Mainstream media’s absence from Minister Farrakhan’s speech in Philadelphia was noticeable, and it follows a disturbing pattern.
Tuesday, when Minister Farrakhan spoke in Philadelphia, it was quite noticeable that the local television cameras weren’t there; nor were the print media journalists for that matter.
In fact, the only mainstream media to cover the standing room only event were those who, for the most part, cater to the black community: 900am WURD, the only Black owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania; The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest continuously African-African owned newspaper; and Techbook Online, my news and event company, which is the largest and most active publisher on Comcast’s www.PhillyinFocus.com.
The issue of the media not being present, which I mentioned that night to Mr. Asa Khalif, a prominent activist, dominated the airwaves today on 900am WURD, which live broadcasted the minister’s speech and, as a result, exceed their broadcasting capacity.
Minister Farrakhan not only attracted thousands to a warm church in South Philadelphia, but tons of listeners took to the airwaves to hear a more than 90 minute sermon, which ended with a newsworthy call to action: Boycott Black Friday and Christmas!
The minister is often perceived as controversial, but, as Mr. Solomon Jones – a journalist and host of 900am WURD’s morning show – noted, so is Mr. Donald Trump, and he’s a media darling.
So why did the City’s mainstream media ignore a prominent black leader who, to mark a 20 year anniversary of a first-of-its-kind effort, spoke to, among other cities, Philadelphia, which provided the most spectators to the Million Man March in 1994?
Some would classify this as a big deal, and, to a degree, it is. But as a Philadelphia media maker, who, at some level, has interacted with the majority of mainstream media outlets in the City, this appears to be business as usual, because the mainstream media rarely attempts to pretend interested in telling the stories of black leaders, radicalized or otherwise.
This fact, which undoubtedly many will classify as an opinion, was what prompted Philadelphia Daily News columnist, Ms. Helen Ubinas, in the summer of 2014, to gather more than 10 young black male community leaders at a co-working space for an interview and meet-and-greet.
All the young men who participated in the interview, me included, are affiliated with BMe, a national network of all genders and races working to improve communities, with a focus on supporting black male leaders.
When BMe launched in 2011 at the Franklin Institute in Center City Philadelphia, the keynote speaker, Mr. Jeff Johnson, a contributor to various mainstream media outlets and the Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Michael A. Nutter, both criticized the local media outlets for ignoring an event that convened hundreds of black men engaged in social impact work.
“Where in the hell is the press? Because, if there were a thousand black men who proclaimed they wanted to rob somebody, or a thousand men that proclaimed they wanted to do a flash mob; or a thousand men that said they wanted to raise Cain, or a thousand men that wanted to do something negative, the media would be waiting for them to show up. But come out to acknowledge those who say ‘I want to do more than what’s average,’ and you can’t get anyone to come, because it doesn’t sell papers,” said Mr. Johnson.
The reason mainstream media outlets rarely profile black community leaders can be scapegoated by pointing at the need to tell stories that sell. But, another reason, which is equally as accurate, is that coverage is often left up to staff, and their interests.
Mr. Mike Days, editor of The Philadelphia Daily News, one day was kind enough to let me shadow a morning editorial meeting at the widely circulated paper and its online counterpart, Philly.com.
The editorial team in the Philly.com meeting was all-white, and they never discussed Ferguson and the death of Mr. Michael Brown, despite the meeting taking place during the week where it was expected that a grand jury would render their decision in the case.
This experience and the larger conversation of mainstream media devaluing black experiences is why I advocate for black journalists to seek ownership of news organization, rather than try to diversify them.
But with that, Black consumers, like the ministers mentioned last night, must be smart about what they patronize.
With eyeballs and our dollars, we, as Black Americans, must support black-owned media, and we have to view it with the same reverence that we view the mainstream.
If not, the other choice is clearly contextualized: black leaders attracting a massive audience without even the slightest recognition from the mainstream.
Do we use this moment—and the disappointment and shock it brings to some—to build digital media empires? Or do we move on with business as usual, like the Philadelphia mainstream media’s lackluster, sometimes non-existing coverage of black life?
* Tune into 900amWURD or 900amWURD.com every Friday evening at 6:30pm to hear me relive #TheWeekThatWas*
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™