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Kristal Brent Zook

Kristal Brent Zook

Investigative Journalist


Kristal Brent Zook, PhD, is an award-winning journalist who had dedicated her career to producing outstanding investigative journalism and original insights on the topics of race, gender, labor, and popular culture in America. Read More >

As the biracial child of an African American mother and a caucasian father, one of Zook’s greatest strengths is her point of view and the fact that she is able to see, based on her experiences and vast knowledge of multiple cultures, from the perspective of one who lives in multiple worlds, as a minority within a minority. In her earliest work as a cultural reporter and television and film essayist for The Village Voice and LA Weekly, Zook chronicled internal struggles behind the scenes of the first primetime television shows ever to be produced, written, and directed by African Americans. While programs from an earlier era, such as Good Times and The Jeffersons, offered up black actors in front of the camera, Zook foresaw an important trend beginning in the 1980s and 1990s with network executives finally allowing African Americans to have unprecedented decision making and creative control over their cultural productions. This power led to mixed but fascinating results as she shows in her first book, Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television.

In this collection, which became required reading in many university courses, Zook explored the rich and multilayered politics of race and representation in shows such as In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Martin, New York Undercover, Living Single, Roc, and South Central. Zook presents her analysis through exclusive interviews with star producers such as Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Charles Dutton, Yvette Lee Bowser, and Sinbad.

The author of three books and countless magazine, newspaper, and online articles, Kristal Brent Zook is also the associate professor of journalism at Hofstra University. Previously, she worked as associate adjunct professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and has been a frequent guest on broadcast and cable news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, TV-One, BET, Fox, NPR, and GreenStone Media.

In her book, I See Black People, Zook takes on a question she has often been asked by her readers: “Why don’t African Americans own any media?” A collection of engaging and at times humorous interviews with ten owners and former owners of radio and television stations and networks, the book allows entrepreneurs to tell their own stories of struggle, success, and loss in a casual, personalized way. Zook first wrote about new African American cable ownership for The New York Times Sunday Magazine and excerpts from her interviews with media owners can be seen in the documentary News for Sale. In her most recent work The Girl in the Yellow Poncho, Zook describes growing up in a biracial family and eventually making peace with her father. It is a story that transcends race and becomes an unexpected love story; a tale of relentless faith, redemption and forgiveness. She is also author of Black Women's Lives: Stories of Power and Pain.

As a contributing writer for Essence magazine since 2003, Zook offers a fresh take on the lives of African American women from all walks of life. By traveling to small towns in remote regions of the country such as Vermont, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina, she has proven herself unsurpassed at digging for the truth and uncovering real-life stories that are rarely explored in the mainstream media. At the height of the Duke lacrosse rape incident, for example, she entrenched herself with family members of the alleged victim, and by gaining their trust, produced three exclusive, breaking news stories with new information never before reported in the press. For this work, she was widely cited on every major broadcast and cable network.

Zook has also worked as a contributing writer for The Washington Post’s Arts/Style section and as a producer and commentator for NPR. As one of the few surviving, completely independent journalists, she brings a trustworthy and autonomous eye to breaking news of the day. Her voice has been heard in a diverse array of publications, spanning mainstream publications such as The New York Times Magazine and The Boston Globe Magazine to hip-hop venues such as Vibe, Honey, The Source, SAVOY, and Emerge. Dedicating her life to documenting neglected experiences and untold truths, Zook's reporting and insights are always universally reflective of the society we live in. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Missing White Woman Syndrome: Why the Media Ignores Women of Color Who Disappear

The Essence of Truth & Justice: A Catfish Worker in the Mississippi Delta Fights for Respect

Media Monopoly: Why Having a Black-Owned TV Network or Radio Station is the Impossible Dream

Invisible Lives: Black Women Soldiers Dying In Iraq

Movin’ On Up: New Research on Race, Gender & Corporate Politics

It's Not About Sex: AIDS, African American Women & the Search for Self

Getting Clean: America's First Sugar-Free Elementary School & the Daring Woman Who Started It

Oil Wars in Africa: The Little-Known Story of the Women Who Stood Up, Undressed & Shut Down Powerful Multinational Corporations

Books & Media


I See Black People