Human beings have the unfortunate habit of looking at their own circumstances, incorrectly blaming others for problems of their own making and complaining bitterly it’s the other guy who needs to clean up the act.
“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.”
It’s understandable Curry is bent if Obama opts to talk to a “stupid White comedian” like Zach Galifianakis and not him, but he underestimates his own importance and misunderstands than in the final push to get the Obamacare enrollment numbers over the top, the smarter media strategy is to plow resources into a You Tube video that garnered 11 million views of the video, and a 40 percent spike in traffic to Healthcare.gov from the day before.
That doesn’t happen in an interview with The Oklahoma Eagle or any other Black newspaper. Old media takes it on the chin yet again from new media. You’d think they’d be accustomed to it by now.
The president is no different from most of Black America. The problem isn’t the president pays no attention to the Black press. The problem is the Black press gives him no reason he should. Their clout within the Black community has withered and faded in the face of competition from Twitter, hip-hop web sites, bloggers, podcasting and the rest of social media.
Obama does need to spend a little more time with the Black press and throw them a bone now and then to make them happy, but he didn’t need them in this fight. Black folks are three times in favor of healthcare reform. It was White folks–specifically YOUNG White folks he needed to recruit. The Black press can’t even deliver young Black folks. Obama would get more attention from an interview with World Star Hip-Hop than the Chicago Defender. The support for Obamacare by Blacks is three times that of Whites. Clearly the White House doesn’t believe it needed Curry and company to sell the program to Black America.
If the Black press feels disrespected it earned that disrespect. Most of its wounds are self-inflicted and chief among them are a failure to adapt to both changing demographics, embrace the technological innovations that could have resuscitated it and enabled it to thrive in the 21st century, but that takes money and the willingness to try something new and different. I haven’t seen a lot of publishers in the NNPA who aren’t convinced yet their problems are due to a failure to adapt and that is why they don’t matter all that much.
Black journalism has a proud history and a sketchy future. The audience they need to thrive is made of up young people who don’t read Black newspapers, don’t see how it is relevant to their lives and can smell the musky, antiquated thinking and unwillingness to meet them where they are.
As a former editor and reporter of the Columbus Post newspaper, I saw first-hand the push-and-pull between the reporters, editors, photographers, and staffers who were committed to creating a quality product and the publishers who were more interesting in protecting their turf, currying favor with favorite politicians, pushing their pet projects, schmoozing with old cronies, nursing grudges and settling scores with other prominent people in the Black community.
The tragedy is there has never been a greater need for a healthy, robust, dynamic and energized Black Press. Many of the advances made by African-Americans are under assault by a hostile Republican Congress, a fickle and unprincipled Democratic Party, right-wing activists from the Tea Party to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now more than ever the Black Press is needed to tell our truth to our people and now more than ever it seems unprepared for the task.
If Bams gives the Black press the “sit at the little kids table” treatment, what have they done to earn a place with the adults? Not historically. but from a contemporary and serious journalism perspective. Break any major stories? Do any enterprise or investigative stories lately? Earn any Pulitzer Prize nominations?
Politicians and the press maintain a relationship of mutual need that at times has to become adversarial. Curry, Martin and the Black press wants more respect from Obama they need to realize they need to do more to get it. Simply grumbling over the Obama Administration making them them sit at the little kids table doesn’t cut it. They need to raise their game as journalists to a point where even the president realizes it is politically advantageous to keep the Black press in the loop. Right now there’s no particular price to pay for Obama if he doesn’t set out the good china and seat them at the grown-ups table.
The president can do better but so can the Black press.