Bring Back Black News

Jacque Reid

Jacque Reid, former anchor of BET Nightly News

Although recent news that MSNBC is ready to hire Al Sharpton has continued the trend of no black journalists in prime time, we should see this as an opportunity rather than a thinly veiled slight. It’s no secret that cable news networks’ primary audience is not black people so why would we expect them to pander to our interests? We have the resources to create our own wide reaching news. Now is as good a time as ever to carve out our place in the market.

The potential hiring Al Sharpton for MSNBC’s weekday 6 pm slot represents the larger theme of infotainment throughout cable news. All three major stations, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News represent center to extreme right flavors of the same news, catered to the same socioeconomic audiences. As news has become less valued in our society, they have chose to hire based on celebrity rather than journalist credentials. Everyone from Mike Huckabee to Piers Morgan (who is actually a journalist but probably wouldn’t be on CNN if it weren’t for his fame as a winner of Celebrity Apprentice and judge on popular TV talent shows) to Al Sharpton follows the pattern.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see Al Sharpton get a show even if I disagree with his tactics for advocacy from time to time. I respect his work and look forward to him giving a voice to black people on the infotainment airwaves.

However, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is correct in crying foul over no black journalists serving as anchors or hosts in prime time. With the trend towards hiring personalities rather than journalists, it doesn’t seem like this will be resolved any time soon.

Instead of asking for change from news organizations that don’t prioritize their black consumers, we should step in and serve ourselves. We have organs like the NABJ, the NAACP, Johnson Publishing Company as well as numerous national news organizations like The Root and Our News Now. To say we don’t have the resources to compete with national news conglomerates only makes sense as long as we’re not willing to work together. If there was ever a worthy area to apply the gang mentality then this is it.

It’s a foregone conclusion that black culture and expression is infectious across the globe. Joining together to create an international news competitor could not just serve our own constituency but take in a number of people that couldn’t get into cable news previously. Who knows? It could even steal viewers from the old guard.

Back when I was in elementary school I remember when Black Entertainment Television (BET) used to have the nightly news and weekly panel discussions. I loved tuning into Jacque Reid and getting informed on world events every night.

Ever since Viacom bought BET and decided to give the station a makeover for a larger white audience things haven’t been the same. There’s no channel I can turn to for nightly news catering to me. Getting news that serves the black community is a matter of digging through an assortment of internet sources and occasionally coming across token stories on the TV news.

With the advent of new media and more televisions with internet capabilities, this is the time to take advantage of the shift in technology. Soon we’ll no longer need to buy TV channels to compete with corporations whose only advantage is a larger bullhorn.

Instead of waiting for them to figure out how to monopolize the next wave, let’s hit them before they see it coming. The lane is open. The people are waiting to be served. All we need is people brave enough to stop playing the game with these gatekeeper news organizations. After all, we aren’t winning.

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