Follow Barack Obama prior and during his tenure as the 44th President of the United States. Read about my personal observations along with every day facts as they happen. This blog will only submit factual information about the first black President, now in his 2nd term of office.


Send E-mail to the Editor at:

Search This Blog

Obama Brings Flush Times for Black News Media

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Published: March 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — For the nation’s black magazines, newspapers, and television and radio stations, the arrival of the Obama administration has ushered in an era of unprecedented access to the White House.

Skip to next paragraph
Doug Mills/The New York Times

Kevin Chappell, right, at the White House briefing on Friday. He broke ground at the Obama news conference this week.

President Obama gave Black Enterprise magazine his first print interview and gave a black talk show host one of his first radio interviews. This month, he invited 50 black newspaper publishers to meet with him at the White House. And at his news conference Tuesday, he skipped over several prominent newspapers and news magazines to call on Kevin Chappell, a senior editor at Ebony magazine.

It was the first time an Ebony reporter had been invited to question a president at a prime-time news conference.

“We have, at last, an equal seat at the table,” said Bryan Monroe, the vice president and editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines. “We’re not going to get everything we need. But now we definitely can be heard.”

Mr. Obama is cultivating a new cast of media insiders in the nation’s capital, the correspondents and editors of the black media outlets that are devoting more staff members and resources to covering the first African-American president.

Outreach to these journalists allows Mr. Obama to get his message to black audiences through news organizations that typically celebrate rather than criticize this president. Officials say that the organizations reach people who are often missed by mainstream outlets and that their efforts reflect the president’s commitment to reach out to all Americans.

“We want people to know what we are doing and how the administration’s policies will impact their community,” said Corey A. Ealons, the president’s recently appointed director of African-American media.

In recent weeks, the administration has invited black media groups to listen in on conference calls with several senior Obama advisers, including Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff; Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser; and Shaun Donovan, the housing secretary. Officials also organized a meeting with Melody C. Barnes, who leads the president’s Domestic Policy Council. (The administration is also reaching to Spanish-language media and other minority media groups.)

In his meeting last week with the black publishers, Mr. Obama praised the role that black newspapers had played in supporting his candidacy and presidency.

“The reason that I’ve been able and Michelle has been able to do what we’re doing is because of the extraordinary support and thoughtfulness with which you’ve covered our campaigns and our activities, and so I am very thankful to you,” Mr. Obama told members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 200 black newspapers.

But if the new access to the White House has brought new relevance and respect to outlets long relegated to the sidelines here, it has also stoked the debate about whether the black media should regard Mr. Obama with a more critical eye.

In an interview this month on National Public Radio, Tavis Smiley, a well-known black radio and television host, urged journalists — black and white — to assess Mr. Obama’s performance critically.

“I think the ground is fertile for Barack Obama to be a great president,” Mr. Smiley said. “I think he can be, but only if we help make him a great president. Great presidents have to be pushed into their greatness.”

But Mr. Smiley warned that criticizing Mr. Obama was not for “the faint of heart.”

Mr. Smiley resigned last year as a regular commentator on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” after receiving a hail of angry e-mail and phone calls for questioning Mr. Obama’s commitment to black issues.

Black media groups insist, however, that they will hold the president’s feet to the fire, and they say they have added resources to provide more coverage.

Black Entertainment Television has added a second White House correspondent to its team here, and the network broadcast live coverage of Mr. Obama’s first address to Congress and his two news conferences.

Essence, a magazine that is dedicated to black women, has hired its first Washington correspondent. Johnson Publishing Company, the media group based in Chicago that owns Ebony and Jet, has added a feature entitled “Inside Washington” to Jet, a weekly publication.

In addition to celebratory articles about the inauguration, Mr. Obama’s marriage, his family and his management style, some publications have examined the president’s economic plans and concerns that problems of blacks may be overlooked.

Black Enterprise recently ran an article in which several black economists dissected Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus plan, with some questioning the effectiveness of tax cuts and raising concerns about whether the plan addresses high levels of unemployment among blacks.

Hazel Trice Edney, editor in chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s news service, notes that black reporters are still rarely called on in the daily White House briefings. And Ms. Edney noted that the administration refused to allow the black publishers who met with Mr. Obama to ask him any questions or to cover the event. (She defied the ban by recording the meeting and reporting on it.)

“Kevin was wonderful, and we’re glad he was called on,” Ms. Edney said of Mr. Chappell. “But that’s just one magazine.”

At the same time, however, some black journalists at black media organizations promise to continue their historic role of cheering on black achievements — the president’s included — because they say mainstream publications will not always do so.

Dorothy Leavell, the chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, received warm applause last week when she told her fellow publishers that Mr. Obama’s election made her “feel so proud that someone so exceptional, someone so vibrant, could lead this country.”

During the meeting with Mr. Obama, Ms. Leavell presented the president with her organization’s newsmaker of the year award. “We’ve got your back,” she said.


  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP