Debra Merskin

Debra Merskin profile picture


Debra Merskin (PhD, Syracuse University) is professor of media studies. She earned her first PhD in public communication from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and completed coursework toward a second PhD in depth psychology with an emphasis on ecological psychology. Her research and teaching focus on intersectional race- and gender-based theories and examine exclusion or stereotyping by media of marginalized human beings as well as animals other than humans. She is the co-creator of the style guide for journalists and other professional communicators interested in respectful and accurate portrayals of animals in media at

Merskin’s first book, Media, Minorities, and Meaning: A Critical Introduction (Peter Lang, 2010), is an examination of how and why American mass media, including advertising, presents Otherness—anyone or anything constructed as different from an established norm—in terms of gender, race, sex, disabilities, and other markers of difference. Her second book, Sexing the Media: How and Why We Do It (Peter Lang, 2012), explores how and why media and other social institutions use sex and sexuality to advance economic and ideological interests. Her third book, Seeing Species: Re-presentations of Animals in Media & Popular Culture (Peter Lang, 2018, in press) explores the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and species through an examination of re-presentations of animals in media.

Her professional background is in advertising.


Areas of Expertise

  • Media studies
  • Gender, race, sex, and media
  • Media and society
  • Animals, nature, and media


Merskin’s research interests focus on the re-presentation of marginalized groups in media content on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, and species. Her theoretical focus is representational ethics. Her research appears in many journals, including the Journal of Trauma & DissociationAction Research, Sex Roles, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, American Behavioral Scientist, Journal of Communication Inquiry, Feminist Media Studies, and the Howard Journal of Communication, as well as many edited book collections and encyclopedias.