Liberal Dominance of
Black Media Won't Fix Itself
by Michael King
Not all blacks are liberal,
but liberals nonetheless dominate the black media.
So what's a conservative -
especially a black conservative - to do about it?
For one thing, stop allowing
this dominance to occur by default, because it's falsely defining
black America as less conservative than it really is.
In a October/November 2003
Gallup poll, more blacks identified themselves as conservative
(30 percent) than liberal (22 percent). A 1996 Joint Center for
Political and Economic Studies poll similarly found a nearly
equal distribution among blacks who defined themselves as conservative,
liberal and moderate. School choice and gay marriage are just
two of the recent high-profile splits between black America and
the liberal establishment.
It's obvious there's a diversity
of political opinion in the African-American community, but what
about the seemingly monolithically liberal black media?
In most major radio markets,
black radio dominates the dial. In black radio, Tom Joyner rules
the roost. His ABC-distributed program is among the top draws
not only in black radio but in urban and suburban radio, period.
A long-time radio veteran with extensive local-market experience
in Chicago and Dallas, Joyner holds court over a cornucopia of
topics. He and his cohorts are frequently visited by phone or
in person by newsmakers and commentators who maintain a definite
sway among black Americans. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Julian
Bond are among Joyner's semi-regular guests. NPR and PBS talk
show host Tavis Smiley is a regular weekly contributor.
Joyner additionally hosts gatherings
at Disney World, festivals around the nation and even an annual
ocean cruise. He holds fundraisers for historically black colleges
and is an outspoken advocate of "giving back" to the
Tom Joyner is an opinion leader
in the black media establishment.
His mantra nowadays is getting
President George W. Bush out of office. Joyner's program hosted
several of the Democratic presidential candidates, but he hasn't
had on anyone from the GOP. While part of this can be attributed
to the current anti-Bush, anti-Republican bias of Joyner and
his compatriots, just as much blame lies with the Republicans
The visible communication sources
in black America - from Joyner and Smiley on the radio to BET
to TV One on television as well as publications ranging from
Johnson Publishing's Jet and Ebony to Earl Graves' Black Enterprise
and the local black press - are a virtual wasteland when it comes
to conservative ideas.
Conservative blacks from Project
21 often are represented in press reports and with New Visions
Commentaries, but why isn't the President there? Why aren't Condoleezza
Rice or Colin Powell there? Why aren't John Ashcroft or Donald
Why was Trent Lott only on
BET to apologize for putting his foot in his mouth regarding
the late Strom Thurmond and not to discuss conservative proposals
to reform Social Security, how tougher standards and choice can
improve education and how tax cuts don't just help the rich?
All those individuals will
readily show up at Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh's bully pulpits.
That's not a bad thing. It's always good to preach to the choir.
But always rallying the faithful
doesn't expand one's presence. One cannot expand their message
unless and until they step outside their comfort zone.
Going on black radio may not
be easy or comfortable for conservatives at first. A wariness
exists on both sides. As the ice is broken - and as black America
recognizes that this is not a matter or a means of being used
or pandered to simply for votes or support - both sides will
begin to open up and to discover that a common ground truly exists.
Even Tom Joyner may discover
there is not only room but a necessity for a vigorous political
debate among black Americans. To deny it is to deprive black
America of something it truly deserves. But it is something that
both he needs to be open to as well as those pushing conservative
Michael King is a member of
the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership
network Project 21 and a freelance writer and Internet consultant
in Atlanta, Georgia. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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