Separate But Equal? The Role of the Black Media in the 21st Century

Black media. You Don't Have to Be Black to Read it!
Black media. You don’t have to be Black to read it!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Guess what I’m doing on Wednesday? I’m moderating a panel at Temple called, “Separate But Equal? The Role of the Black Media in the 21st Century.” The title of the panel was my idea and is deliberately incendiary because I wanted people to think, and because a good title always draws people in, don’t you agree?

But seriously, as a journalist, as a Black woman, as a media observer, it occurs to me that some people might think that the era is over when a separate Black media is necessary. We no longer live in a (legally) segregated society, so why would we need a segregated press? In my opinion, the answer is, we don’t. We don’t need a separate Black media in the year 2013, but we deserve to have one. And therein lies the difference between past and present.

In 1827 when the first Black newspaper was launched, it satisfied a very important need in the Black community. The Freedom Journal was working to counteract the attacks against Black people by the mainstream press and they served as a public voice against slavery. As time went on, the Black press continued to be both activist and information for a community that was routinely ignored and maligned by the mainstream media. Today, on the other hand, the Black press isn’t in that same position, the needs of the community have greatly expanded and changed.

The way I see it, today the Black community is so diverse, even the idea of a single Black press is foolhardy. Still, there is room in the media landscape for several publications catering to Black people in the United States — in print and online — to exist, flourish and prosper. Today’s Black media has to consider the Black community as a niche audience just as any other niche publisher considers an audience. In other words, if there can be a magazine for craft brewers and urban chicken farmers, then there can be a magazine for Black professionals, or Black people who live in Harlem, or Black women between the ages of 25-35 who like fashion. To me, that is separate and equal. And yes, it can be done and should be done. And not for nothing, I pretty much feel the same way about other ethnic media outlets as well.

At the panel on Wednesday, there will be speakers from radio, TV, print and digital outlets. I hope we can have a really good discussion about this topic. If any of you are in the Philadelphia area, please come and join us. If you can’t make it, the panel will be televised on TUTV at a later date and I believe will even be available online. I’ll keep you posted.

What do you think, dear readers? Is there a place in modern society for a separate ethnic media? What role do you think they should play? Let me know what you think so I can incorporate it into our panel discussion.

I’m so listening.


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2 Thoughts to “Separate But Equal? The Role of the Black Media in the 21st Century”

  1. Anazette

    I fully agree with having different and distinct outlets that reflect the diversity of lifestyles and experiences of people living in our country. I don’t want to subscribe to the term “separate” because it seems to imply a negative connotation. I feel all media outlets have a common, shared goal in reaching whatever target audience they choose to cater to. Just like food manufacturers share a common desire to put out a product that tastes good and keeps their customers coming back, they each know they won’t satisfy every taste bud out there, but know there’s always another food company out there that will, and if not, hopefully someone will recognize the need and provide it. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with wanting to fit within a certain niche because there’s so much diversity among humans. Based on someone’s experiences, lifestyle, interests, vision or goals, a media publication may only cater to a certain demographic and that’s okay to me. It leaves room for someone who does understand and identify with that demographic a chance to step up to the plate. Either way, this is a great topic and I hope you post a follow up about how the panel went.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that it’s the term separate that doesn’t feel right. And I’ll definitely bring this up in the panel tonight. And I will post a follow-up.

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