Monday, June 12, 2006

Don't Fight the Power

It aired on the first show on Sunday and became NPR’s most-emailed story by the end of the evening. Allison Keyes reported on the recent debate on black relationships that’s been generated by a three-and-a-half-minute movie clip, “Diary of Tired Black Man.”

(Normally, I would link the clip from here, but I don’t want to give the filmmaker any more attention than he’s already seeking. Which doesn’t matter now, because you’re probably going to Google it anyway. Moving on.)

Nowadays, you almost expect anything with a reference to black folk in the headline to reveal the sobering findings of some highly-credentialed statistical researchers. But Allison did something pretty darn cool with her report.

Whereas a number of other reports simply spouted numbers as an indication of the state of the black community (remember Marriage is for White People and Plight Deepens for Black Men?), Keyes explained the nuances -- the opinions, the experiences and the way people think -- of this particular topic. She reported on the findings, not of sociologists, but of people in the community. She allowed the listener to take an objective look what’s being said from all sides, giving them something to think about, something to chew on, something to thoughtfully discuss. She gave more than just bleak statistics to lament over.

Keyes used her power as a black reporter.

For one, in most cases, a black reporter has an innate sense of what affects the African American population. Often, racism isn’t the culprit responsible for the lack of reportage on minority communities. Sometimes it’s just a difference of life experience; the majority is simply unaware of the concerns that permeate other demographics.

(And before you protest that there's no way it’s not racially-motivated, think for a second… and tell me what’s currently impacting Korean-Americans. Yeah, I don’t know either.)

“This is interesting,” one NPR editor said while Keyes was working on her story. “I had no idea that this was an issue.” After Keyes finished explaining her piece, the editor was quite intrigued by the topic and wanted to know more.

The editor’s interest didn’t lie in what statistics suggested; her interest was in what people were saying. And here, the power of the black reporter again comes into play. With a deeper of knowledge of certain issues, minority journalists can go beyond the stats and into in the spectrum of thoughts and ideas. They have a sense of what’s being said and of who to talk to, able to give a story with more depth than someone who is unfamiliar with the issue at hand.

Listeners and readers in the minority community are then provided with something to which they can relate, something that may catalyze a positive change in thinking. And those in other communities have a better understanding of something they may not have known of. Keyes' piece is an example of an answer I was looking for when I posted a question to the YBJ listserve, asking for thoughts on ways black journalists could change how our community is covered. (My question, I have to point out, wasn't answered by anyone. Thanks, guys.)

Now, it’s not all about race. The power of the black reporter is the same as the power of the female reporter, the gay reporter, the Muslim reporter. Any journalist within an underrepresented group is sitting on a goldmine of stories to tell. And it’s about not about simply diversifying coverage; it’s about making sure that those stories are done proper justice.

Posted by Veronica Marché at 1:09 AM | link

Read or Post a Comment

I agree with you in general on the point that black reporters probably know more about the black community. But, there are different black "communities" ... so which one are you talking about? Is it the families in Watts who are functionally illiterate or is it the buppie making cheddar on Wall Street whose mom and dad are lawyer and doctor?

Second, what all of the mentioned stories have in common is that they are generalizations that really don't reflect individual relatioships in black, White, or any other community or group. Generalizing journalism is ALWAYS doomed to fail. Each relationship as as different as each individual involved ... best believe, personal characteristics, race and class play roles in how we - each individual - view the world.

I'll give you myself as an example. I'm an immigrant from Ukraine, whose favorite music is Nas and dead prez and who has a child by an African woman. Although I was born to two Jewish parents, what brought me and my child's mother together is our common struggle to adapt to a new country.

Posted by Anonymous Kandyd @ 7:16 PM, June 12, 2006 #

The issue is not about every single black family and how they deal with their problems in America. She was making the point that Keyes' very objective report begins to break the media pattern of lumping all black people into one community and just spitting out some stats. Overall, I don't think you should comment on this just because you were with a black woman.

Posted by Anonymous vdizzle82 @ 3:01 PM, June 13, 2006 #

Lmao @ the "just because" clause. You chose to ignore ALL of the points I was trying to make, and focused in on something YOU despise (interracial dating). Perhaps you should refrain from commenting if your whole purpose is to stifle someone trying to make constructive criticism on the subject, Ms. BlackCommentator.

Posted by Anonymous Kandyd @ 5:06 PM, June 13, 2006 #

"With a deeper of knowledge of certain issues, minority journalists can go beyond the stats and into in the spectrum of thoughts and ideas. They have a sense of what’s being said and of who to talk to, able to give a story with more depth than someone who is unfamiliar with the issue at hand."

Amen to that.

The answer to your question is simple to do as Allison appears to have done. The answer is to find an issue which is important to discuss and to discuss it in a way which makes it relevant to a specific group, but also to a broad cross-section of people. Relavence makes things more compelling in my opinion, and also key is good old-fashioned storytelling. The news changes and so too should we change how we tell stories, it's called innovation, being creative, shit, to be honest if we get bored so do readers, listeners, and viewers.

Posted by Anonymous CNEL @ 5:12 PM, June 17, 2006 #

the point is that every black journalist does not have the same experience so yes, they can talk to the black community. there are not disjointed communities. its a COMMUNITY. singular. there are different facets.

some of us grew up in urban, suburban or rural areas. upper class, middle class, "lower" class. projects, whatever. we have to take our experiences, and what we know, and the things we are privvy to if for no other reason than the color of our skins, and bring it to the attention of America. b/c ultimately, the things that affect us will effect others.

one of the visiting professionals when i was at hampton spoke of how she was often the only black and sometimes only woman in boardrooms. once she was looking at a magazine and saw no black faces. she said, do you want black people to read this? they said yes. she said, well there isn't a single black face in the entire thing. b/c they were all white, and all male, they hadn't noticed. it doesn't directly impact their lives so its hard for them to see. that's why we're a necessity.

Posted by Blogger jameil1922 @ 6:43 AM, June 19, 2006 #

"there are not disjointed communities. its a COMMUNITY. singular. there are different facets."

If only this was true.

Posted by Anonymous Kandyd @ 8:56 PM, June 19, 2006 #

we may not be connected, but we are. bound by the slave ships our ancestors were brought over on. and despite some of us wanting to be thought of as separate and different, to most every black person they see on tv is further representation of black people. so that journalists and other black people with education become seen as exceptions and not the rule. the drug dealers, murderers, rapists, robbers, burglars, rappers, athletes are seen as "how black people are." so no, not a single community in the conventional sense, but in the sense that we cannot escape each other and a sense of commitment no matter how hard we try. not because some (see clarence thomas don't want to) but because the rest of the COMMUNITY won't let us. that's why black republicans will never get a break. i don't know how else to explain this to you as an immigrant and a non-black. by reason of the color of my skin i am always connected to other black people. always. listen a little harder to nas and dead prez. perhaps they can make it clearer.

Posted by Blogger jameil1922 @ 10:12 AM, June 21, 2006 #

... and the blog poetry continues ...

Posted by Anonymous Kandyd @ 12:11 PM, June 21, 2006 #

I didn't mean to be facetious in the post above, so I wanted to elaborate a bit (and I was trying to e-mail this to you privately, Jameil, but couldn't find your e-mail addy).

It's the snarky comments like "listen a little harder ..." and "perhaps you shouldn't comment ..." really make me think ... what's behind the reason people post them (besides blatant "stay the fuck away, cuz you're not black" connotation I'm beginning to perceive.)

Perhaps it is your HBCU education and locale that got you thinking the way you do -- and your upbringing, etc. And that's cool.

But the problem I have is with extremism -- not just black nationalism that you and some other folks on YBJ seem to have a developed ... but extremism in other races and ethnicities. I'd give you an example of my own, but this is not the time and venue for that.

The reason why I'm commenting on this blog and interested in the racial dimensions of journalism in the first place is because I have a vested interest. I'd elaborate on that ... but my speech is chilled for reasons I've already stated at the beginning.

Posted by Anonymous Kandyd @ 12:53 PM, June 21, 2006 #
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