Is the Black Press Still Powerful?

Scott Pelley of CBS News interviews President Obama. The black press says it is being disrespected by not being granted such an interview.
CBS News

Author Says Papers Have Not Kept Up With Today's Readers

The black press was not part of the "State of the News Media 2014" report issued this week by the Pew Research Center — the center says it is saving that for later — but a new book by an expert on that slice of media points to the "serious nature" of its problems.


"One devastating piece of circumstantial evidence of the waning influence of the Black press is the response I have received from journalism students in my virtually all Black Howard University classes over the past decade," Clint C. Wilson II writes in "Whither the Black Press?: Glorious Past, Uncertain Future." "When asked whether they have either read — or have knowledge of — a Black newspaper in their home communities only about 20 per cent say they have. Among those who are aware of the papers, almost none say they read them with any regularity. Let me emphasize, these are journalism students. . . ."

The black press has a storied history of fighting first slavery, then segregation. More recently, its trade organization, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, has complained that its newspapers do not get the respect they deserve. It equates the black press with the black community.


"Although annual Black spending is projected to rise from its current $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion by 2017, advertisers allot only 3 percent of their $2.2 billion yearly budget to media aimed at Black audiences, a new Nielsen report has found," an NNPA news release said in September.

George E. Curry, editor of the NNPA News Service, complained last week that President Obama was disrespecting the black media, too.


"There is a disrespect for the black press that we have not seen in recent years. For example, we have requested — every year — an interview with the president. He can ignore 200 black newspapers and 19 million viewers, but he can give one to every stupid white comedian there is on TV, the black ones and the white ones, and has time for all types of buffoonery but they will not respect the black press enough to give us an interview,” Curry said on TVOne's "NewsOneNow With Roland Martin."

Wilson, graduate professor emeritus in the Howard University School of Communications, where he teaches courses in communications, culture and media studies, sees it differently. He says in his book: "In the wake of the election of the first Black President of the United States it is possible the Black press won the war for social equality it waged for more than 185 years." (Wilson's father, Clint C. Wilson Sr., was a longtime editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Sentinel, a black weekly.)


"During my interviews with general audience newspaper and broadcast journalists, however, I have emphasized the positives," Wilson says in the book's preface.

"1. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (the Black press trade association) has maintained a membership of more than 200 newspapers across the United States for nearly two decades.


"2. I contended that although they are almost all weeklies, several are very profitable and innovative publications attuned to the pulse of their communities.

"3. I asserted that despite the challenges of new technology information platform, the high cost of newsprint, declining advertising dollars and the dissipation of their once homogeneous audience, the Black newspaper press is still viable.


"4. In the wake of the election of the first Black President of the United States it is possible the Black press won the war for social equality it waged for more than 185 years.

"As this is written, however, it is becoming more difficult to make such positive declarations, or at least without acknowledging the serious nature of problems besetting the Black press. . . ."


Much of the problem has to do with lack of resources, Wilson writes in a concluding chapter.

"A December 2012 posting on Richard Prince's online blog 'Journal-isms' reported an editorial staffing change at the Chicago Defender. The report noted that the new editor was to oversee a four-person staff. As paltry as that may seem, many Black weeklies operate with even fewer reporting/editing personnel. This reflects the fact that they are, after all, small business enterprises.


"Nevertheless, despite the need for only a few reporters and editors to adequately staff their operations, it is difficult for Black weeklies to hire from among the hundreds of African American college journalism graduates that hit the job market each year. For perspective, in 2012 Howard University alone graduated more than 100 students with bachelor's degrees in journalism. In an era when White daily newspapers are downsizing their staffs, Black newspapers cannot offer competitive salaries to attract the available Black talent pool. In 2007 a non-scientific sampling undertaken with the support [of a] Ford Foundation grant found beginning salaries at Black newspapers to be 50 to 75 percent lower than those at the dailies. Compounding the problem is that most African American college journalism students of the 21st century have never seen an African American newspaper nor are they aware such publications exist.

"Moreover, editorial staff employment — wherein the Black press is tasked with addressing the many untold stories of the African American community — is problematic because of the in-depth, investigative reporting required to ferret out the often hidden and nuanced ways that racism and discrimination affects 21st century citizens. The issues are not as obvious as slavery versus freedom, a Klan-inspired lynching, or segregated public accommodations. The investigative skills required to uncover environmental indignities where hazardous waste sites are placed near low-income Black communities or for stories involving tedious computer searches of public records that contain evidence of discrimination cannot be done with overburden, ill-equipped staffs. . . . "


Wilson subscribes to a thesis advanced by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson in his 2010 book, "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America": There is no longer one black community. Wilson suggests that the black press pick a segment of it. He also notes that the black press of bygone days was "bottom up," with robust discussions in locally written letters to the editor, rather than the national opinion columns that predominate on today's black press opinion pages.

"When readers do not take an active part in the public forum and conversation opportunity the local newspaper affords them, it is a possible indicator that the publication's basic news content has failed to address the most salient issues," Wilson writes.


Cloves C. Campbell Jr., publisher of the Arizona Informant and chairman of the NNPA, told Journal-isms by email that he had not seen nor read Wilson's book.

However, Todd Steven Burroughs, an independent journalist and black press historian, said by telephone that if Wilson revises his book, he might include more about the efforts of the black press in the digital realm. In fact, Burroughs said, the black press should be expanded to include citizen journalism, "black Twitter," YouTube and other social media, and such black websites as Media TakeOut and WorldStarHipHop. "People are creating their own news," Burroughs said. "People's habits have changed. The black press that serves as an agenda-setter" for the black community is gone. As an example, he cited this piece on comedian Dave Chappelle, distributed only on the Internet.


It might appear in a black New Yorker, if there were such a thing, he said.

Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press: Black Twitter growing into online force (March 10) 


Jazelle Hunt, NNPA: Publishers Charles Tisdale and M. Paul Redd Honored by Former Peers

Scott Pelley, CBS News: Obama calls on Russia to pull troops back from Ukraine border, begin negotiations (video)


James Wright, Washington Informer: NNPA Luncheon Focuses on Black Economics, Growing Income Gap

Curry Rated Most Liked Among Newscasters of Color

Ann Curry (No. 8) and Tamron Hall (11) of NBC, Michaela Pereira (14) and Sanjay Gupta (20) of CNN and Alex Wagner (23) of MSNBC made TheWrap's list of most-liked newscasters, based on survey results from the Q Scores company, Tony Maglio reported Friday for the Wrap.


Scott Pelley of the "CBS Evening News" topped the list, with a 19 Positive Q Score.

"To create Q Scores, executive vice president Henry Schafer and his team [provide] a personality's name and a brief description to more than 1,800 viewers. The viewers are asked if they recognize the person, and how they feel about him or her," Maglio wrote.


"Compared to other TV personalities — from late-night hosts to morning hosts — newscasters tend to be less recognizable and less liked. (Maybe it's a case of blaming the messenger?)"

NBC's Chris Matthews "had a lowly 6 Positive Q Score. Fellow MSNBCer Alex Wagner is just above her colleague, scoring an 8. Andrea Mitchell, Leslie Stahl and Dr. Sanjay Gupta round out the bottom five, each earning a 9," Maglio wrote.


TheWrap noted that it requested Q Scores for these news media personalities but that scores were not available: Bret Baier, Brian Stelter, Brooke Baldwin, Candy Crowley, Chris Hayes, Don Lemon, Erin Burnett, Greta Van Susteren, Jake Tapper, John Berman, Megyn Kelly, Ronan Farrow and Wolf Blitzer.

Ebony Apologizes to RNC Staffer After Twitter Exchange

"EBONY magazine has issued an apology to RNC staffer Raffi Williams after its editor Jamilah Lemieux slammed Williams (a black man) on Twitter as a 'White dude telling me how to do this Black thing,' " Josh Feldman reported Friday for Mediaite.


"When Lemieux was confronted about getting Williams' race wrong, she offered a trite apology while adding, 'However, I care about NOTHING you have to say.' RNC Chairman Reince Priebus put out a statement denouncing Lemieux's 'attack' and called on EBONY to apologize. And now they have done just that, acknowledging that Lemieux's comments were not part of the magazine's long tradition of believing 'as Black people, we are all somebody —we all count.' "

The apology also said, "EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas. As the magazine of record for the African American community, Lemieux's tweets in question do not represent our journalistic standard, tradition or practice of celebrating diverse Black thought."


Williams is a son of Fox News commentator Juan Williams.

Tom Kludt, Talking Points Memo: The RNC Continues to Demand Apologies From News Outlets, News Outlets Oblige


Paper Debuts Digital Magazine for Black Conservatives

"The Washington Times on Thursday launches American CurrentSee, a free weekly digital magazine for conservative black Americans," the newspaper announced Wednesday. "The magazine, available at, aims to empower its readers to embrace an agenda of economic opportunity, moral leadership and freedom from government dependency.


"The Times said Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon whose entrance into politics has excited conservatives nationwide, will serve as founding publisher and Armstrong Williams, who is an entrepreneur, a TV and radio host and a nationally syndicated columnist, will serve as executive editor.

"They will work with an advisory board comprised of business, community and church leaders who will offer insights and strategies for coverage, business models and community outreach.


"American CurrentSee is built on a mobile-friendly HTML 5 platform that works on laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones and re-creates the intimate reading experience of a newsmagazine while leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices. It can also be installed on desktops like an app. The Times plans to offer official apps in Google and Apple stores this spring.

"An edition will be published each Sunday morning, and readers will be alerted to the fresh content via email. . . ."


Articles in the inaugural edition include "Black list: Media shuns African-American achievers" by Juan Williams; "The new racism looks a lot like the old" by Armstrong Williams; "Screen savior: Black cinema is safe haven for faith on film" by Kira Davis; "Life without Father" by Dame Luthas; "Manners, Motown and other-mothers" by Kristin Clark Taylor; "The sturdy roots of stable rights" by A.R. Bernard; and "Dare to be independent … from dogma, dependency (and liberals)" by Carson.

Patrick Tutwiler, FishbowlDC: TWT Launches Magazine for Black Conservatives

Oliver Willis, Media Matters for America: The Washington Times Gave Ben Carson a Magazine to Say How Great Ben Carson Is


'Restorative Narrative' Describes Coping With Trying Times

"Many news organizations have reported on what happened to Kim Pham — a 23-year-old who was beaten to death outside of a nightclub in Santa Ana, Calif.," Mallary Jean Tenore wrote Friday for Images & Voices of Hope, a site whose mission is "to strengthen the role of media as agents of world benefit."


"Fewer, though, have reported on how Pham's death has impacted family, friends and the hospital workers who cared for her," Tenore continued.

"In a piece published earlier this week, Los Angeles Times reporter Anh Do did just this. Her story takes readers inside the hospital where Pham was treated and paints an intimate picture of a life taken too soon. Her story is an example of a genre we're calling Restorative Narratives — stories that show how people and communities are coping with difficult times. They convey resilience and feelings of care, love and respect.


"Do, who reported on the nightclub beating with general assignment reporter Adolfo Flores, says curiosity and reader interest in Pham prompted her to want to continue following the story. . . ."

Juju Chang Replacing Cynthia McFadden on 'Nightline'

"As Cynthia McFadden packs for NBC, ABC is wasting no time in announcing her replacement at 'Nightline,' " Chris Ariens reported Thursday for TVNewser.


"ABC lifer Juju Chang has been named co-anchor of the ABC News broadcast effective immediately.

" 'Juju is the perfect example of someone whose dedication and tenacity to innovative reporting have paved the way for her success,' ABC/Disney co-president Ben Sherwood writes in a note to staff.


"Chang, who has been with ABC News her entire career, starting as a desk assistant, is married to former NBC News boss Neal Shapiro, now president of WNET. . . ."

Is Putin Playing to Russian Racists With Latest Move?

Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to annex Crimea could be part of a bid to solidify the support of Russian skinheads and extreme nationalists, an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe said Tuesday on NPR's "Fresh Air."


"Well, it's difficult to know yet, but we do know that there [have] been increasing instances of ethnic conflict throughout Russia over the past decade," Kimberly Marten, a professor of political science at Barnard College and deputy director for development at Columbia University's Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, told host Terry Gross.

"There was a really, really bad instance this past October when there was a major riot in one of the suburbs of Moscow that was between ethnic Central Asians and ethnic Russians, and the Russian police seemed to come in on the side of the ethnic Russians.


"The people who were punished for the riots were the Central Asians, even though there is some evidence that it was Russians who provoked it. We know that there have been repeated instances of Russian skinhead groups going into markets in Moscow and elsewhere in the major Russian regions where people from the North Caucuses, from Chechnya and elsewhere in that region had violence committed against them, have had their market stalls overturned, have been beaten up, in some cases even murdered.

"In some cases people, just for having dark skin, have been pulled off subway trains or commuter trains in Russia and just been beaten up by skinhead groups. And so we don't know for sure that that's the direction that Putin is heading, but he took the first step in that direction by what he said in that speech to the Russian parliament a few days ago.


"And if he no longer cares what the rest of the world thinks and if he believes that that's the direction that he has to go to maintain control over Russia, that could be very disturbing for what happens down the line."

Gross asked, "What quote are you referring to?"

Marten replied, "Oh. Just talking so much about the Russian ethnic population rather than talking about the Russian state interest, using Russkii rather than Rossiiskii. The whole tone of his speech before the Parliament was very ethnically nationalist in a way that is unusual for Putin. And so by making that switchover, going into ethnic terminology rather than Russian state interest terminology, Putin has really indicated that he's making the first step towards extreme nationalism. . . ."


Nate Jones, Foreign Policy: Vladimir Channels the Gipper

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Tilting at windbags over Russia

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Franklin Graham's unlikely man crush – Vladimir Putin (March 19)


Fusion Special Focuses on Crisis in Venezuela

"Last night Fusion’s Mariana Atencio (@MarianaAtencio) hosted a primetime special on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela entitled #SOSVenezuela," Fusion, the partnership between ABC News and Univision, announced by email Friday, enclosing a link to the program.


The crisis in Venezuela has been widely criticized as being undercovered in the United States.

"At least 33 people have died in student protests plaguing Venezuela," the announcement said. "Anti-government leader Leopoldo Lopez has been in prison for a month. The mayor of the city with the strongest protests was imprisoned for allowing people to exercise their right to protest. Opposition Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her seat and is being blamed for treason, terrorism. 1700 students have been detained. But young people keep protesting against the deteriorating quality of life in Venezuela.


"You haven’t heard much about the uprising because local censorship in Venezuela is brutal, international media has been dormant to the Venezuelan plight. The images of repression coming out of this country in past weeks point toward the fact that Nicolas Maduro's government has become more autocratic. But what caused Venezuela to unravel? Why should you care? Fusion wants to tell you the story of the 10 days that caused Venezuela to unravel, 10 days that began the fight for Venezuela's future." More on Fusion's coverage.

Committee to Protect Journalists: Venezuelan journalists detained covering protests


Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting: Who Is Dying in Venezuela? A Revealing NYT Correction

Doris E. Saunders Dies at 92, Librarian, Writer, Professor

Doris E. Saunders, a librarian and former journalist at Johnson Publishing Co. who retired in 1996 as chairwoman of the Department of Mass Communications at Jackson State University, died Monday in Jackson, Miss., of complications from dementia, her daughter, Ann Saunders, told Journal-isms. She was 92.


"Doris realized at an early age that she had a voracious appetite for literature and consumed it in its various forms with a passion," according to the draft of an obituary prepared for the funeral service, to be held Tuesday in Chicago. "Using her literary talents, she began her career in the Chicago Public Library System in 1942, later becoming its principal reference librarian in the Social Science and Business Department.

"In January of 1949 she accepted the position of Librarian with the young firm of Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), which was just moving its offices into the old Hursen Funeral Home at 18th and Michigan Avenue. Following the move, she was instrumental in the process of cataloguing company documents and materials and specialized in doing background research for JPC's editorial staff. She later became Associate Editor of Negro Digest Magazine and in 1961, Director of JPC's Book Division.


"While serving three stints in that capacity, from 1961–1966, 1973–1977, and again from 1997–2000, Doris contributed her editorial and compilation skills to numerous JPC publications including: 'The Day They Marched,' 1963; 'The Kennedy Years and the Negro,' 1964; 'The Negro Handbook,' 1966; 'The Ebony Handbook,' 1974; 'Black Society,' 1976; 'DuBois: A Pictorial Biography,' 1979; 'Wouldn't Take Nothin' for My Journey,' 1981; and 'Special Moments in African-American History: The Photographs of Moneta Sleet, Jr.,' in 1998.

"In between the periods she worked for JPC and while raising two children, Doris was employed as a columnist for the Chicago Daily Defender and Chicago Courier newspapers, 1966-1973; and she was the Director of Community Relations for Chicago State University (CSU), 1968-1970. In that capacity she was instrumental in CSU's decision to locate its campus within Chicago's black community. Doris also held the position of Staff Associate at the University of Illinois-Chicago, 1970-1973.


"In addition to her work in print media, Doris held positions in radio and television throughout the last four decades of the 20th century. In Chicago she hosted the radio show 'The Think Tank', 1971-72; she was both writer and producer of the television show, 'Our People,' 1968-70; and in Jackson MS., she produced/hosted the radio program, 'Faculty Review Forum' at station WJSU, 1987-93.

"After completing two graduate degrees at Boston University, in 1977 Doris accepted the position of Professor of Print Journalism and Mass Communications at Jackson State University, (Jackson MS). In 1991 she became chair of the Department of Mass Communications, a position she held until her retirement in 1996. During this period Doris was also a Distinguished Minority lecturer at the University of Mississippi (Oxford MS), 1986-88, and a contributing author to many professional journals and magazines. . . .


Services are scheduled for Tuesday at the Church of St. Edmund, King & Martyr, 6105 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60643. Visitation is at 10 a.m., and the service is at 11.

Short Takes

Comedian Stephen Colbert sought to satirize Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's offer to create a Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation on Wednesday by playing a character who said he would atone for his racism by establishing the "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." But the skit drew online protests from some who accused Colbert of racism, and Deadspin added fuel to the fire with its headline, "Gooks Don't Get Redskins Joke."


The Los Angeles Times appointed Kimi Yoshino as its new business editor, Deirdre Edgar reported March 20 in the Times. In a staff memo, Editor Davon Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin said, "For the past few years, Kimi has been the morning assigning editor in Metro and a driving force behind L.A. Now, our most-read blog. During her tenure, L.A. Now established itself as the go-to source for reliable, real-time coverage of the biggest stories in Southern California. . . ."

In Egypt, "A 22-year-old journalist from El-Dostour newspaper, Mayada Ashraf, was reported dead while she was covering the clashes between supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi and police in Ain Shams in east Cairo on Friday," Al Ahram reported. "The paper's editor-in-chief and the head of the journalist's syndicate demanded the government open an investigation into the death of Ashraf. . . ."


The weekend print edition of USA Today features a front-page story on President Obama's meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday under the headline, "Rolling with the Holy See." Told that a Journal-isms reader found the headline offensive, Gannett Co. Inc. spokesman Jeremy Gaines, speaking for USA Today, said by email, "There was no intention to offend or make light of either the Pope or the President. We apologize if a reader took it that way."

According to Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, among the new journalism startups criticized for lack of diversity, "an African-American woman will soon be announced as The Intercept's first columnist," Julia Carrie Wong reported Thursday for the Nation.


"The FCC chairman's contention that eliminating joint sales agreements will open up new opportunities for minority and women to become TV station owners ignores the fact that TV broadcasting is no longer a business for small operators, regardless of their gender or color," according to a headline Friday summarizing the views of Harry A. Jessell, editor of TVNewsCheck.

"The National Congress of American Indians said a foundation created by the owner of the Washington professional football team is nothing more than a 'publicity stunt' unless the racist mascot goes away too," reported on Tuesday. The organization said in a statement that the new foundation "will only contribute to the problems in Indian Country if it does not also address the very real issue of how Native people are consistently stereotyped, [caricatured], and denigrated by mascot imagery and the use of the R-word slur . . ." The Washington Post editorialized, "Charity won’t keep the Redskins' name from being offensive."


"The satirical images of President Obama and his wife, Michelle, digitally altered to look like apes, have vanished from the website of a Belgian newspaper, which published them days before the president's visit to Brussels this week," Doreen Carvajal reported Wednesday for the New York Times. "But Yves Desmet, editor in chief of De Morgen, the left-leaning Flemish daily that published the photos, offered new apologies on Wednesday, the latest in a series of expressions of regret in print and on television, on Twitter and Facebook, acknowledging that the images had crossed the boundaries between humor and racism. . . ."

"The Rev. Jesse Jackson has announced that his organization, The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has organized a Digital Inclusion initiative to address the lack of minority participation in all aspects of the technology industry," Target Market News reported Wednesday. "On March 19, Rev. Jackson led a delegation to the Hewlett-Packard annual shareholders meeting to call attention to the lack of minority inclusion in Silicon Valley. . . ."


Job-seekers may now register online for the April 12 journalism job fair sponsored by five Washington journalism associations. The event, produced by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Association of Black Journalists, is officially called the "Washington, D.C. Journalism Job Fair hosted by Georgetown University's Master's in Journalism Program."

In Philadelphia, "Sheinelle Jones just wants to brush her daughter's hair in the morning," Molly Eichel reported Thursday for the Philadelphia Daily News. "She wants to watch movies with her husband past 7 p.m. on a Sunday. She wants to go swimming with her kids and not worry about what her hair will look like on Monday. 'If it Afros out, it's OK,' Jones said. These may sound like normal, everyday things, but for a woman who has never been able to take her 4-year-old to school in the morning, it means something special. That's why, after nine years, Jones will leave her post at Fox 29 tomorrow. . . ."


In New York, "PIX11 has announced the creation of Pix11 Investigates, an investigative journalism unit/show," Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for FishbowlNY. "Pix11 Investigates will be led by Mary Murphy, Howard Thompson and Arnold Diaz, who joins Pix11 on March 31. Diaz is best known for his amazing Shame, Shame, Shame segment, which aired on WNYW until January of this year. . . ."

In Honduras, "Reporters Without Borders welcomes the conviction of three men for the murder of Alfredo Villatoro, a journalist who hosted a show on radio HRN and coordinated its programming," the press freedom organization said Friday. "He was found dead near Tegucigalpa on 15 May 2012, six days after being kidnapped from his home. . . ."


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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