What Are Black Journalists Allowed To Say About Race?

Julia Craven, HuffPost Black Voices

Jemele Hill said what she said.

In a series of tweets stemming from an odd conversation about Kid Rock, the co-host of ESPN’s “SC6” called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” she wrote. “His rise is the direct result of white supremacy. Period.” She added that Trump’s presidency had empowered other white supremacists and that his bid for the White House wouldn’t have been successful if he weren’t white.

Backlash to the tweets, helped along by people like former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry and Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis ― who frequently says racist things ― led ESPN to release a statement saying Hill’s views “do not represent the position” of the network. This made things worse.

Richard Polk/BET via Getty Images

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.” That same day, ESPN tried to prevent Hill from co-hosting “SC6” with Michael Smith. In a tweet, Hill said her “regret” was that her comments “painted ESPN in an unfair light.” ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, said Hill ― and the media at large ― should “let the reporting do its work, and resist more incendiary labels.”

None of what Hill said in her initial volley of tweets was inaccurate. Trump voters were driven by racism, and white supremacists openly support him. His campaign rhetoric was a dog whistle for white supremacists. His attorney general has praised the Immigration Act of 1924, a law crafted by eugenicists and championed by people hoping to preserve a “distinct American type.” After a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump attributed the violence to “both sides,” even though none of the counter-protesters killed anyone.

That Trump is a white supremacist is a straightforward conclusion that can be drawn from an abundance of available evidence.

But not all straightforward conclusions are admissible in mainstream American media, particularly on the subject of race, particularly when stated by a black woman.

To get a sense of the straitjackets placed on black media figures working in a predominantly white industry, where “white supremacy” is usually seen as a slur applicable only to Klansmen and Nazis, I convened three prominent black journalists: Greg Howard, a reporter at The New York Times; Elena Bergeron, former staff writer at ESPN The Magazine and current editor-in-chief of SB Nation; and a current ESPN employee who, for obvious reasons, wanted to remain anonymous.

Read the full interview here.

Read about the crucial role of black press here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

By SYDNEY EMBER and NICHOLAS FANDOS, New York Times

For the black community in Chicago and elsewhere, Johnson Publishing Company represented a certain kind of hope.

Ebony cover M. ObamaThe company’s magazines, most notably Ebony and Jet, gained prominence during the struggle for civil rights — Jet published graphic photos of the murdered black teenager Emmett Till that helped intensify the movement — and made it their mission to chronicle African-American life.

At a time when much of the media was ignoring black people, or showing them primarily in the context of poverty or crime, Ebony and Jet celebrated their success, featuring stars like Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin on their covers. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the first print publication he granted an interview to was Ebony. 

So when Johnson Publishing, which is based in Chicago, announced a little more than two weeks ago that it had sold Ebony and Jet to a private equity firm in Texas, there was a sense of loss.

“It was a very heartbreaking day,” said Melody Spann-Cooper, the chairwoman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, which owns a Chicago radio station, WVON, aimed at a black audience. “Ebony gave to African-Americans what Life didn’t.”

Jet Magazine printed what mainstream presses would not -- including the photos of teenager Emmett Till's lynched and mutilated body, in its October 1960 issue.

Jet Magazine printed what mainstream presses would not — including the photos of teenager Emmett Till’s lynched and mutilated body, in its October 1960 issue.

Ms. Spann-Cooper’s reaction underscored a deeper concern: As racial issues have once again become a prominent topic in the national conversation, the influence of black-owned media companies on black culture is diminishing.

“Ebony used to be the only thing black folks had and read,” Ms. Spann-Cooper said. “As we became more integrated into society, we had other options.”…

Traditional media companies have struggled for years to adapt to a digital world, but the pressure on black-owned media has been even more acute. Many are smaller and lack the financial resources to compete in an increasingly consolidated media landscape. Advertisers have turned away from black-oriented media, owners say, under the belief that they can now reach minorities in other ways.

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and '60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, in the 1950s and ’60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Since well before the Civil War, publications and, more recently, radio and television stations owned and operated by African-Americans have provided an important counterweight to mass market media, simultaneously celebrating and shaping black culture — from politics and government to fashion and music.

Johnson Publishing was started in 1942 with a modest $500 loan, and eventually turned into a media empire big enough that in 1982, its founder, John H. Johnson, became the first black person to make Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. When the radio station WVON ran a program in 2007 for Black History Month called the “28 Blacks Who Changed America,” Mr. Johnson, who died in 2005, was No. 7 on the list, behind luminaries like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall.

WVON Radio in Chicago is aimed at a black audience. Credit Lyndon French for The New York Times

WVON Radio in Chicago is aimed at a black audience. Credit Lyndon French for The New York Times

“If we don’t own our press, we don’t have a platform to speak,” said Leonard Burnett Jr., whose company, the Uptown Ventures Group, owns Uptown Magazineuptlifestyle publication aimed at affluent African-Americans.

Several owners also pointed to another benefit: Their companies hired more minorities. Ms. Spann-Cooper of the Midway Broadcasting Corporation said 90 percent of her employees were African-American. “When we are African-American-owned, the work force looks like us,” she said.

But as financial resources dwindle, black-owned media companies are struggling to maintain their presence. Jet, for instance, became a web-only publication in 2014….

Read the full article here.

For more information, see this exhibit By Us, For Us: The Crucial Role of the Black Press.

More Breaking News here.

A Very Short List of National Black Press Outlets

Ebony Magazine's print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Ebony Magazine’s print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published (now online only) by Johnson Publishing Company.

Online

theRoot.com

theGrio.com

Jet Magazine

Ebony (also in print)

Essence (also in print)

In Print

Black News Directory (A listing of dozens of some of the 200+ black publications published in the USA – from the American Legacy Magazine to Hip Hop Weekly.)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (and links to member papers of the NNPA black press in each state)

Black Perspectives Sections within White-Owned/Operated Media

Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)

Huffington Post Black Voices 

NY Times Black Culture and History section

Black Media Excluded from U.S. Justice Department’s Anti-Smoking Campaigns

By Daisy Jenkins, Huffingtonpost.com

…(M)y cousin passed away. He was one of the approximately 45,000 black people who die each year from smoking-related disease, according to The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.menthol_24

If my cousin, on his deathbed, felt compelled to inform black youth about the dangers of smoking, one would think that the U.S. Justice Department, led by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the Tobacco-Free Action Fund and the country’s four major tobacco companies would have the same revelation. It’s totally inconceivable that on January 17, 2014, these entities chose to exclude the black print or broadcast media from their consent agreement that requires tobacco companies to spend more than $30 to $45 million in advertising as a result of their misrepresentation of the hazards of smoking. The $30 to $45 million will be distributed among the three major networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) as well as full-page newspaper ads and website space in white and Hispanic media. This exclusion of black media is both destructive and disrespectful to the black community; shame on the U.S. Justice Department for being party to the injustice of this odious decision.

The blatantly clear message from this decision is that these leading entities don’t care about the devastating effects of tobacco use in the black community. The irony of it all is that for well over three decades the tobacco industry targeted and heavily exploited the black community to protect a declining consumer base and their profits by increasing smoking among blacks…

…Advertisement expenditures in black communities for mentholated cigarettes increased from 13 percent of total ad expenditures in 1998 to 49 percent in 2005.

The advertising was very effective and led to a disproportionately high use of menthol cigarettes by 84 percent of black smokers over the age of 12 compared to 24 and 32 percent for Caucasians and Hispanics, respectively. According to The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, mentholated cigarettes could increase the risk of both lung and bronchial cancer more than regular cigarettes and are much more addictive…

It’s now time to use the same targeted advertising through the black media to communicate a different message about tobacco use to the black community: “Smoking Isn’t Cool, It Kills!”…

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Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

By Us, For Us: The Crucial Role of the Black Press

Griot: Fran Kaplan, EdD

The black press has played a vital role, both in advancing the ideals of American democracy and in supporting African American identity and culture.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal.

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm, editors of the first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal.

The first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in New York City in 1827 by Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men. They appointed community activists Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm as editors. The goal of Freedom’s Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that demeaned blacks and supported slavery. (New York state’s economy depended on slavery, because its textile mills processed southern cotton, which accounted for half its exports.)

In the first issue of Freedom’s Journal, Cornish and Russwurm declared, “Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations.” Their second objective was to build a common African American identity through “the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race.”

Ida B. Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the USA, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

Freedom’s Journal had subscribers in eleven states and Washington D.C., and in Canada, Europe, and Haiti. The paper covered local, national, and international events. The paper also celebrated the achievements of African Americans. Its editorials spoke out against injustice and debated controversial issues such as the resettlement of free blacks from the U.S. in Liberia in West Africa.

This tradition of crusading journalism was continued by black abolitionists like David Walker (An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World) and Frederick Douglass (North Star). Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave, became one of the first American women to own a newspaper (The Free Speech and Headlight, in Memphis, TN). She also wrote for other newspapers, both black and white-owned. Her investigative pamphlets that analyzed and fought against lynchings and Jim Crow are still used today (Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record).

One of the longest running black newspapers, the California Eagle was founded in 1879 by a former slave, John J. Neimore, for African American migrants arriving from the South. The paper would serve Los Angeles, California, for eighty-five years. Upon Neimore’s death, his employee, Charlotta Bass, bought and ran the paper. Bass was an activist for social justice inside and outside of her newspaper. The pages of the Eagle campaigned for the abolition of enforced segregation though racial covenants, increased participation of African Americans in politics at all levels, and the patronizing of black businesses by blacks as a matter of principle under the slogan “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work.”

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass published the California Eagle in Los Angeles. An ardent worker for human rights, she was the first African American woman as a candidate for US Vice-President.

Charlotta Bass also helped found and run such community institutions as Industrial Business Council to fight employment discrimination in such important companies as LA Rapid Transit, Southern Telephone, and the Boulder Dam. She served as co-president of the LA chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, as director of the NAACP’s Youth Movement, and national chair of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice (a black women’s organization that protested racial violence). She was a pioneer of multiracial struggle, fighting for the release of Chicanos (Mexican Americans) convicted of murder by an all-white jury. In 1952, Bass became the first African-American woman to run for Vice President, as a candidate of the Progressive Party.

Racial discrimination in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois prevented law school graduate Robert S. Abbott from practicing his profession, so in 1905 he founded The Chicago Defender. He built it into the most widely circulated, powerful, and successful black-owned newspaper of all time. Abbott employed talented writers, among them Gwendolyn Brooks, Walter White, and Langston Hughes. When white newspaper distributers refused to circulate The Defender in the South, he created his own clever “underground” network: African-American railroad porters who secretly carried his paper around the county  on trains.

Robert S. AbbottThe paper’s slogan was “American race prejudice must be destroyed.”  Abbott’s other goals included the opening up of trade unions, government jobs, and police forces to African American workers. The Chicago Defender provided firsthand coverage of the series of white race riots known as the Red Summer Riots of 1919. The paper is credited with stimulating the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities by publishing migrants’ stories, describing the North as a place of prosperity and justice, showing pictures of Chicago, and running classified ads for housing. The Chicago Defender continues to be published today at www.chicagodefender.com.

Many African American newspapers declined during the late 1950s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, because white-owned papers had finally began to hire black journalists and compete for black readers. Today you can get a variety of African American news and views on such issues as anti-black violence or reparations from such outspoken journalists as Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic), Charles Blow (New York Times), and Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC) working in “mainstream” media.

Newsboy_selling_the_Chicago_Defender

A newspaper boy selling the Chicago Defender.

The good news is that the black press is alive and well. It continues to play a crucial role in our racially divided society. Its vital discourse with the public–locally, nationally, and internationally–is conducted through print, broadcast, and online media. Whether they work in black-owned and operated media or in the black perspectives sections of white-owned media, African American journalists offer a corrective balance to how issues and images are commonly represented in white outlets.

Each week America’s Black Holocaust Museum selects articles and broadcasts about current events from the outlets listed below and posts them to our Breaking News blog.

 

A Very Short List of National Black Press Outlets

Ebony Magazine's print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Ebony Magazine’s print cover for August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Online

theRoot.com

theGrio.com

Jet Magazine

Ebony (also in print)

Essence (also in print)

In Print

Black News Directory (A listing of dozens of some of the 200+ black publications published in the USA – from the American Legacy Magazine to Hip Hop Weekly.)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (and links to member papers of the NNPA black press in each state)

 

Black Perspectives Sections within White-Owned/Operated Media

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and '60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and ’60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)

Huffington Post Black Voices 

NY Times Black Culture and History section

National Radio:

900AMWURD.com

 

 

 

 

IreneMorganBlack Press in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Newspapers

Television

Radio

Sources: