Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do We Still Need A Black Press?

As teaching assistant Katie Beardsley discussed in class the other day, the rise of the Black Press was very much a reaction to the portrayal of African American people in the mainstream media during the early 1800s.

By the time of the Civil War, there were 40 newspapers dedicated to serving African American audiences. By 1900, she said, there were more than 600.

Today, there are around 200, including the Philadelphia Tribune, which is the oldest continuously operated black newspaper in the country. And there are numerous websites that seek to tell the stories of African American people, as well as inform that community.

In 2013 - 186 years after the founding of the first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal - do we still need a Black Press?

Do the mainstream media still treat non-white folks differently? Is there ignorance that remains, such as the unfortunate Vogue cover with Lebron James that recalled a 1917 military recruiting poster?

Or was the symbolism of the above image an honest mistake?

In the Obama-era, is it anachronistic to have news outlets that break down audiences by race or ethnicity?

25 comments:

Valerie Vaincoeur said...

I think there is definitely still a need for black press. A lot of stories of African Americans in society today won't be published in some of the more popular newspapers today such as the New York times or USA today. There's nothing wrong with still having a specific newspaper or magazine cater to a specific group of people. Although racism isn't as worse as what it used to be, it doesn't mean that the black press should just disappear. For instance, Essence magazine and Ebony magazine mainly showcase african american celebrities but within the magazine they also print stories about successful college students, former incarcerates doing better and advertisements for black businesses etc. I didn't really find anything wrong with the lebron and giselle vogue cover. I think it was taken out of context. Like it said on it their shape issue and I think thats what their pose on the cover portrayed.

Anonymous said...

I say yes. Recently GQ published a cover story on rapper Kendrick Lamar. The story's attempt to praise Lamar for his success in the mainstream fell short of pleasing the man it intended to flatter. His argument was that in trying to highlight his accomplishments, the story's angle suffered from creating too much of a black/white disparity.
Ironically, the article speaks about how Lamar breaks down racial barriers in his music, but simultaneously juxtaposes "white culture and success" with the familiar "making it out of the ghetto" narrative which perpetuates racial tones.
Atlantic writer, Spencer Kornhaber verbalizes this more functionally than I can: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/kendrick-lamar-has-a-right-to-be-mad-at-em-gq-em/281578/

The point is, it still takes black press to tell stories like Kendrick's that white writers can't make understandable to white audiences. It also limits the narrative black writers can provide for white readers.

Maggie Andresen said...

Absolutely. As both student teachers point out, the press then and now is run predominantly by middle-aged, white men. The news these journalists put out tends to highlight accomplishments of those living in the same racial and socio-economic bracket as they. Comparatively, a huge portion of the audience is left out by molding the news for one single typified member of society. That is why so many women's magazines run the gamut of over-output; it's why we still need the black press. America is far from over its racially intolerant past. When, last year, the Supreme Court overturned an imperative part of the Civil Rights Act that forced states with a history of denying suffrage to minorities to submit changes to voting laws to the federal government for review; those states almost immediately passed laws that infringed on certain minority suffrage rights. We need the black press to give African Americans the information they require to maintain their rights, to cover cultural happenings that the primary white press won't cover, and to make concrete the pride with which they define themselves as a community.

Don McDermott said...

I do not think we need a black press. The media is supposed to represent everyone, and although it definitely fails sometimes, I think overall it does a pretty good job.
The white press we heard about in class was biased and reporting untruthful and unfair things about blacks. There is no such thing as a white press anymore, to we don't need a black press to balance the coverage out. The media is not against black people; in some cases it's biased for them. Look at the Trayvon Martin affair. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the actual incident, the media blew the coverage by showing a picture of a twelve year old, happy kid right next to the prison mug shot of a grown man. Trayvon was much older than he was in the picture, he had tattoos, and he was muscular. He also had a history of being a troublemaker. But the media portrayed him as a young innocent kid. Why they did this is a completely different topic, but I was disgusted by their coverage of it. They automatically assumed that Zimmerman was a racist, which was not right to do. He may have been a racist, for all we know, but that's not for the media to decide.
Another example is the fact that the media is biased towards Obama a lot of times.

Anonymous said...

the monkey represented Germans. Just thought it was worth bringing up.

Jeanie Davey said...

Yes, I believe there still needs to be a black press in today's society considering how media can be very one-sided and biased. It is a sad truth, but there still needs to be attention on the unheard voices of African Americans. With the black press, more attention and light can be brought to the continued struggles that blacks face today. With an African American president and other improvements of race in society, there still cannot be a neglect for the necessary voices of the black press. It is a shame that the media does divide cultures through race, gender and other identities, but to let their voices and stories be heard, a black press is still needed. Hopefully one day media coverage can be a full representation of all races and identities that the media tends to break down.

Yousif said...

I wouldn't say that there is a definite need for a black press, but it does make up for the under-representation of black culture in mainstream media. It doesn't seem to be a "race" issue at all, but more of a cultural issue—kind of like having magazines and TV channels for hipsters.

I think the emergence of a black press paved the way for niche media that now caters to the under-represented.

Don McDermott said...

To continue with my remarks, I would say that my biggest problem with the media is bias. The white press was biased, only even worse than other media bias because not only were they reporting false and unfair information, they were also being cruel to African-Americans. The black press did a good job presenting the news, but I did notice that there seemed to be a little bit of defiance in the articles. You couldn't actually tell unless you knew the context, but it was there. However, the black press was necessary, and they needed to wage journalistic war against the white press. However, journalistic war needs to be avoided.
The media now reports on black and whites basically equally. What I was saying earlier about the press again has to do with bias. I hate that sometimes the press feels obliged to "make it up" to African-Americans, as in the case of Trayvon Martin.
The media said Zimmerman was guilty from the start, and that was wrong to do. Maybe he was guilty, but the media has no right to say that he is guilty. I think they did it to make up for past mistakes during the era of the white press.
But although the white press was horrible, it is not the duty of the modern journalist to make up for that. Journalists must report the news fair and square.
Jeanie, I am not sure where you are getting your ideas from. The media is not biased against blacks. They love Obama and Trayvon Martin. The constantly expose racism. They are not biased against blacks.
Do not generalize about the media. If one journalist said something racist, that doesn't mean the media is biased against blacks. I cited some examples when the media was biased towards black. But that doesn't mean I think the media as a whole is!
The main point here is that there is no need for a black press, because there is no white press that is treating blacks wrong anymore, thankfully.

Julianne Johnson said...

I agree with Yousif one hundred percent. I don't think there's an absolute necessity for a black press but it does help celebrate an underrepresented group, just as there is media strictly for the Latino and Asian communities, as well as strictly for those those who are into snowboarding and knitting. I agree with his statement that the black press today is a form of niche media.

Mark McCormick said...

I still think that there is racism around this country still, but I don't believe media outlets portray minorities in our country differently than they do towards white people. I think it goes back to the principles of journalism, where you have to be unbiased, truthful and fair to every citizen.

Deanna Gormisky said...

I am not really too sure if there is a need for "The Black Press"; perhaps, it needs to be even more... niche? I suppose. Perhaps, a more Online version.

But, then again, it wouldn't stop things like -this- to be published.

But, we also have to consider that the images being shown... are they being "thought about too much" due to their content or are they being "criticized" because of the people used? Would it be any different if it were Average Joe and Average Jane?

I just think it's a little "too extreme". In another class, about a year or so ago, we chatted about this image--but in a different light; how it personifies men as being "vulgar and buff" and personifies women as being "dainty and helpless". And, we also talked about how the agency that published the photo sort of "knew" what they were going for--that they -wanted- this image.

Kristi Fidler said...

I do not think we have a need for black press. The more we continue to separate races, the more we are going to have racial issues. As generations continue to die off, we are becoming more accepting and a continuation of these racial specifics that we needed are becoming less and less necessary. When we stop seeing everyone as black, white or so on, that is when racism will really die. We need to stop focusing on the color of our skin in general and focus on who people are. Once we kill off all of these separations, we will live in a better place. Things such as Black specific magazines just prove their is still a problem. Get rid of them to leave room for equally white and black magazines.

Kristi Fidler said...

I do not think we have a need for black press. The more we continue to separate races, the more we are going to have racial issues. As generations continue to die off, we are becoming more accepting and a continuation of these racial specifics that we needed are becoming less and less necessary. When we stop seeing everyone as black, white or so on, that is when racism will really die. We need to stop focusing on the color of our skin in general and focus on who people are. Once we kill off all of these separations, we will live in a better place. Things such as Black specific magazines just prove their is still a problem. Get rid of them to leave room for equally white and black magazines.

Marianna Morris said...

I agree with a lot of the previous comments in that we do need a black press still. Like the current court battle going on here in Philadelphia with media ownership has shown, media outlets are mostly made up of rich white men as senior leadership, and it is not for a lack of resources. Minorities are continuing to be edged out of mainstream media so it is our responsibility to create a forum for this. While it is unfortunate that this is still necessary--the alternative is to simply give in and allow minorities to be relegated to the side and continue to be underrepresented.

Andrew Vanech said...

I feel now that its still part of society to have a press pertain to one particular race or ethnicity. They focus on the same issues and topics the normal press does. However, now that we elected the first black man to oval office, I'd say in a few years it will become integrated into one, and we will become more diverse.

Janice Austin said...

As sad as it is to say, there is still a need for the Black press. People f non white color are still treated differently, and the black press is one of the few ways people of non white can get recognitions. Pictures like the one with Lebron in comparison to the one with the Gorilla is obvious clues that blacks are subliminally "dissed" all the time and Black press is a way we can integrate. When every one begins to get treated equally or at least seemingly so then there will be no need for black press

bspause said...

I think that the black press is a necessary part of media as we know it today. With that being said, it is an entity that must, and will persist to inform readers about what really goes on in the African American communities. So yes, there is still a need for the black press, but not an urging need. In the 21st century, racism still exists - that's a sad fact that will most likely persist in the years to come as well. The great Nelson Mandella that we so recently lost made it obvious that hate toward one another is something that is learned. With entities such as the black press that publicize the normal lives of African Americans, we can only hope that this hate will one day dissolve.

chengyang yu said...

Yes! Demassification is unstoppable. African Americans will surely be inclined to read what FITS them.

Fletcher Jons said...

A Black Press is definitely still necessary in journalism today because the African American community is still underrepresented as a positive contributor to American society.

Greg Frank said...

I agree with some of the other comments about the fact that there is no definite need for a black press but it can help to a degree. If the goal of the black press is to direct attention towards underrepresented groups, then certainly it helps for purposes of national awareness and the like. However, journalism could survive without a black press. It's not the job of journalists to go about breaking stories about underrepresented groups. Journalists are supposed to know their audience, and report accordingly. Thus i believe if journalists focus on doing their job and reporting accurately, the subject matter of which they report on should not matter as long as media outlets cover the stories that they believe will sell.

Jon Weaver said...

I think that in our society now that a Black Press is still needed. The reason for this is because sometimes they could cover events that blacks see more fitting than the traditional white press. I think it goes along with the mainstream media and is important to view what another race is all about.

Suchi Parikh said...

I feel as if the black press is still needed today because black communities are either underrepresented or represented negatively and that would decrease if we did have the black press. Even though, it's not a huge deal if there isn't, black communities would probably not be so looked down upon if the black press did still exist!

Jenna Herman said...

I think that we still need the Black Press. Unfortunately in the mass media today, there is not attention on black communities. There needs to be more representation of minorities in the mass media and press, but until then, I believe that the Black Press can provide important insight. Hopefully in the future, all groups of people will be equally represented in the media.

Mariama Mansaray said...

In my opinion, i think there's still need for black press. like Valerie said, there are lot of things that happen in the African american society that don't get published to the public.Nowadays, the public only get to hear about the worst things that takes place in African American communities. i think we need a press that will be willing to show the public another perspective of the African american culture. even though racism is not openly accepted anymore, that doesn't mean there's none taking place, it just happens in a more subtle way now.having a black press will help African Americans tell their stories in their own way.

EJ said...

I know that this is from last semester but I really wanted to make a comment on this particular thread!

I think the need for black press, while different, is still in existence. I think black press originated to combat against negative press against African Americans. In addition, it provided a strong voice and representation of the black community. In recent days, I believe that voice is still an important component to the community, for it strengthens the pride that the African American community can have in itself.

A mainly positive magazine on great feats by African Americans help kids develop strong role models, and make the entire community feel proud of their identification, and while that isn't groundbreaking journalism, it provides a necessary component to society.