In Black America; Lerone Bennett Jr. and Dennis Schatzman
So February is Black History Month in this country. It's the time of year we reflect on the achievements of Black Americans. I'm John Hanson. Join me this week on in Black America. The first task of Black people everywhere is to decide that no matter what happens, we are not going back. LaRome, Bennett, Jr. and Denon Shatsman this week on in Black America. This is in Black America. Reflections of the Black experience in American society.
It was very difficult. I like to say I grew up in the South, in Mississippi, in the 30s and 40s. And I worked on Black newspapers in Mississippi, in Jackson, Mississippi. In the 40s, I've worked on Black newspapers since that time. I say that Black newspapers in the amount of speaking save my life. Because in the 30s and 40s, there was very little material on Black people
available anywhere, except in the big, black, weekly newspapers, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender. And as a little boy in Mississippi, I used to wait every week for these papers to come out to find out what was happening in the world. To find out what was happening in Joe Lewis, to find out what the Black football teams were doing at Black colleges. It was just a whole world to me that made it possible for me to look beyond the prisons of Mississippi at that time. Ron Bennett, Jr., Journalist, Historian, and Senior Editor of Ebony Magazine. February is Black History Month in this country. It's the time of year we reflect on the achievements of Black Americans. Thanks to Carder G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, who had the foresight and wisdom in February of 1929, to inaugurate Negro History Week, which later developed into Black History Month. Dr. Woodson was a specialist in our
areas of Black History, but was especially interested in the history of Black participation in the economic and social development of this country. I'm John Hansen, this week Dennis Schatzman, the first executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists and Laurent Bennett, Jr., Senior Editor of Ebony Magazine in Black America. The first task of Black people everywhere is to decide that no matter what happens, we are not going back. We've got to say with John F. Kennedy that we are prepared to pay any price, pay any price, bear any burden, go anywhere, do anything, oppose any fault, support any friend, to secure the gains of the 1960s.
Laurent Bennett, Jr. is a noted author, journalist, and senior editor of Ebony Magazine. He began his journalism career with the Atlanta Daily World after graduating from Morehouse College in 1949. In 1952, he was promoted to City Editor. He held that position until he joined Jet Magazine as an Associate Editor in 1953. In 1954, he transferred to Ebony Magazine, and in 1958, he was promoted to Senior Editor of the Publication, the position he holds today. Laurent Bennett, Jr., has written many articles on the Black Experience for Ebony. He has authored a number of books, including, Before the May Fawar, a History of Black America, Art Matter of Man, a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Pioneers of Process, just to name a few. Being that this is Black History Month, there was no better time to speak with a man who has devoted his entire professional career to chronicling the Black Experience
in America. I started to become a journalist because I wanted to tell the story of Black people in America, and because I wanted to understand what was happening to Black people in America. And I think it's been a great privilege to me to investigate matters in America and in Black America, and to relate what's happening to Black people to the destiny of the United States of America. A long time ago, when I was a little boy in Mississippi, my grandmama used to tell me, she used to say, son, you can't beat a horse with no horse. And by that, she meant that you can't beat a fact with no fact. By that, she meant that you can't beat an institution with no institution. By that, she meant that you can't beat organized power with no organized power. I'm glad to see Black journalists here organized as Black journalists.
Of course, you can't beat organized hypocrisy without organized truth telling. You can't beat organized white media without organized black media. It's very important, I think, for all blacks and all Americans to understand and support the witness you're making here today, but we are threatened in this country today as we have never been threatened before. We're threatened on the one hand by a mean-spirited resurgence of planism, Nixonism and Reaganism. And we're threatened on the other hand by a great black depression, which has already reached levels in some black communities, surpassing the level of the white depression of the thirties. I was reading in the newspaper the other day that if economic indicators continue, that we will soon be in another major recession. I got news for the press of America, a recession would be a major improvement in black America.
We are in the midst of a major black depression. We have been in the middle of a major black depression for the last seven, eight, and nine years. And what this means, brothers and sisters and friends, is that we're faced today with a crisis of monumental and unparalleled proportions. We are at a crossroads of culture and being in this country. The next twenty years are going to be the most crucial in the history of this country. The next twenty years are going to determine whether the slaves died in vain and whether that has scented struggle and dreamed in vain. I'm assuming here that you, brilliant young journalist, know that we had civil rights laws a hundred years ago that were stronger than the civil rights laws we have today. I'm assuming that you know that a hundred years ago, black legislatures were in the majority in the South Carolina legislature and that there was a black governor in the
state of Louisiana. You intellectuals, I assume that you all know this. I assume that you know we've been through this before. In 1881, as in 1981, there was a neo-conservative proto-fascist revolt against taxes in this country. And you know what they were saying in 1881? They were saying in 1881 the same thing they're saying in 1981. They were saying that that taxes were being used to support black school children and lazy black welfare recipients. Was it difficult in finding the material you need to write a particular black history books and articles if you have written for Ebony? It's not difficult. There's a great deal of material out there. For more than a hundred years, black historians Carter Woodson, W.B. Du Bois, Benjamin Qualls, John Hope Franklin, for more than a hundred years, black historians have been investigating this material.
We still have just tapped the surface of the vast amount of historical data on black people in this country. In old libraries, in old newspaper clips, in old boxes, in old letters, and all kinds of stuff, all manners of materials are available. And I don't find it that difficult, the difficult problem is to get the time to develop the material and to write it. But the material is out there and we need many more young journalists, young historians, young social analysts to develop this material and to make it available to black people and to all the people of America. What was it like being a black journalist in the 50s and 60s, particularly covering the civil rights movement from a black perspective?
It was very difficult. I like to say I grew up in the solve, in Mississippi, in the 30s and 40s. And I worked on black newspapers in Mississippi, in Jackson, Mississippi. In the 40s, I've worked on black newspapers since that time. I say that black newspapers, in the amount of speaking, save my life, because in the 30s and 40s, there were very little material on black people available anywhere, except in the big, black, weekly newspapers there, Pittsburgh Courier of the Chicago Defender. And as a little boy in Mississippi, I used to wait every week for these papers to come out. To find out what was happening in the world, to find out what was happening in Joe Lewis, to find out what the black football teams were doing at black colleges. It was just a whole world to me that made it possible for me to look beyond the prisons
of Mississippi at that time. It's always been difficult and exhilarating to be a black journalist in America for many decades, of course, black journalists could not work on white newspapers, white newspapers refused to employ black journalists. For many decades in this country, white newspapers, white media did not print anything on black people, except crime news. For many decades in this country, you could not find a picture of a black in a white newspaper. It's changed, to some extent today, but it's not changed enough. Since the Courier of the Commission report, a number of black journalists have been hired on black, on white newspapers. But not enough.
And with exception, of course, above, manate out in Oakland, black journalists are not in the management and production ends of white newspaper and white media. We've got to change that more. And more than that, we've got to make it possible for white media to reflect all the experiences of all the people within their geographical areas. This is not a white country. It has never been a white country. It's a black, brown, red, yellow, white country, and media in this country ought to reflect that whole spectrum. Is it particularly gratifying to work for black publisher? I am not a black publisher, of course. I've been fortunate in my life to work all of my life, fought black newspapers and black magazines. I'm now in the staff of Ebony. And it's very exciting to me to work for a black publication. And I encourage as many young black journalists as possible to think in terms of working for
the black press, of working for black radio, of working for black newspapers and black magazines, because despite the fact that more journalists are being hired by white newspapers, the black press is still a permanent and critical foundation to the black American. We need young black journalists, and it's very exciting to work for the black press. As the role of the black journalists change here in the 80s, new perspective, new foresight. I frankly don't think the role of the black journalists has changed since the founding of Freedom's Journal. It's our task to tell America what's happening to black people, to tell black people what's happening to them, to provide models for black youth, to urge black people to mobilize and organize and to struggle for freedom in this country. That was the mission of the black press and the black journalists more than a hundred
years ago. It's still our mission in this country. Give me two, three minutes to say just in conclusion some things about what we've got to do for ourselves, by ourselves. The first task under this heading is to task of integration in the black community. First task. We've got to integrate the black so-called lower class and the black middle class. We've got to integrate black journalists and black lawyers. We've got to integrate the black elks and the black masons and black bankers and black accountants. The first task we face today is integration in the black community. You know, if we could ever get the black journalists and the black lawyers and the black doctors and the black engineers and the black elks and the black baptists and the black Muslims
and the black Catholics, if we could ever get all black people together, we could end this thing in a week or two. The second task, flowing out of that in-house task, it's a task of dealing with ourselves by redefining our roles within the context of the liberation of black people and the central insights of the black press tradition. I hear brothers and sisters saying, I'm a black journalist on a white newspaper. I hear brothers and sisters saying, I'm a black journalist on a black newspaper. I hear brothers saying that I work downtown and I work, I don't care where you work. You are responsible where you work for black people. It means that I'm nothing special and that you are nothing special and that our degrees and citations and plaques and books don't entitle us to special treatment or special merit.
Why is particularly the national association of black journalists important? It's very important for black people to maintain contact with one another as they move out into these different structures in America. We need to talk to one another, we need to communicate with one another, we need to support one another, we need to make information available to one another so that we know how to protect ourselves and to do what's necessary to advance the cause of black people and all the people of this country. The problem is none other for black journalists but for black management people, for black economists, for black engineers, for black professionals as they move into white structures. They move into very dangerous situations personally and collectively, they can lose themselves
first of all as individuals and they can blow the whole black thing if they're not very careful so they need to come together at least once a year to remind themselves of what they're about, to get the support they need, to get the strength they need, to go back to struggle for another year and structures which are sometimes hostile to them personally and hostile to black people generally. So we need to make two or three different points here, one black people have a responsibility in a duty to work anywhere in America opens available. We need to involve ourselves at every level in the work of the society. But we must demand, I think, the same right that Jews have demanded, that Irish people have demanded, we must demand the right to maintain our identity as people who come from
a different, from a particular and a very important cultural part of this country. So we need to work as blacks and as Americans and we need support structures that make it possible for us to get the energy and the wisdom we need to continue to work in environments under those conditions. Noted author and journalist Laurent Bennett Jr., senior editor of Ebony magazine. On September 15th of last year, the National Association of Black Journalists opened their National Office in the newspaper center in Rustin, Virginia.
On August 12th of last year, the NABJ Board of Directors voted unanimously to select Dennis Schatzman, a former Pittsburgh Public School Administrator and Judge as its first executive director. I spoke with Mr. Schatzman after receiving the news of his selection. I'm a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prior to the Pittsburgh Public School System, bachelor's degree from University of Pittsburgh, I attended there on an athletic scholarship and have done some advanced training at Johns Hopkins, Penn, places of that sort, Clemson. I have a various certifications and law, I'm a former judge, a former newspaper editor with the Pittsburgh Courier and the Deputy Controller for the School District of Pittsburgh at the present time and that's basically my life story. How did you happen to consider applying for the position of executive director?
I was on the panel on the investigative reporting panel at the Region 3 meeting at Penn State back in March and learned then of the opening and having been a journalist most of my adult life never gets out of your blood and I wanted to desperately get back into it. In an area where I can utilize some newly acquired skills, management, legal, so forth and so on, this was an excellent opportunity to get involved in journalism from a national scale, being involved with people who have a like sort of mindset as I do. Coming up with programs whereby the organization can raise money and also allow journalists to be able to make some consulting money at the same time, for example, being in rest in Virginia, you have a close proximity to Howard University, providing conferences such as the ones that congressional black caucus and other organizations have where by you bring
in people who will pay fees to hear the pearls of wisdom from many journalists and journalists are bastions of pearls of wisdom and they can make some money and the organization can make some money. There are a number of different ways which I will try to explore with the advice and the authority of the board. There are a lot of black media organizations. Do you foresee a better working relationship being the executive director of the NABJ? Yes. In fact, I think I would have a strong suit there. I'm a product of the black press, I have been active with NNPA. I think that NABJ is reaching out to try to become more meaningful and more hospitable to NNPA. They're bringing in John Sennstack, my former boss. He pretty much runs NNPA, whether he's president or not, and I think that's a good step.
They try to break down some of the jealousies that exist between those organizations and many other organizations. There has been a somewhat of a inferiority complex, I would think, existing between people of the black press in particular, those people who are in the majority press. And I think those kinds of things need to be broken down. People have to realize that we're all black and we all have the same types of these interesting tastes. The better we can work together, the better off we could be able to take care of the kinds of things that need to be taken care of. The organization is somewhat very eastern oriented. Do you foresee a threat as far as trying to bring more minority journalists into the foe west of the Mississippi? Yeah, I think those kinds of things will take care of themselves. As you mentioned, the organization is 11 years old, it was starting in the east.
Most of your major cities are in the east, most of your major news outlets are in the east. But more and more are rising in the west in Texas. Texas is the fourth largest state now, third largest state, there's probably more and more people in Texas that are becoming involved. It's like my fraternity, which I'm involved in, it was founded in the Midwest, but now most of its members in the Southwest now, it's 75 years old. As time goes on, these things will take care of themselves and it will give them to expand. I don't think that's a major problem at all. The organization is also heavy print oriented, due to the nature that most of the founders of the organization are print journalists. Do you foresee bringing more electronic audio journalists, broadcast journalists into the foe? Yeah, I think, well, there's nothing that keeps them out other than the time constraints that they're involved in, broadcast people are dealing in seconds and minutes as opposed to print journalists that deal in hours and days.
So they have a little more time to get involved. So broadcast people, they have to be able to find ways to get involved because they're very busy and they're very busy, they're much more hectic than print people. So I think that's one of the reasons, but as they can find more time to get involved, they'll start to come in. Besides getting that first job, what do you foresee the biggest obstacle for black journalists living in America? I think that's the first obstacle, getting that first job. I wrote to every newspaper virtually in the country, 16, 15 years ago, and I did not get a job until I was able to meet someone who had connections with their parents on the paper in Baltimore, somebody quit, and I told them I'd work for next and nothing, I started 85 hours a week. Once you get in, you're in. You do a good job, you advance. I think that if people are willing to go to Fargo North Dakota or go to Butte Montana
to get their first job, do a good job, you don't have to stay there. People don't want to go to Butte, they don't want to go to Platt. They don't want to go to Reno, Nevada. That's where you have to go. 55% of all media have no blacks on their staff, and they want blacks on their staff. ASNE, ANPA, I've read all kinds of things that they've talked about, trying to get people to get involved in the media, but people want to start at the New York Times, they want to start at the Dallas-Free Press. They want to start in the big markets, but you don't start there. You start where you can, you get in, you do a good job, you learn the rudiments of the trade, and then you move on. People will come and get you, believe me, once you're in, you're in. Having done so many various different types of occupations, what do you believe is your strongest point coming in as the first executive director?
Research, hard work, I'm a type A, I work very hard, I work sometimes too hard. Commitment, honesty, I think those are very important qualities. And I have an ability to get along with everyone. I think I'm very political, a little politician, a elected official. I think I know how to get along with various factions, and I think that'll be most important. Next year's convention is being held in Miami. When will you start preparing and coordinating next year's convention? On mid-September, maybe the first week, once I begin, I begin September 14th, I'm going to be going to Miami, so probably that week. So far, your particular opinions of the convention? Well, I'm enjoying it so far, I've been here since Tuesday. I've really have not had a chance to ingest everything. I'm still so excited about getting the position.
I was selected over very stiff competition. All of the people that we happen to have reads in Pittsburgh, two of them were people who trained me. So this is an example of the student besting out the teachers in this respect, but it's beautiful to see so many black jurors. It's just beautiful. I've never seen these many before in my life. Any consideration about who you're going to bring on, Stan? Not yet. Maybe someone that's here, might be someone that's in rest in Virginia, I have to assess the needs and see whether or not the person will come for the money that we're going to pay. Dennis Chastman, the new executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists. If you have a comment or would like to purchase a cassette copy of this program, write us, address CS, in Black America, Longhorn Radio Network, UT Austin, Austin, Texas, 7-8-7-12. Or in Black America's technical producer, Cliff Hargrove, I'm John Hanson, join us next
week. You've been listening to In Black America, Reflections of the Black Experience in American Society. In Black America is produced and distributed by the Center for Telecommunication Services at UT Austin and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Texas at Austin or this station. This is the Longhorn Radio Network.
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- Lerone Bennett, Jr., senior editor of Ebony magazine and Dennis Schatzman, first executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists
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Guest: Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Guest: Dennis Schatzman
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- APA: In Black America; Lerone Bennett Jr. and Dennis Schatzman. Boston, MA: KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-529-w37kp7w48x