Just days after POLITICO gave space to right-wing propagandist Ben Shapiro, Don Lemon led commentary for the outlet’s flagship newsletter issuing an MLK Day challenge to the media. Lemon said POLITICO and other outlets needed to redefine their approach to politics by centering the voice and experiences of Black, brown and Asian people who shifted the balance of power in Washington, D.C.
“But let’s be honest about the people who put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the finish line: They were and are Black, brown and Asian, with Black women leading the way, like pacers in a marathon,” wrote Lemon. “It is high time we (because I am included in these groups) not only have a seat at the table, but lead the discussion and make some of the decisions.”
“When Black journalists in newsrooms all over America questioned Trump’s history of racism, from housing to birtherism and more, did you stand up for us or keep quiet?” @donlemon https://t.co/OoxtN8hxMe
— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) January 18, 2021
Lemon challenged news managers to treat diversity as essential to the business of reporting news and not simply a “favor” to Black and other people of color. Taking clear aim at the Playbook Newsletter, and by extension POLITICO, Lemon demanded outlets ensure they engage in ongoing work.
“For it to be effective, enlightened and relevant, [Playbook] should strive daily to reflect the aforementioned values and not fall back on what’s easy and comfortable — the promotion of white male patriarchy,” Lemon challenged.
Can't make this up. @politico's official defense for promoting white supremacy is "mischief making."
This is how too many white people think. That allowing white supremacists to tout their views is just… impish.https://t.co/NQ9wjhTOWa
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 14, 2021
Lemon’s sudden epiphany comes as he announces his new book. Black journalists have been challenging the media’s failure to incorporate non-white voices in its coverage for quite some time. Last summer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery was among the Black journalists calling on newsrooms across the country to change how they engaged in coverage.
— Kirsten West Savali (@KWestSavali) June 2, 2015
But one should not need a Pulitzer prize or a primetime cable network time slot to be taken seriously. In 2016, iOne Digital’s own Kirsten West Savali, then writing for The Root, pointed out the hypocrisy in white led media outlets concern trolling about media commentary. Savali directly challenged the contention that fairness and objectivity were at odds with coverage that prioritized the experiences and work of Black people.
The way Lemon and Lowery leveraged their privilege and access to the digital pages of elite white led news organizations, opens up a new avenue for addressing the persisting disconnect in news coverage and the lived experiences of Black communities. Hopefully, these efforts to challenge the status quo in coverage can lead to greater support for critical analysis from Black journalists and Black-led newsrooms.