Black Perspectives; Blacks in Media: Perceptions, Pressures and Status. Part 1
Good evening welcome to blackness Spectrum's. I have about what he term focusing on black if his information and lifestyles in the communities of Boston in a cell sure I'm your host Charles Desmond. On tonight's edition of black perspectives I'll address the issue of blacks in the media perceptions pressures and status. This is the first of a two part series with columnist Robert Jordan from the Boston Globe and Paul Di who's the director of the Center for communications media at the University of Massachusetts Boston. My guest everyone knows that information is power as we talked before about in that it's very rare that you see black people in positions where they make decisions and influence the mechanisms by which we. Transmit information in this instance and the show would like to talk about this from a variety of different perspectives and I'd like to first of all welcome both of you to be here and to join us in this discussion. Thanks a lot. Let me start off by saying that communications has been an area where blacks have had a lot of trouble getting entree into positions where they can be writers
for The Globe as you are doing are in control of television stations or other types of electronic media where information can be disseminated to people. These changes have come about due to a lot of different factors and due to the fact that people have gotten a lot of training that they haven't gotten before. But let me ask a little bit about how you got into doing what you're doing. But I was in high school I thought at one point I would be sort of a storyteller a book author whatever. But when I got to college. I majored in English we took one course in journalism but really did it for me I think was the fact that my co-op job in northeastern was at the Boston Globe and that's when I really got the desire to be into my blood so to speak and the four years I worked there really taught me a lot about the business just observing running errands talking to the report is talking to the editors. So I think that upon my graduation I knew
what I wanted to be. Luckily there was an editor at The Globe who knew an editor at The New Way to register who was looking for a report a black report in particular there was a lot of stealing from the black community down there that you know you have no way to criticize us when you don't have a black person on your staff. So they were looking for one and I just happen to be available at the time so that's how I sowed my career as a reporter down at the New Haven Register. And four years later I came back to be a reporter for The Boston Globe. And my years at the globe have included a variety of positions including a system much awarded to city hall and now I write a column once a week and I have a column over the years some on the Metro section as I do now and some of the op ed page. So I think I was sort of realizing what I really wanted to do in life is to be the poet and try to communicate a lot of the things that we probably would not be able to communicate otherwise you know to the community in general and to people in particular. Let me ask you Paul you're doing more of the not necessarily printed word but the
electronic media that is television cable telecommunications the new technologies as they impact on the communication process. How did you get us off to appear to be in this and what's the requisite background that led you into the field. Well I've got a real I sort of backed into. My current involvement with telecommunications. I mean about 10 years ago 10 or 12 years ago I was an educator teaching at university level in New York and had about 10 15 years of experience in community development work and teaching courses on public policy. I used to always tell my students that timely reliable access to information was really the key to particularly trying to help disadvantaged
populations. Get greater involvement in terms of public policy decision making etc.. So I realized at that point that I really need to know a little more about media. I got my start working with equipment actually through library school. I was at Columbia University taking courses in library science and media production. It went from there to trying to play with the technology went to the Virgin Islands and began to develop what was known as the Caribbean Center for understanding media. My wife and I got our hands on experience there and began to really continue to evolve with that new technologies aspect. I got involved as a result of working in Boston with cable television and promoting the development of Boston's institutional network which was a dedicated channel trying to promote the use of
public institutional use of a cable systems. Well I think that most of us know that. For blacks in particular there have been historic barriers for the participation of blacks in access to the media and as writers are as people who have some say over what happens with these technologies that we used to transmit information so I think that it's important that the two of you are doing the type of work they're doing. But the fact that you're doing that has implications I think for the black community and I'd like to sort of talk a little bit about from your own perspectives what role do you see the media all of these media playing in the affairs of black people in the city of Boston. You know the media plays a tremendous role in influencing the thinking process. In fact even sometimes the future of our people in this nation as well as in the state and city. As you know you mentioned Barry is being vocal and there have been some pollen and I
but there are many barriers still unbroken and we sometimes and we say we we can talk about the black community and black people and black people in the media see the problems they have because we talk about decision making and a lot of blacks still are not involved in many of the decision making that really influenced exactly what he voters write sometimes what appears on the front page what appears in the middle of what appears on television. So we're still being affected probably by the lack of understanding what's going on in the black community sometimes it's perceived follows what's going on when we really know probably a lot better than the people who make those decisions as to how the other viewers should see the black community particularly. So we do our little part as much as possible to try to get a true perspective and of course we have other responsibilities too as well we have to sometimes a community at large as well as you know particularly the black community. So we got involved in urban issues political issues social issues economic issues that a kind of class of racial and social and class lines.
But we also where the fact that sometimes the news media can reflect the biases that we are supposed to be fighting at the same time. Now we can see that and sometimes in the newspapers on television where perhaps for example. White woman from the suburbs who was raped by a black male get paid one for days going to the first black woman might get a mention at the most so we know we still have those biases to fight. We also have a situation where this institutional you know of a system in a sense that people are aware of which I think is a good thing on the part of the media. But the problems are not been solved. Now the job is to solve the problems of trying to get people interested in making all those you know all the areas where we can get to perception of what's going on and all possibly of the country as well. Also beyond I think the kind of content issues and the image issues is really the question of access and ownership. The black community
for a long time has had a very difficult. Opportunity or lack of opportunity to really get access to the media. One of the things that the Boston Black Media Coalition which is an organization that has been formed subsequent to the demise of the Boston Community Media Council is to try and begin to work with community based institutions both public institutions nonprofit agencies to try and help them to be able to 1 Identify the black media professionals that we have in our community and to allow them to be able to network with those people so that they have sort of a window if you will for being able to identify the kinds of issues that are germane to the black community or having both a positive and a negative impact on the black community. The other is to really begin to try and promote
the development as Bob says of the black media professional so that we encourage representation at all levels management in particular. We have a fairly strong representation in terms of at the production level and technicians. That is in the electronic media and I'm talking comparatively in terms of a national sort of representation Boston has a pretty. Solid black media professional community both on the print and on the electronic media site would like to see it grow. It needs to. However we lack representation at the management level. And as Bob has indicated that's where decision making is made on a daily basis in terms of content story line editorial impact as well as ultimately being able to influence policy development. I am my wife and I are co-owners of a television station in a small television
station in the Virgin Islands. Very very few blacks have control of the means of production if you will in major metropolitan areas where the larger concentrations of black people tend to aggregate. Let me in that same vein say that when we look at the mediocre and when we were talking about last week the question of black identity. That is how do people see themselves in as a result of how they see themselves how does that influence what they do how they act how they present themselves in different situations. And it seems as though to me that and I know that both of you will concur that the absence of a strong presence of black people in the media and that is that in what's written that the tone in which is written the subjects that are covered what have you who is on television who stars in what types of shows or does not show what the role that they play. All influence the dynamics of the black community and the perceptions of the
white community to the black community black community to itself. I'd like to pursue this particular topic with you because I think this is a type of analysis here that we need to spend some time talking with you both about but before doing that I'd like to take a brief break here at ninety one point nine. We'll be back shortly. Get a second. I'm Carl Anderson. The best news of the 80s is that scientific knowledge about cancer is growing fast. We now know that some cancers can be prevented. Why not increase the joy you bring to your family and friends by doing all you can to lower your chances of getting cancer. Learn how. Good news it's just a call away. Call the Cancer Information Service at 1. 800 cancer for free good news
booklet that's toll free 1 800. 4 cancer. Good news is just a phone call away. We're back for a brief intermission on WSB ninety one point nine FM. This is Charles Desmond your host from black perspectives. Tonight we're discussing blacks in the media perceptions Prussians and status with my guest Robert Jordan a columnist with The Boston Globe. And Paul DIA director of the UMass Boston Center for communications media. Before we went into our break we were talking about the role definitions that come through in the media and how how we present ourselves in the media how that influences our perceptions of ourselves in the communities that we put about. You have pressures on you sitting in a seat that you sit in. Do you represent black people. Are you an employee of the globe who does what they tell them to do. Do you write what you think you need to write or do you write sort of what you think you need to write. You're absolutely right on all counts.
There's a lot of pressure coming from the black community and also members of the white community. I've been accused of being a racist by the whites and I've been accused of sometimes not doing quite enough for the black community and the globe itself. The saying is that you know your responsibility to report it. So I think the best way to answer that question is to say that first of all we are black. We should make sure that people understand that we are living in a world that differential between black and white innovators made that clear issue. So that's a first and second thing is we are role models whether we like it or not we have all models and we do have obligations to the black community to show that we can do the job and we can make it easier for other people to come into if we present ourselves in a way that will say hey I want to be you know in that job too because if we can do it I know I can do it. And at the same time being a little model we can hold responsibility to our employer as well as to the community. We can we do the job that's asked of us and that is to write the kind of stories that are accurate. I
just always I get a perspective as much as possible. They sure don't make too many errors. Don't be irresponsible it is in any ways you can help it. And that way you can all go along in terms of being a role model that will please both the community and the employer and at the same time we know that in the future they will look back on our record and say you know we know what they did a good job a bad job. But the most important is to show that we are here for reasons more than just to try to make a living more than trying to you know grab a salad each week which is legitimate which is important. We have to eat but we also have an obligation to the community to show them that we can do the job. I think in terms of the electronic media in recent years and this is specifically with network television we've been getting increasing the more visibility you see more blacks in leading roles as opposed to support roles or stereotypical sort of service service roles. This I think really is
attributed to the fact that one there is a black viewing audience out there that has begun to be responsive. There are organizations nationally like the National Black Media Coalition that are making local affiliates much more aware of the presence of black audiences. I think the on the part of advertisers National Advertisers recognizing the kind of hard statistic that black people are consumers and buy their products so that there's a need for visibility. But the pressure needs to continue to be sustained. Also I think the ratings really indicate the viability of both not only black viewing audience is but white viewing audiences with subjects that relate to black issues. The Jeffersons was a high rating show for many years and of course the number one show in the country which is Bill Cosby the
Kaspi show dealing with generic issues family issues. That I think will really catapult us much much further. But I but I think there's there's still a need to continue to to to write on the part of the black viewing audiences and white viewing audience as one letter in the electronic media represents almost 10000 viewers. You know for us to be able to air our interests our tastes to try and protect against negative stereotypical images on television. We still have to do that because the institutional racism is there the kind of market conservatism that you have is still still there. So it's a real uphill battle but I really support what Bob has to say it's both on an individual responsibility as well as. So out of an ethnic war.
A community kind of responsibility. It's clear that we have not transcended this whole question of race in America. It is very real and very much a part of everything we do every day. And so I think I agree with you completely that you have a responsibility to be sensitive to that fact and as a as a as a writer in your particular case you have the right is and by nature have a sensitivity to the nuances of our society. What I think is true and I think it's important too that we are able to present a point of view that otherwise would not be presented because of who we are because of who we know because we do understand some of the problems going on in the community. So I think we play an important role. I think newspapers begin to recognize that particularly in the late 60s. But we still haven't progressed to a stage where we say there are enough blacks in the business to change the way we buy things in terms of. The entire newspaper the entire news media we know we have made some gains but the gains have been kind of diminished in the past five or six years. There's not there's
not been any appreciable gang and the number of reported a minor lack of elitism managers. So there's sort of a slowdown classes there and I think that's something that we have to be concerned about because you know we have entered a sort of a surge a period in America I think which you know not only one of Reagan had a lot to do with but the people who voted for you know who wanted this perception to this reality to take place. So I think would really have to be concerned about which direction is the newsmedia going to go and to make sure that we don't get lost in the shuffle so to speak. So I think we have a responsibility to make sure that we are feeling represented which is still not the case. And at the same time we do get a true perspective out there to the leaders and to the viewers. I think it's also important to note the fact that within the electronic media the evolution of narrow cast technologies. And by that I mean cable in particular but also the availability of sort of like the the the home video market.
Consumers being able to to produce their own programming or to shape the kinds of images that they want has taken in the electronic media into a mold where now the there is programming that is geared toward specific constituencies if you will or or if you're taking it from the market side particular market niches based upon socio economic status in the society etc. This has has a tremendous influence also in terms of the diversification and the increased representation the need for record being on the part of the owners of the means of production that is video production electronic production to begin to target to different constituencies. So even a program like black expressions you know is a way of beginning to target to constituencies that are out there and are responsive both to institutional
responsibility or corporate responsibility. I think that that that's a very good point and maybe one that we can use to to make a little transition here. When we look at the media in Boston and we say in your instance you know we have to look at the banner which is a primarily oriented towards the black community. But there is there are a lot of people doing what you're doing. Black people who are who are writing for the bar for the Herald I don't know I don't know who is writing for The Herald I may probably be one like read it maybe Matrena might be worn out but if she's not on full staff. Yeah but I mean how how do you in fact I mean yes there's initiative on the behalf of someone such as yourself to come forward and make the case to be a writer. But how do you how does the responsibility of the owners of a paper like the Herald. What kinds of prodding do they need in order to understand one that there that there is important news
that takes place in the black community into that white people want to be represented in that newspaper. What kinds of dynamics take place in our city that make things like that happen. I think even Paul's organization probably can respond to that also. The fact is there has to be pressure put on you know any newspaper or any industry involved with the media to get more blacks I mean they should be more version of Boston Globe to get more blacks even though we have you know not a bad reputation compared to a lot of other newspapers. We still have a long way to go. I think we need more managers were editors more decision making people way up there. I think every newspaper needs that but I think the pressure really works when it comes from the community and I think a responsible kind of pressure. But I remember when you talk about back in the 60s you value men of power when age where Brown would not allow a white person to interview on my show only a black person and I think I would just add in the sense of one part of the hiring process of getting more blacks on television and more blacks and we put oil job and we also found more blacks on the presidential campaign trail simply because of Jesse Jackson's run I mean mostly blacks on
the trail know what I had to cover a person not even had. A call to cover presidential campaign. This is Jesse Jackson was involved. So we need those kind of breakthroughs. And there was a subtle pressures but we need the more obvious places to make it clear that we're here to be heard and we're here to get to a story. I would agree again with Bob I think it's the squeaky wheel gets the grease and that's the way it has always been I mean organizations like the Boston Black Media Coalition. Be able to try and not only take an advocacy position working with management all of the various stations radio stations television stations the newspapers but also creating firms opportunities for people to to want to network with media professionals to be able to understand the machinations of how media really operates how does one get it how do you
produce a press conference how does one get a press release really seen being able to provide conference opportunities so that they're there. There are generations of young people who can aspire and understand what is required for a particular Korea lattice to latter in terms of media. The diversity that's there print electronic Those are sort of macro distinctions if you will within within the field but there are real refined specialties like satellite teleconferencing. It's a new field. Being able to get involved with computer graphics and how that you know impacts on the media. So I think there is a real need for from allies training programs for informal seminars to provide exposure opportunities for people and also
to continue with the with the advocacy and the last thing I think that's that's that is really needed is institutional responsibility. The fact that institutions of higher education that can provide a leadership role in creating opportunity for individuals and or groups to be able to get that kind of exposure is greatly needed. I don't know that we would be able to rely on corporate leadership. But if we can without the advocacy I think that you know from the added pressure because the you know the marketplace has its own demands but certainly those public service agencies colleges and universities. Should be taking more of a strong leadership role in supporting service access to media for various constituencies. I just dovetail on the two and Paul's absolutely right is to say that it's got to be shown that it's good business you know to bring in more blacks just
like we're trying to make it as unprofitable as possible for anyone to promote continued you know racist attitudes of racism whether it's on the government bodies so I've got to basically just you know it's just no longer really profitable. So I wasn't as much as we can make racism unprofitable. We can show somehow that having no blacks is a good business sense venture. I think that's where we have to go in that direction. Well let me say that this has been a very provocative discussion I'm looking forward to continuing and next week we'll be able to look at this question I believe of institutional responsibility I think it is a very critical issue and it may very well point the direction in which we'll be heading in the question of media as it relates to the black community. Let me tell our listening audience that you have been listening to black perspectives I want to thank my guest again Robert Jordan columnist with The Boston Globe and Paul dir director of Center for communications media at the University of Massachusetts Boston and also president of the Boston Black Media Coalition technical assistance but tonight's program was provided by Tonya one and the producer of the show is Gary
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- Part one of a two-part series on the perceptions, pressures, and status of black people working in the media with guests Robert Jordan, Boston Globe columnist; and Paul Deare, director of UMass/Boston's Center for Communications Media and president of the Boston Black Media Coalition. Topics discussed include Jordan's and Deare's paths to their respective careers, the media's impact on black affairs in Boston, challenges to black access to, and ownership of, media outlets, the pressure on black journalists to represent both the black community and their employers' wishes in their choice of stories, the potential benefits to the black community of new media "narrowcasting" technologies such as cable television, home video, and satellite television; the need for training programs to expose black people to media technology, and institutional responsibility required to diversify the media profession.
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- MLA: “Black Perspectives; Blacks in Media: Perceptions, Pressures and Status. Part 1.” 1985-10-23. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-7312jtt6>.
- APA: Black Perspectives; Blacks in Media: Perceptions, Pressures and Status. Part 1. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-345-7312jtt6