“When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.”
“False media, we don’t need it, do we?”
“Johnson Publishing Co, which publishes Ebony magazine, Ebony.com, Jet.com and operates the e-commerce site FashionFair.com has been struggling to keep its head above water for years now. A victim of the decline in newsstand and print ad sales coupled with its own lack of doing, the company has also been mismanaged and failed to make any major moves into digital under CEO Desiree Rogers. It has now burned through its second editor after less than a year on the job. Mitzi Miller who was promoted to Editor in Chief of the flagship Ebony magazine, last April replacing Amy DuBois Barnett, has stepped down and plans to shift his career over to TV. In a statement on his departure, Rogers even seems to take a parting shot at Miller…A company like Johnson should’ve looked to partner up with companies Like BET or TV One or Even OWN to bring some of the stories from its pages to television. But there is nothing. Its as if the company is being ran from another universe where the CEO isn’t seeing whats happening in the industry. The company continues to see itself as simply a magazine publishing company and so, for years they’ve behaved as just that. While other publishers continue to transform themselves, Johnson Publishing is frozen in time.”
While the Cathedral Media still reels from revelations that Nightly News anchor Brian Williams made up stories of combat during her time in Iraq and the pincers seem to be closing in on Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, what seems to get left out of the mix is just how badly Black news media has fared over the past few decades. The vast majority of it could hardly be called “real” journalism – at best, they are advocacy pieces, centered around “uplift” themes that aim to show Black folk in its best light – at worst, the big names in the business – from OWN to BET to NewsOne and Essence, Ebony, MadameNoire and Clutch, peddle in celebrity gossip that isn’t fit to line the proverbial dog kennel with.
Aside from the fact that the gentleman heads of the Johnson Publishing Co. have “leaned” it into the ground due largely to the kinds of incompetence that Black elite leadership is notorious for, and the general news media continues to devolve into irrelevance, a real burning question for gals like me have another to consider:
Who are telling the stories that matter in Black America? Is it the Negrosphere Media?
“Negrosphere” – that is my term for the aforewomentioned gaggle of “news” organizations of varying stripe, that in their own ways, purport to reflect the Black America that is today. Yet, one is hard pressed to think up any Black equivalents to Woodward and Bernstein, Mark Bowden or Steve Lopez, Ernie Pyle or David Simon, or George Anastasia. Sure, there are Black journos out there who are putting in standard AP copy on the regular, but what are they really saying? Are they really speaking truth to power? Or are they just getting along to go along?
Last summer, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith came close to doing just that, when she gave her take on the-then raging controversy surrounding former Baltimore running back Ray Rice and her newlywed husband, Janay. Smith dared to suggest that it could be possible that men, in this case Black, could play a role in the violence that goes on in domestic situations between couples, something that is indeed well documented. For her daring to notice actual reality, she was quickly punished.
And she’s not alone: last month, during a panel discussion on Black motherhood, The Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore dared to raise the question as to whether one of the reasons why the Black marital rate was so low might have had to do with so many Black men being so “bossy” – she immediately apologized, did her mea culpas, and just recently, had on an all-Black man panel to discuss how oh-so-hard they have it.
The message is clear: Black journos, especially if they happen to be female, simply are not to question out loud anything that might make Black folks, and especially Black men, look bad. This accounts for the utter lack of reporting about the rampant corruption, malfeasance, incompetence and in-your-face nepotism that is par for the course in any Black precinct you can think of in America. I mean, let’s keep it brutally 100 – with all that goes on in Black America along these lines, not even including the daily bloodletting, one would think that there would be at least a few Black journos out there doing Pulitzer-level work, reporting on the reality that is urban America’s gritty streets.
If anything, those who are doing the hardest-hitting reportage in Black America along these lines, just happen to be White reporters themselves – the aforewomentioned Simon, Lopez, and Anastasia, are world renown for their intense focus and coverage of Black America’s seedy criminal underground. It’s hard to think up a Black equivalent.
Why is it that there are few to no Black journos out there, giving the straight dope on the gritty, often ugly reality that is Black America today? Who are out there in the Negrosphere Media, telling the stories that are actually relevant and that actually matter, to everyday Black folk – especially Black women? Why is that we have a dime a dozen “pop culture” “reporters” but NO you know, serious ones – who are doing serious stories?
You know, like the one I did on James Robertson - you remember her, the Brotha who had to walk nearly 50 miles to work roundtrip in one of the most dangerous and deadly cities on the planet? Sure, outlets like The Root and The Grio wrote about it – but they didn’t say what I said about it, which was a coldeyed look at the forces that created the dire situation Robertson was in in the first place.
Why didn’t they do that?
Or, how about my recent book review of Masculista Jones’ “Push The Button” – there have been other reviews. But one gets the distinct impression that they were more in the realm of sycophancy and fawning adoration than, you know, actual literary criticism.
Or, what about my more recent column, where I directly responded to, and challenged, Rutgers prof. Brittney Cooper, on his arguments regarding how and why Black men were behind the eight ball in our time – why were there no such responses to be found, from within the Negrosphere itself?
Are we really to believe that they all are in lockstep agreement here, like a Black Borg Hivemind or something?
One of the reasons why I became utterly turned off from the Negrosphere Media was because of its irrelevance to my life and the lives I see being lived by ordinary, everyday Black folk. Because of the rigid adherence to ideological purity that doesn’t allow for the questioning of anything outside of “the narrative.” Because of the seeming fascination with what can only be referred to as Coonery, gossip and obsession with fame, celebrity and acting a fool. Simply put, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired of being Black and not being able to actually get serious journalism on matters that matter to me and mine from people who look like me.
So, I decided to do something about it – I became what some call a Citizen Journalist. I got myself a few laptops, a smartphone, learned about blogging and social media (after teaching myself to type and use the Internet), and got busy – first blogging, and then writing copy for outlets like The Spearhead and A Voice For Women. I cofounded a Women’s Issues blog collective. I became a frequent commenter at some of the biggest websites of their kind around.
I got involved.
And, it has begun to payoff. Now when my column appears, it is not at all unusual for hundreds of people to share it on social media like Twitter and Facebook. My email inbox is full with tips and leads on stories the Negrosphere Media isn’t interested – or maybe can’t – cover. People who know me on the streets of Philly know they have an ear who’ll listen, and who has a voice to make them heard. Both Black women and men alike, appreciate that I bring a truly alternative perspective on the issues of the day in Black American life, from a point of view that is never sought, to say nothing of featured, in the aforewomentioned Negrosphere Media.
And this is only the beginning.
I have been very fortunate to forge relationships with some of the up and comers of the New Media world – Ms. Paul Elam & Co. here at A Voice For Women, are among them. Thanks to them and others, I now have the full backing of the world’s largest women’s issues website and organization on the planet. A true media force to be reckoned with, that cannot be scared off or intimidated from chasing down news leads and following those stories no matter where it goes, and reporting on it.
Those who are my targets in my mission to tell the truth and shame the proverbial devil, are right to be afraid, for they know there is nothing they can do to me; I am not connected to their world, so to speak. And I can strike at any time.
So, as the media in general, and the Negrosphere end of it in particular, continues to take it hard on the chin, dropping to one knee on the way out to being flat on its back, the New Media – staffed by Citizen Journalists like yours truly – will rise. We are getting the facts and telling the stories that actually matter in our time.
After all, nature abhors a vacuum.
At present, I’m working on leads to stories that haven’t gotten nearly the attention they deserve. In order to keep my mission going, I need all of you to keep me plugged in.
If you’ve got a lead to a story you think I might be interested in, by all means hit me up: email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter: @ObsidianFiles. And you can reach me on Facebook under Mumia Ali.
A Voice For Women is just that. Let’s use it.