February 5, 2009

Change Needs to Happen in the Media Coverage of the President

Call her angry if you want, but Nelson writes the truth

Jill Nelson - The Audacity of Whiteness: Framing Barack Obama

"This country cannot be the country we want it to be if its story is told by only one group of citizens. Our goal is to give all Americans front-door access to the truth." -- Robert C. Maynard (Maynard was one of the founders of the 30-year-old Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which works to increase diversity in staffing, content and business operations of American media.)

I know its bad form to mention race and upset the new post-racial apple cart, the one that doesn't even have a black chauffer like the genial Hoke to drive Miss Daisy around. Nope, in this post-racial world Hoke's been laid off or taken the buy-out. (At least 300 black journalists left the print media in 2007, and there's every indication that 2008 was worse. Richard Prince's Journal-isms column at
www.mije.org is an ongoing record of attrition.)
In this brave new world the playing field's level, Dr. King's dream's been realized, and it's all about the meritocracy. Yet a look at the unbearably white American media reminds us that even with a black president little has changed in terms of who frames the issues. With the exception of CNN, which probably employs more black people than BET and definitely has more news coverage, for the most part media looks like a meeting of the White Citizens Council, circa 1956. As determined to retain control of the dialogue as those racists were to maintain the Southern way of life.

Why is it okay for George Will to have President Obama to dinner with conservative journalists with not a black face in the room? How many journalists attended parties in Washington during the inauguration where there were no journalists of color present? Isn't it disturbing to the journalistic establishment that the vast majority of journalists, commentators, talking heads, pundits, and experts discussing the new president and his administration are white? In 2009 can anyone seriously argue that aren't more than a handful of black, Latino, Asian, or Native Americans who fit these categories? Is this time for change we can believe in, or is it still time for black to get back?

For two years I'd managed, along with most black people, to go along with one of the unspoken shibboleths to the election of Barack Obama and kept my mouth closed about racial issues, fearing that such a discussion would be harmful to Obama. This in spite of Bill Clinton showing his ass in South Carolina; Hillary's absurd suggestion that Obama wouldn't know what to do when the phone rang at 3 AM; and John McCain's barely veiled white supremacist campaign. Yet the failure of much of the media to recognize the words of the Negro National Anthem as the first words of Reverend Joseph Lowery's benediction at the inauguration was truly pitiful. Read more>>

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