It’s been really fun and rewarding writing the various chapters.
What can you tell us about your content analysis project that explores the portrayal of Black men in local television news?
The National Association of Black Journalists, the nation’s largest association of journalists of color, launched the Black Male Media Project several years ago to address the negative images associated with Black men found in the news media. I’m working on the Black Men on TV News Analysis which aims to identify how local news stations showcase Black men in their newscasts. My research team hopes that our findings will inform the practices of local news broadcasts as it pertains to story selection, tone and sourcing
I was thrilled to see that you’ve had your first journal article accepted for publication. What is that qualitative study about? Why did you decide to research this?
The study focused on how deans/directors of color that lead journalism and mass communication programs view their role from the perspective of being persons of color. I aspire to become a JMC dean in the future. While working on my doctorate, I noticed that there was not a lot of literature focused on JMC leadership and virtually nothing on JMC leaders of color, so I decided to change that with my dissertation, and now my first accepted journal article, JMC Deans of Color Lead With a Purpose: A Qualitative Study.
Congratulations for submitting a grant proposal to the Scripps Howard Foundation that would create the Middle Tennessee News High School Journalism Bureau Incubator. How did this idea come to you? Why would this be good for MTSU?
We’ve got our fingers crossed that our proposal gets funded. Scripps Howard wanted proposals aimed at increasing the connection between high school students from typically marginalized groups and journalism. I thought a wonderful way to have an ongoing connection between high school students and the MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media would be to implement a news bureau system using high schools located in the 10-county DMA served by Middle Tennessee News. I wanted to expand on the normal summer journalism boot camp model, which we will offer, but we’d continue the relationship throughout the school year by having the students contribute to the Middle TN News publication properties. Participating faculty and Middle TN News students would act as mentors for the high school students.
How did you get into journalism? Who have been some of your role models?
I grew up in a family that watched the local and national news whenever it aired. Everyone always seemed so captivated by what was being shared and this made the news intriguing to me. I decided to pursue a career in sports journalism in high school after doing a career report where I shadowed the local sports anchor. I hit the ground running at Jackson State University, where I majored in mass communications and worked on our daily newscast. I went to the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University for my master’s because they have a great reputation for producing sports journalists. While there, a professor suggested that I take a second look at news producing after he observed me in the role during our student broadcast. I produced a second newscast and fell in love with the leadership and all-inclusive aspect of the position. I would go on to earn several awards, including two Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow award, while working as a news producer. Bryant Gumbel was my earliest role model. My grandfather would call me by his name because I was talkative and always asking questions. Gumbel was the only person I saw on the news at the time who looked like me, so I gravitated towards him. I used to watch ESPN Sportscenter on a loop in high school and college, and that’s when they replayed the same show several times. I loved watching the late Stuart Scott. I actually got the chance to meet and talk to him at a Sports Task Force breakfast at the NABJ convention when I was in college. We were wearing the same suit, shirt and tie combination that day and he came over to talk to me when a current ESPN anchor, Michael Eaves, pointed it out.
When and why did you decide you wanted to become a full-time professor?
I really stumbled into teaching. I was working full-time as a news producer when a news reporter in the market contacted me about taking over the class she was adjunct teaching in the middle of the semester because she had accepted a job in another market. I took over the class and at the end of the semester, the chair of the program asked me to stay on full time. My wife and I had recently had our second daughter and were away from family. We decided to give it a shot since it would offer a little more schedule flexibility so I could be present at home. I knew that I could go back to local television if it did not work out, but I honestly fell in love with teaching and higher education. I started working on my Ph.D. a couple of years after I started teaching full time so that I could remove any potential barriers to advancing within the academy.
Following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, did you start having different conversations with your students about racism, whether it was personally or in the classroom?
I honestly did not have to change anything about how I discuss the importance of covering diverse communities and being inclusive with your messaging to respect the entire community that you serve. This incident, along with all the other comparable tragedies, has provided a clear picture of what happens when you go years without valuing the stories of “others” because it is not your own reality. I, and most of my relatives and friends of color, have had unnerving interactions stemming from racial prejudices. For many of us, there is a consistent fear that common experiences or interactions can turn dangerous or deadly because of our skin color. These experiences are not new, but having firsthand recorded accounts makes it harder to ignore and excuse away actions. I let my students know that we still have a long way to go because the biased language used by news outlets and the double standards that exist are not going away anytime soon. It’s going to take journalism educators and journalists who are intentionally reflecting on their own biases and addressing them to help form a more inclusive narrative about the world we occupy.
Do you have any advice or life hacks for the rest of us to help us get more things done or be more productive during our busy weeks?
As a former news producer, I really try to backtime my life, which is just the process of figuring out when things are due and how long it should take to do them, and then working my way backward from that point to divide up my duties. I try really hard to turn around simple tasks quickly to get them out of the way because those are the items that will slip through the cracks for me. I started to schedule blocks of family time because working from home can blur the lines and completely take over your days.
What do you do when you aren’t working? What is your guilty pleasure?
I’m blessed to have married the love of my life and best friend, so I love spending time with my wife…my kids, too 😊. I have always loved television shows, so I watch a lot of different things. I’m also someone who loves competition, so I enjoy watching sports. I’m a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. In the past few years, I started playing golf. I’m not good at all, but there’s something so satisfying about getting the random drive to go straight or to sink a long putt. My guiltiest pleasure is probably playing video games on my Xbox One. I enjoy mainly sports, driving, and fighting games