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From an intensive week of broadcasting focusing on Milwaukee's inner core city within a city w A.J. the University of Wisconsin presents the first in a series of programs examining the problems people and conditions of our inner cities. In the spring of 1968 a conference on mass media and urban turbulence was held wings spread the conference center of the Johnson Foundation in rasing Wisconsin. Two of the participants were singer Buchanan of Eastern Michigan University and Stanley Donner of the University of Texas. Between two of the formal sessions they met and talked with Ralph Johnson of WAGA radio. What are your reactions after a day and a half to the concern which is very obvious among the participants in this conference to the reporting of Urban Affairs. So your. Reactions are very good. I think. While speaking as a black. By virtue of the fact that we are here concerned with mass media. And
Urban Affairs our urban turbulence is a good note. I came. With anxieties and hopes that this would be the beginning of a great many more. Groups of this nature and foundations of this nature. As to concerned with this because I don't feel that there is agreement among. Blacks and Whites as to the present coverage given by the mass media. To the problems. The one thing that's been troubling me all the way through and I did try earlier today to say what I thought I think I said is Walkerton me that I didn't get the idea across perhaps but I always have a feeling and I wonder if you share this whether you do or off. The idea that people have such great confidence and communication that if one could communicate with the
other then all problems would be solved. My notion is to the contrary that really is the first step if you can't communicate then obviously you're not going to get any place. But then having communicated done it all you do is expose what you need to do about what you communicated and I and this is the fear I have about the conference that most people expect astonishing results out of it in terms of accomplishment. I don't think you're going to get that. But you've got another thing and I think the thing that you get is. The fact that we're talking about it that we are trying. And I think evident in everything that has been said here is that we're grappling with the problem. And I don't know maybe my attitude is of such a nature that as long as one sees that something is being done and I underline that something because in this area and on this question of race relations we have seen so many acts of
miscommunication or no communication. And and the fact that that hope and as far as I'm concerned as long as there is hope in race relations. We have a chat. Oh yes well I you know I I really agree with that and I guess the thing that I learned most and I really learned a very great deal which I didn't expect to do but I learned a great deal on and among the things I learned was the serious damage. That comes about by wrong communication or maybe a better way to say it is faulty communication work. They get the guy reporting in the newspaper or reporting with camera or reporting a microphone. And I'm sure he's really trying do a good job I don't mean to deny Great him a tall but what happens is that if he doesn't get the story straight. Or in the film we saw already a wrong impression is created and then the damage of this is just enormous.
Spot news to my mind I'm going to talk to this question spot NEWS on Headline News. I sometimes feel it's almost worse than no news at all. How do you feel about this. On matters of race relations. I would agree. Let's look at it this way. There are so many emotional issues involved there's so much at stake. And I think this must underline everything that Conferences of this nature should concern themselves with how much of a vested interest is there in what we're talking about. And as for as I feel that the the black looks at it. It's everything. It's it's all of the future it's all the dreams. It's relief from all of the deprivations disenfranchisement. Of. Bad dreams and the like it makes everything worthwhile to say. In a sense. Perhaps there still is a Santa Clause. And because the
racial issue is so personal. And so institutionalized in this personal mess. There the big hang ups if I can use the idiomatic term. Take place because in my opinion I feel that the Black says that mass media represent the institution. They have they represent what whites think in terms of blacks and I can't disagree with this. And you know more then General. Sense. Because if you look at for example we were talking about. Dr. Donna just mentioned a film we saw of that was done by a television station in the Detroit area. That what was on the film cannot be denied. And it was ugly. It represents I think this is a film about the Detroit the Detroit Windsor disturbance last summer
Yes the film didn't lie. I don't think it was. Edited in or of the film was tampered with and in a way that's not the implication. The fact is it was the selectivity of what was there that gave a side. It gave a slice of the pie and the pie is much larger than the slice. And as a result of what the film said I just made a comment to another one of the delegates. But I think the real hero of the film. And. I'm saying it here for the first time was that the whites who saw it. And became incensed and undoubtedly there were many. Who could have become incensed at what they saw. Didn't take up guns. And stop every black face coming in and out of Detroit. If they came through their suburbs I think those are the real heroes because it is that kind of film it. It's inflammable. In that it only
treated the very violent atrocious negative aspects. As they were there but without proper context. Well I speak or it was real passion at this point because I think this is one of the difficulties and and a very important kind of difficulty is that if you're going to report things then if you're doing it on television very example. You're under the gun on time and because you're looking for news values in the Detroit situation for example you look straight away for the fires you know the burning buildings or look for somebody injured and and you do not look where I think you should look. And that is to the meaning behind all of this. And so I argued for a long time about the business of trying to find out what is what is back of the news and this kind of thing I think is not done in the you know any of the media really the news magazines do something with this and I got to be
congratulated on what they do do. But this really isn't enough. But someway every time something is shown then there ought to be a background piece with this so that you really understand what in truth was happening. There is and event in isolation without its social implications and media can be distorted or can be interpreted by anybody that sees it even if it were properly done to begin it. I know most blacks that I have talked with and I've talked to those from a very militant to that of the very black white in the sense that they have black people thinking as whites joining together in confrontations and coming out with a kind of general agreement that it shouldn't be either. One way or the other. But there is a middle ground. That should be considered in this. What do you mean black people thinking like white. How to intrastate.
Well how honest can I be on this you can be honest because I recall about five years ago you and I were sitting in a bar and talking about the same sort of thing all day in Michigan. All right. Well what I really mean here is there's a white nigger and you know there's nothing derogatory in the in my expression here and for all blacks and whites to listen I think this is this is it. I'm talking about the nitty gritty now. When you lose your identity to think as a black Not as much as especially a militant black but pro black. Black first then the establishment not for any vested interest in whether I lose my job whether I lose favor with a few friends are the like to think that that black is not negative. Because of a profit and there are blacks who are thriving
on on on being black visibly to patronizing benevolent well-meaning whites but who are as you point out in size themselves by the stance they take. Oh yes I know I don't think they compromise anymore. I think they've just some really just themselves. They find it either morally I have no idea what label to put to it but they find it OK. All right to think this way. They have no more. Feelings of regret or remorse about it than they would have standing up singing the national anthem. Now do you think this is wrong because only a few people can do this as only a few people are going to get out of the ghetto on and be unarmed No it has nothing to do with getting out of the ghetto.
I think there are many negroes who live in the ghetto who could get out and out. I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this question. Who has a hard time. Yes it is because you know it's uncomfortable in the ghetto. Leave me. Last summer I crossed the Chrysler freeway every morning. And had to wait father street sweepers those nice big machines to sweep the exit and entrance ways to have an access ways to Mack Avenue. And I drove out Mack for four blocks and I'm in the heart of the Lower East Side black. I passed by the old Reno way Joe Lewis and and blacks in the in the area still. Old Ones talk about the days when old Joe used to practice a you know but it's rather dilapidated now and somewhat in the old repute as it was in its contracted what I mean in these days of fame with with a great Joe Louis. For starting there and I worked in a social work
house in which his first fight as an amateur took place. The rings are still there on the concrete like and I used to stand and watch it a lot less and that's getting all the more hot coming back to this getting out. You feel you with all kinds of mixed feelings and ambivalence as a black when you think of it. You would think that the human struggle. To get out. Is every man's story and it's a good motivation to get out and to struggle to get out. But then you ask yourself a question. And you're up for this. The same question. Do I get out and forget as blacks are prone to do. Do you get out and maintain your contacts and help your brothers there. Get out in the sense of getting out. And then you realize I am black and according to American society as it exists today
I am black. Whether I'm in the ghetto or out of the ghetto. I was talk to a lot of there was talk today about the about the system. You know and the whole structure of society and the system itself had to be changed. Do you think there's any long around hope for this. Yes I do. And necessary change and inevitable change. It looks as if the die is cast. If you really look at the at the matter that the black rebellion has begun. Something that I didn't say today that I'd like to say here among the black militants whom I know there is full awareness of America's struggle as a country fighting off oppression and oppressors. And this story has been learned in the ghetto and it is
related with pride. With with compassion that it's the American way. I've heard in black meetings among people who have not had the benefit of formalized education relate the story of the Boston Tea Party more. Academically than I've heard in university classrooms with more details. All the way through. From setting up the Congressional Congress the whole bit related with child like Glee. Because it tells them that their struggle can be a struggle of victory. But I think this is where the great thing. Lies is that the people I've talked with they do address themselves with great hope to what's going to happen and
if it weren't for this feeling of hope that I really don't know. From whence it springs really. But there is this sense of hope this sense that sense of belief in in America and maybe as you said springs from the very revolution. Doctor and we started with but and I think it is true that in the American tradition you really can do anything including changing the structures. But it struck me as sad this afternoon that the structure do have to be changed and I think this is going to be harder to do I think that in terms of education. This can this battle can be won I think are great there's great hope here. I'm very encouraged in the point of view of education. I'm I'm not very hopeful on the point of view of employment of jobs. The equal opportunity kind of thing it's been and we've been struggling for such a long time. You know I like to speak to the point just quickly in the series that we've been doing on the
inner core of Milwaukee as far as what has happened in Milwaukee and the areas of education. Employment police community relations and so on. I'm convinced over seven months of work that the greatest advances have been in employment. You really think so yes or no I didn't but I didn't come here. If we really talk about basic realistic advances yes let's not. Dr. Donna the token maker has done a remarkable job. That hasn't been heralded. Something happen to even the unprepared. When he got in the window he didn't have anything to do. He sat there he got bored or something. Maybe you got scared. Maybe he talked to people on the street who saw him in his enviable position. And he somehow has given
life to the hopes and aspirations. Of some guys on the street. That if he does well they can follow. Because they don't have to fight a court battle to get in. You know when we speak in terms of of black aspirations Sometimes I feel like it's almost akin to. A child looking forward to Christmas. You can dream of that bike you can dream of all those beautiful things and be good at least overtly good for a long number of months. It's only when Christmas comes and you don't get it that it's that it's a day of reckoning. It's the this is it. It's now attitude. I believe that there are sufficient
reasons from sufficient successes to continue to try. I think hope is vanishing. I experience a great deal of this myself in the last three years. I have lost more hope than perhaps I have learned in the other several years of my life and I can talk about some historical events that I will date be considerably but I won't. Well the reason I brought up this bins of jobs and why I think this is so critical is that unless there is income. Unless the Black has an equal chance at a job an equal chance and income then all the other things that follow or should follow won't follow. My own particular grievance has to do with unions as I think that the unions have really lagged in Leg day the rest of society in this regard and that a
good many of the jobs could be opened and should be opened are not open because of the strictures within unions themselves. And I don't know what's happening to the union leadership but I think this is one place that must be broken open and I think the union leader should do it themselves. I would agree that this is a hard core area. It represents a strata of American white society. That itself is struggling for the affluent position which is occupied by its brethren so to speak and therefore its fight for control and preservation of this and families will continue to resist. Apprenticeships and the like for families and friends for friends and like for like. But I don't believe that. The larger union and the political structures that cater to unions can afford not to put some pressure on
them by some central fickle pressures that are being put to larger organizations and thereby they will have to put some pressure there to take a great jump backward if you don't mind. We talked very early on and our discussion here about it about the mass media and the power they have. And the thing is on to my mind all along is that there's been great debate from the very beginning with the radio and then followed by television about about equal access to the microphone equal access to the camera. But this becoming more and more of a problem when you get to an issue says you were discussing here. How about who has access. Because it struck me struck me all along when watched that film this was done by a white news photographer honest as I'm sure they were and done by a station that I don't even know the stations I can speak up for any candidate. Probably Why don't white man and staffed. Yes and
why should I do so. So now you get and in a situation where we're both sides need very much I mean the American people need very much to have both sides given equal time so to speak in some way because of the power structure. You don't really get the view of the nigger community you know this in the right situation is one kind of thing. But if we're moving hopefully toward a better day you know the new dawn kind of thing is I really think we are. Then how do you provide the kind of access to the mass me you've got to have you're really going to have this kind of communication that when a lot. Are you asking me you know what is the lack of you know me to yours. Somebody's got to say that here. That's a lulu and let's say that's a difficult question. Let me go on record as saying it is very obvious that if
the TV screens and microphones were turned over to the black community. All the Black Voices of the black community today that there would be still a lack of communication. If they could say everything. I think what is basically involved is that we have two different desires. The black community is saying I think in essence get off my back. Give me an opportunity to have the ability to look in the mirror as I shave in the morning. As a man I. It feels. That the white community has a vested interest is opposed to this. There is much support for this feeling in terms of deprivation which the black
feels from job experiences housing just plain walking down the street. He is invisible. As an individual. And I think the Black wants to say I am not in this. I am a man in one form or another of acceptance. I should be judged solely on this basis for my merit. Of course I think this is where the more they view the great power of communication lies just have had you say this because it's this is this kind of statement This seems to me not only are enormously powerful and enormously important but the kind of thing that people of all degrees of whatever they are good going to accept. And I think that. But I think something else is happening in people's minds. I think that they did a great deal of fear. The housewives that are arming themselves in all
this kind of thing you know that it is just this is just out of plain fear isn't it. This this runs right into a. An ambivalence sort of which I think all three of us being in the broadcast media feel at the beginning of this. Little talk we're having. Stanley Donner expressed a reservation about the power. Of broadcasting. You know we're not going to solve. We aren't there and immediately almost after this saying if you can express the least great fear because of the power of this film to distort an image. And I'd like to in closing to have both of you make some comments on this and Bill and perception which we in broadcasting have on the one hand we feel gee we're not doing anything if we don't get the letters. If we don't get a response to our telecast or broadcast on the other hand sometimes we're scared to death of the power we do have. But will each of you respond to that. Yeah I'll be first. So you could have the last word.
It is my impression that mass media have in every sense of the word perpetrated black white attitudes and these black white attitudes have not been in general agreement or accordance with intelligent rational black human beings and that these blacks are well aware are of the fact that mass media though not read computer wise by the factions which certain materials might be intended for are either told about it in social gatherings or it's reinforced in home situations and social situations in job situations and educational situations and
that its potential is perhaps exaggerated by the black to the extent that it is given more credit for being more powerful than it really is. And from a lot of the research oriented reports which I have heard in the last two days this fact is supported. But the potentiality and the rather unconscious subtle slanting that are occasionally shown the other way and more predominately given in a white superior black inferior way. It does reinforce the racial attitudes and the like and as a result of this there is the danger. There's the fear.
Well I think that. Mass Communication and if you think of it as a says a single communication will not have much effect on anything. And if people suddenly thought that you could put on a campaign as I'm kind and do some immediate good on anything I seriously doubt that you would change many attitudes. But on the other hand I think the cumulative effect can be very powerful indeed. But I think the other thing is that and this is not nearly as true of newspapers as it is a broadcasting but broadcasting tends I think to to mirror its society tends to reflect back whatever is fed into it. And I would think that that in broadcasting at least it ought to be a quality of leadership shown. There ought to be a direction and it ought to be positive and there ought to be or a real assertion of moral value to make the thing more effective in trying to solve this which I consider to be the number one problem of America I would put number 18 on my list.
Singer Buchanan of Eastern Michigan University and Stanley Dunn are of the University of Texas as they talk with Ralph Johnson of WAGA radio. This conversation was recorded at Wingspread the conference center held the Johnson Foundation during meetings on the topic of mass media and urban turbulence. I arranged for radio by W A.J. the University of Wisconsin. This was the first in a series of programs on the inner core city within a city again almost speaking. This is the national educational radio network.
The inner core: City within a city
Mass Media and Urban Turbulence
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Documentary series on urban conditions for residents of the Inner Core of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This prog.: Mass Media and Urban Turbulence. Singer Buchanan of Eastern Michigan U. and Prof. Stanley Donner, U. of Texas.
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-34-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:56
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Chicago: “The inner core: City within a city; Mass Media and Urban Turbulence,” 1968-08-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “The inner core: City within a city; Mass Media and Urban Turbulence.” 1968-08-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: The inner core: City within a city; Mass Media and Urban Turbulence. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from