Nov 1 2004

A Different Race

The black press reveals gaps in mainstream election coverage

On March 16, 1827, the first African-American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, began publication in New York. During its short but significant two-year run, Freedom’s Journal established the central role of the independent black press in the United States. In particular, the editors pledged to serve their readers in ways that the white press would not, by providing accurate information about African-American leadership and concerns; by covering relevant issues and events that other newspapers failed to acknowledge; and by printing perspectives absent in the white press.

The nation’s media have, of course, progressed since the era of this first periodical. Newspapers in most cities—which I will call the mainstream press, for lack of a better term, although many (if not most) Americans are inadequately represented by such media—publish stories about African-Americans. They also employ reporters and columnists of color (although, as DeWayne Wickham of USA Today—8/10/04—has aptly noted, they are underrepresented in newsrooms).

Yet, as regular readers of Extra! know well, the mainstream press continues to ignore, distort and trivialize the concerns of African-Americans, and to disparage progressive black leaders. The black press, in this context, continues to offer information and viewpoints unavailable in mainstream newspapers. Indeed, a comparison of the approaches of black and mainstream newspapers to various issues and personalities involved in the 2004 presidential election race demonstrates not only the continuing importance of the African-American press, but also highlights how poorly served all Americans are by the biased, incomplete coverage provided by mainstream newspapers.

(Entire article not availible online.)