MSNBC’s prospective hiring of Rev. Al Sharpton is causing many black journalists to go volcanic. They are already simmering over the complete absence of African Americans in any prime time TV anchor slots at any news station.
MSNBC is said to have already offered Sharpton the 6 p.m. time slot, which some decry as another roundhouse slap in the face of qualified, experienced and talented TV news anchors of color who are repeatedly denied opportunities on cable and regular news stations.
“When word surfaced that Sharpton was under consideration for the MSMBC job, one NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists] member told colleagues without challenge, ‘this would be just another non-journalist media celebrity receiving a position based upon their name recognition, not years of their experience, training, ability and talent,’ ” seethed Columbus, Ohio, blogger and NABJ member Jeff Winbush.
If this complaint rings of deja vu, it should. Almost a decade ago, many African American actors were filled with righteous indignation, especially Samuel L. Jackson, at a peculiar Hollywood practice. They believed that studios were bypassing talented black actors and actresses in favor of transcendent yet untested hip-hop stars in hopes of providing higher returns on Hollywood’s movie investments.
Fast-forward to today, and similar outcries are being leveled against the communications media, particularly the electronic branch of the journalism industry, for supposedly prostituting their profession in favor of ratings from a brand name.
While the NABJ, of course, raise valid and reasonable complaints about the conspicuous dearth of qualified blacks in these prime time news slots, what journalists fail to discern is one essential truth: these media companies are less interested in churning out authentic news stories than they are in improving their advertising revenue streams. The best way to increase those aforementioned revenue streams is through higher ratings. In the big media companies’ opinion, higher ratings are achieved via name brands that draw many more eyes to their programs. Controversial or high-profile personalities offer the quickest and easiest, albeit laziest, way to achieve this business objective.
Besides, Sharpton is not claiming to act in a journalistic capacity as he is as an advocate to try to obliterate the many deplorable conditions that inordinately decimate African American communities. And he implored his fellow blacks to understand this.
“We can’t get into a crabs-in-a-barrel mentality,” Sharpton told the root.com. “We cannot let them play us off one another. There is history here. Kwame Mfume had a talk show. Jesse Jackson had a talk show. If someone can advocate nationwide, we need to do that given the pain of our people … All of us need to be united.”
The big media companies, starting with the sullied empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, need to answer for their hiring and promotional practices when it comes to African Americans. But striking out at Rev. Al Sharpton is a case of displaced anger. –terry shropshire