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Black Press Symposium Speaks Truth

A symposium at Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication on Tuesday addressed the issue of how the black press covers the presidency. The symposium, “The AfroAmerican Newspaper and America’s Presidents: 125 Years of Speaking Truth to Power,” was held to discuss the legacy of the AfroAmerican Newspaper. The event also touched on how the mainstream press covers black issues. “This is about who controls the conversation,” said journalist Lauren Victoria Burke, a contributor to The Root.

The event opened with remarks by President David Wilson and Dean DeWayne Wickham, who both spoke highly of the newspaper and its impact on the black community. “It covers so well all the things major news overlooks in our community,” said President Wilson.

The conversation, moderated by Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper, the vice chair of the MSU Board of Regents, was split into four sections, with both videotaped conversation and live debate. In addition to Lauren Burke, the panelists included Al Jazeera host Tony Harris and cable-news political commentator (and MSU professor) Dr. Jason Johnson. The three panelists agreed that black journalists often cover stories the mainstream media ignores, and black news outlets frequently are first on stories, such as the surge in Latino voters, that the mainstream press later picks up.

In a post-event interview, AfroAmerican Newspaper publisher John “Jake” Oliver reflected on the role of the black press in the United States today. “Whenever there is a big national issue,” Oliver said, “our particular issues are always thrown under the bus.”

When asked if Clinton has been responsive to black journalists, Oliver responded: “Clinton has not made herself accessible. She doesn’t think that we are important.”

He believes that the candidate’s relationship with the black press will change if she is elected to the presidency. “We have to pitch our particular story to her better. We have got to get her attention,” he said. “Sometimes you have to scream. And we are getting ready to scream.”

Reporting by Karimah Crum, Diamond Durant, and Firdausa Stover

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