This is the final Black History Month blog post for 2013! The weekly posts were so well received that this is likely to become an annual occurrence, so thank you to all of you who liked the posts!I will be looking at blacks in journalism.
Black journalists were largely only hired by black presses, which were small and only serviced the black community. Mainstream presses were no different than any other industry and continuously refused to hire blacks.
When the Civil Rights Movement gained national interest during the 1960s, as a large number of American inner cities became the sites of urban riots, black journalists who were employed by black presses were finally able to gain employment with the mainstream media.
The newsrooms of mainstream news sources were nearly all white back in 1968. The National Commission on Civil Disorders warned that America was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.” The bias was reflected with impunity in the mainstream news media. At this time, blacks held less than 1% of newsroom jobs across the country.
Unfortunately, the black presses suffered from the integration it had long championed and as a result, many black presses ceased publication altogether. The once prosperous major black presses simply couldn’t compete with the extensive coverage provided by mainstream television networks and major newspapers, as well as the higher salaries they provided their newly hired black journalists.
According to a Huffington Post article, “The Chicago Defender’s weekly circulation fell from a high of 257,000 in 1945 to 33,000 by 1970. The Pittsburgh Courier shrunk in the same period from a high of 202,000 to 20,000.”
These developments as well as the time frame they occurred, tie into the Great Migration which has been a prevalent theme in the Black History Month posts I’ve written this year. However, in this instance we find that while looking for better opportunities, many black journalists inadvertently caused black news sources to suffer and virtually die. The impact this had on the black community was devastating not only because it eliminated a large number of jobs, but also because we as a community were no longer in a position to report on those things which affect our day to day lives and to accurately relay facts without the stereotypical slant that mainstream media is infamous for.
In recent years, there appears to be a reverse migration of sorts which has many black journalists returning to their roots as it was. A good portion of these moves were facilitated by layoffs and buyouts within the mainstream media outlets, but others were fueled by the black journalists own disillusionment with mainstream media and/or their desire to focus on issues which have a greater impact upon the black community.
Regardless of the reasons, black journalists are turning the tide and switching paths from black presses to the mainstream media to plot their course back home. Many mainstream outlets are even creating black oriented ventures like NBC’s The Griot, which I personally subscribe to and find quite informative as well as Huffington Post’s Black Voices.
However, on the flip side of things, this reverse migration has garnered attention and new talent to black-oriented media, but also has a negative impact on the diversification of mainstream media. I suppose the laws of physics are hard at work here, in that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
What started as a trickle has since turned into a flood of movement.
According to an article in the Huffington Post titled, “Black Journalists Quitting Mainstream Outlets, Returning To Black Press, “Sylvester Monroe resigned in 2006 as Sunday national editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, two months later, joined the staff of Ebony magazine. In 2008 the renowned byline of Jack E. White, the first black columnist at Time magazine, began to regularly appear on The Root, where Lynette Clemetson, formerly of The New York Times and Newsweek, was managing editor. By March of this year when Constance C. R. White, once an influential New York Times fashion writer, was named editor in chief of Essence, the trickle had swelled into a river of prominent African-American journalists streaming to black-oriented media. The names of veterans like Lynette Holloway and E. R. Shipp, formerly of The New York Times; Teresa Wiltz, Natalie Hopkinson, and Michael Cottman, all of The Washington Post; Joel Dreyfuss, formerly of Fortune and PC Magazine, and Amy DuBois Barnett of Harper’s Bazaar and Teen People, are turning up in places like Ebony, Jet, and Essence; at BlackAmericaWeb.com, a division of Reach Media, Inc.; and at The Root, the online site spearheaded by Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. and published by The Washington Post Company.”
It is held that at one time blacks come into journalism driven by a passion to accurately report on issues in their communities, which explains the return to black press. They could perhaps use the skills and experience they had gained while employed with mainstream media and apply it to black oriented media and improve its deteriorated reputation and standing.
As Black History Month 2013 comes to an end, I encourage everyone to take the time to expand their minds and broaden their horizons with a look into news sources outside of the mainstream, so that you may form a more informed opinion on things that occur within our country and around the world. Support black news sources and the men and women who work within the industry, but as always take whatever you receive with a grain of salt and an open mind.