“Shirley Sherrod, Shots at Bayview Newspaper
& Dancing In the Streets Call for Media Accountability”

San Francisco- San Francisco NAACP President, Dr. Amos Brown, who is recovering from a stroke, called me from his hospital bed and asked me to write about a news story he saw on ABC-7 television last week.
Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, President, SF NAACP
Dr. Amos Brown  <http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs036/1101619971521/img/272.jpg>
Since I did not see the story, I did some research to find out more about it.  Basically, a group of young adults started dancing to pay homage to fallen friends and to express who they are artistically, plus show pride in their communities.  It is a simple story on the surface; however, when you dig a little deeper it is the tip of the iceberg of  misreporting/under reporting and flat out non-reporting of important issues in the Black community.

Before writing this article, I asked a few journalists what they thought, and all of them agreed that most corporate run media do not have a clue as to what is the correct way to report on communities of color.  Even most of the Black reporters at the networks are disconnected from the African American mainstream.  Most of the misreporting comes as a result of the unbalanced and massive amount of criminal type stories about our communities, especially the youth.  The vast majority of youth I talk to in Hunter’s Point-Bay View (HPBV), East Palo Alto or Oakland, California are students working or looking for a job.  Most are not involved with gangs and/or drugs.  Black youth unemployment is over 65%.  Their parents are also hard-working Americans and with the unemployment of Black males being over 50%, these numbers make it quite difficult to be the “bread winner.”

There is light at the end of this tunnel and there are wonderful, great things happening in the Black community on a daily basis.  There are good community empowering stories about businesses, the Arts, students getting scholarships and great stories like San Francisco 100 Black Women  honoring some super-women in the Bay Area and the Tuskegee Airmen, etc.  Most of these stories go untold by the corporate controlled media and the networks.  Like any and every community in these United States, there are your misfits, scoundrels and just plain hoodlums; however, the Black community receives far more attention put on those members of our neighborhoods than others.  This type of under reporting leads to the mindset of the public-at-large that “We all know Blacks commit more crimes.”  You will find this quote or similar on many blogs about Black people.

Bless Bishop Walter Hawkins’ “Oh Happy Day” which is still the number one selling gospel recording of all time.  There was very little coverage about his passing and prestigious life.  May his soul rest in peace and his spirit fly high.  KTVU is to be commended for being the only local broadcast media that covered the celebration concert and funeral services with the honor Bishop Hawkins deserved.  When Reverend Greggory Brown, President of the Northern California Interreligious Conference  and Pastor of Miracles of Faith Community Church,recognized the media coverage was not what it should be, he and board member Dr. Ramona Tascoe, with media activist and publicist Jackie Wright began contacting media.  KTVU General Manager Tim McVay and News Director Ed Chapuis responded over the weekend prior to the July 21 funeral services for Bishop Hawkins and directed staff to do what they could with resources given the time constraints.  In addition to  covering both ceremonies at the Paramount Theater, KTVU  streamed the funeral services over the Internet resulting in emails and thanks coming in from around the world.

The handling of the case of  US Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, Director of Rural Development being fired by US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack affirms the need for media accountability.  It also shows a need for Internet-based media to serve “in the public interest” as broadcast media are required by the 1934 Communications Act.

As Media moves more toward self-interest in gathering those advertising dollars to keep going as opposed to serving in the public interest, it becomes more imperative for the Black community to support its media.  The seriousness of it all came to head recently. The Bay View Newspaper’s window was shot out with a gun, and not one other media outlet did a story about that incident.  This is the ultimate in non-reporting practices.

Democracies can only occur when there is a
diverse flow of news and information.

This is why members of the NAACP are calling for a meeting with BABJA (Bay Area Black Journalist Association) and the assignment editors from the networks.  It’s time once again to call for “fair and balanced reporting.”