Differing Views On Black Media Duke It Out At Sharpton Convention

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By Richard Nieva

NEW YORK — A schism between old and new forms of Black media broke open today at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s 2011 National Action Network convention over the issue of Black ownership of media.

At a panel moderated by Sharpton — featuring Black and mainstream media luminaries like Phil Griffin, president of MSCBC, and Alfred C. Liggins, CEO of Radio One — two differing ideologies emerged.

On one side, Danny Bakewell — the head of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization representing Black newspapers— and syndicated columnist George Curry urged loyalty to Black-owned media outlets.

“If you want to make Black media better, support it. Unless you subscribe, you forfeit your right to criticize,” said Curry.

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But Karen Hunter, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and professor of journalism at Hunter College, took issue with unconditional support for a Black newspaper.

“Don’t think that we’re going to support you just because you’re Black,” Hunter said. “You have to be excellent.”

Hunter, who was the first Black columnist at the New York Daily News and worked with the paper for 16 years, recounted the story of her hiring.

“My editor told me, ‘You’re only here because you’re Black,” Hunter said. “So I said to myself, if I’m only here because I’m Black, then I need to show this man how a Black person gets down.”

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Hunter thus advocated for stronger Black presence and influence within mainstream media outlets. “We need to think of ourselves as Americans,” she said.

Hunter was joined by David Wilson, the founder and managing editor of TheGrio.com, a Black-oriented media property owned by NBC, who talked about his ability to influence news coverage on the network.

“We need brothers and sisters on the inside,” Wilson said.

The panel, attended by a crowd of hundreds on the third day of the convention, was interrupted for 15 tense minutes when a man in the audience had a seizure, and had to be carried out by paramedics.

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