Sunday, June 01, 2008

Black bloggers fight to make voices heard

SFGate via Instapundit:

With its power-to-the-individual approach, the new media world promises anyone with a laptop the possibility of a publishing empire. But, as some black bloggers are finding out, the new media world is a lot like the old one: racially segregated, with many prominent black voices still fighting to be heard.

Some bloggers felt insulted this month when the Democratic National Committee selected 55 state-oriented blogs to cover its convention in Denver; critics said few featured African American voices. The DNC said race wasn't considered in its selection from 400 applicants. Officials were more interested in the sites' audience size and how much chatter about local issues appeared on them. The DNC answered critics Thursday by adding several sites led by African Americans to its general blogger pool.

But some critics say the DNC situation is indicative of a larger media divide. It's a division in which stories like the racially motivated beating in Jena, La., last year lingered for months on black blogs and talk radio before the mainstream press picked up the issue.

That coverage gap is partly what inspired Gina McCauley to help organize the first Blogging While Brown conference this summer in Atlanta. The most popular online community conferences - like the Netroots Nation confab that grew out of the Daily Kos blog - tend to be predominantly white gatherings.

"The progressive blogosphere is segregated," said McCauley, whose What About Our Daughters blog was accepted to the DNC's blogger pool. Essence magazine named McCauley one of its 25 most influential people last year alongside Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and filmmaker Tyler Perry. "Black bloggers link to other black bloggers, and progressive white bloggers link to other white progressive bloggers," she said.

Here's more about the organizing aspects of black blogs. It seemed that the ones I know of were really organized about talking about Jena. Indeed they particularly got active:

Some African Americans see an easier chance to have their voices heard in the online world, and black voices there are growing not only in number but in influence. Last September, Wayne Hicks' Electronic Village blog ranked 75 black blogs on his monthly list; now he charts more than 1,250.

Hicks, who heads a nonprofit foundation, also is a member of AfroSpear, a collective of 140 blogs that focus on the black experience and gather momentum behind social justice issues like the racially charged incident involving a beating in Jena, La. Then there's San Francisco's, which envisions itself as the "black MoveOn." It has grown from 100,000 members to 417,000 over the past year, many of whom joined the organization after it publicized the Jena incident and pressured the Congressional Black Caucus to oppose Fox News' plans to host a presidential debate.

"I'd say that the new black voices are much more organic than those of the past. They don't need to emanate from the pulpit in order to be heard, or to inform, or to galvanize people from across the nation," said Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of the National Council of Negro Women's Research, Public Policy and Information Center. "These voices epitomize the next evolution of black political activism."

There's a difference in the types of stories that black and mainstream media cover, McCauley said. While some in the mainstream might analyze the influence of large media corporations on the Internet, black bloggers might focus on shows produced by Viacom-owned TV networks like VH1's "Flavor of Love" and question the cartoonish depiction of African Americans.

And when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned Robert F. Kennedy's June 1968 assassination while defending her decision to continue her presidential campaign, "a lot of the mainstream media covered it as a statement unto itself," said Hicks. "But in the black community it was part of a pattern." He, like others, noted that Clinton made her statement four days after the Roswell (Ga.) Beacon put a photo of Obama on its front page with the crosshairs of a rifle scope over him, and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made a joke about somebody aiming a gun at Obama during a speech to the National Rifle Association.

"The mainstream media had a reason to look at black voices in the media because of the Obama campaign," Hicks said. "But these voices have always been out there."

Go read the whole thing. There's even a brief mention of the state of black media. Black newspapers aren't doing so well. Plus it would be nice if blacks can own more than 0.6% of all TV stations in the nation. Although to be sure owning a TV station is difficult. BTW, we do own 3% of radio stations one of which is surely WVON-AM in Chicago.

1 comment:

Villager said...

We have come a long way ... but, we still have a long way to go! I'm glad you shared this article with your blog readers...

peace, Villager (aka Wayne Hicks)

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