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Eric Deggans: NPR’s First Full-Time TV Critic

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Eric Deggans, a media critic, was born in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 1965, to Chuck Deggans and Carolyn Jean McClellan Deggans Williams, a life member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Deggans, on the other hand, was raised in Gary, Indiana, and graduated from Andrean High School, a Catholic preparatory school in Merrillville, Indiana, in 1983. He was a professional percussionist in 1986, touring in the Midwest and briefly in Osaka, Japan, with Motown recording artists The Voyage Band. In 1990, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Deggans worked as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette from 1990 to 1993. His first job as a music critic was with the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, New Jersey, in 1993. Deggans worked as a Media Critic for the St. Petersburg Times in St. Petersburg, Florida, from 1996 to 2005, where he generated news stories about changes in media outlets. He was also an editorial writer, columnist, and music critic for the newspaper, writing about pop music trends, artists, products, and concerts. Deggans began teaching at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in Morningside Heights, New York, in 2005.

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Deggans worked as a TV/Media Critic for the Tampa Bay Times in Tampa, Florida, from 2006 to 2013. He was also a freelance columnist for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University in Indianapolis at the time. He also published Race-Baiter: How the Media Uses Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation. Deggans received the Florida Press Club’s first-ever Diversity Award, as well as the Arts & Entertainment Task Force Legacy Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. In 2013, he appeared as a guest host on three episodes of CNN’s media analysis show Reliable Sources.

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Deggans joined MSNBC/NBC News in New York City as a contributor/media analyst in 2017. In 2019, he became the first African American to chair the board of judges for the George Foster Peabody Awards, which is comprised of journalists, media executives, educators, and experts.

The following year, Deggans began teaching a course on race and media as an Adjunct Instructor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. That same year, Indiana University bestowed upon him the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, the highest honor bestowed solely on alumni.

Carolyn Deggans, Deggans’ 81-year-old mother, died of COVID 19 complications during the first days of the pandemic in 2020. Deggans used his media clout to protest his being asked to leave the attending hospital, Methodist Hospital Southlake in Merrillville, Indiana, on March 22, twelve hours before she died. Deggans urged Methodist and other hospitals to create a policy that would allow loved ones to spend more time with COVID-19 patients who were dying.

Eric Deggans is married to Barbara J. Frye, an Indiana University Kelley School of Business graduate. Zoe Deggans, Jessica Deggans, Tobias Deggans, and Marcus Deggans are their four children.

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