One of the virtues of working in Black Media is you get the frustrating honor of making the case for Black people to -mostly clueless- networks, publications, advertisers and their ad agencies. They are always surprised to learn that: a) we have money, b) we care about the images of Black people in the media, and c) we will buy from your competitor if we feel ignored.
Run’s House Example
When we first proposed Run’s House to MTV they weren’t sure if advertisers would support a middle aged Black star in a Black family show on MTV. When, Walt Disney-owned, ABC Family agreed to air the show, they saw the light and made an offer. I guess they figured if Walt Disney (other white people) could find sponsors they could too. Six successful seasons later, they get it. Black people like to see themselves in a positive light. Its that simple. Many advertisers, ad agencies and Black writers at white media publications still don’t get this simple fact.
Case and Point: Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Atlantic Monthly
In a post today Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic Monthly makes a few ill-considered claims: 1) Ebony and other Black media are failing because of racial integration and technology, 2) the demise of Black media and content is inevitable and rather absurdly, c) Black people no longer sing spirituals because of integration. There may be many other internal reasons for Ebony’s problems, but the root cause is lack of advertiser support for Black media and content.
The Black Buckley Responds
Not sure what the Black folks are doing where you are, but everywhere I go across the country we are still singing spirituals.
The rest of your article about Ebony not being relevant is off. Circulation and single-copy sales are up. Ad Pages are down. This means that advertisers think they can reach Black people better elsewhere. Peter Campbell’s character on Mad Men had it right. White advertisers are short-sighted when it comes to Black people. Still.
This may be as big a surprise to you as the fact that Black people still sing spirituals. To re-aquaint you with the tradition in the modern era, here is a link to the FAMU Marching 100 performing the classic, “Order My Steps”.