Noted journalist and TV news personality Roland Martin recently announced a change in time and format to his program “News One Now.” The program is the only daily news show that brings analysis of politics, entertainment, sports, and culture from an explicitly African American perspective. The new time will be 7 a.m. weekdays beginning on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.
We spoke exclusively to Martin about his time change, coverage of Black news today and the upcoming “Justice or Else” commemoration of the Million Man March led by Min. Louis Farrakhan.
What went into the decision to move your show to an earlier morning time slot?
We were already a morning show just simply after the main news hour. As you go later in the morning, it changes the level of content; you go from harder news then softer. Our show will be a harder news show. One of the things our producers look at is that during the 7 a.m. time you see a larger segment of news viewers. There are 830,000 African American viewers at that time period.
What do you attribute to your longevity and importance in the news media?
I went to a communications high school in Houston, a magnet school. Since I was 14, I have been focused on working in news media. I’ve never changed. Since that time, I had people who wanted me to go into other fields but when you understand your gifts that’s exactly what you want to do… My commitment is to being a journalist. I think it is the most important thing. So, recognizing who you are, recognizing what you’re able to do and what you want to focus on is important. My attitude has always been I want my credibility to be based on where I work, so for me my credibility is important. For me, it has always demanded a level of respect for Black media just as if I worked at some mainstream outlet. I think for a lot of people we forget that. Some people seem to take the attitude that Black media is second class.
Do you think the upcoming “Justice or Else” commemoration of the Million Man March is still needed or is the message from Farrakhan too inflammatory?
First, the commemoration of what took place 20 years ago is also serving as a galvanizing opportunity. On Sept. 10, we will have a one-hour conversation with Min. Farrakhan specifically talking about “Justice or Else,” so that is one of the things going on. The reality, if you look at the events where Min. Farrakhan is speaking all across the country right now, there is tremendous enthusiasm. I know through social media and being online how people are responding and how his message is resonating with the audience; this is happening as we speak. So, if you look back at the Million Man March 20 years ago, it would seem that a lot of the issues are the same today. It’s amazing how some things change and how some things remain the same.
Why is Black pain the only Black news that seems to make up mainstream news?
Again, it goes back to people who make the choices and why for African Americans. For example, Latinos don’t give a damn about the mainstream media. You know why? Because you look at the top ten shows in Hispanic households and it’s on Univision for news they look at Jorge Ramos. So for African Americans it is crazy to ask somebody who does not have our best interests, to have our best interests. For me and TV One, we have our best interests because we know where these interests are.
What should a Black news viewer be looking for and demanding from today’s media outlets?
For me, I look to 1827 when the first black newspaper, the Freedom’s Journal, was published. They had as their slogan, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” I believe this is important. The reality is what you see now on TV One is different from what you will on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News or other networks. Because for us we have African Americans making decisions, our focus and concerns are going to be different from lots of other people. I think that is critically important for us to recognize and understand. I think we have to demand that; we should not be dismissed or ignored when it comes to our issues and perspectives.
What message do you have for today’s youth when it comes to news that affects our community?
First, if you are ill-informed you are ill-equipped; that is what is important. I think what happens are folks have to be aware of the voices on the various issues. I understand those who say I can get my information through social media, but a 140-character tweet does not show all that we need. So, I think it’s important for people to understand that we have to be informed. African Americans are avid readers, but it is important for us to understand that we have to have our outlets speaking to us and speaking to our issues and that’s why we are doing what we do at TV One. I would love to have a three-hour morning show, but you have to build that audience, we are coming up on our second anniversary in November. That’s why I tell folks watch it, DVR it, Facebook it and tweet it and talk about it. Again, I go back to the Freedom’s Journal: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”
So, we at News One now are not asking other networks for support or to talk about us. Our point is we can do it ourselves, just as good as anybody else.