Glen Ford, a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on TV before going on to found the Black Agenda Report website, has died, according to reports. He was 71 years old.
Ford’s cause of death was not immediately reported. Several sources announced his death late Wednesday morning, including Margaret Kimberley, an editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report, the weekly news magazine that offers commentary and analysis from a Black perspective which Ford launched and served as its executive editor.
Condolences began pouring in on social media once news of Ford’s death broke.
To call Ford a career journalist is a vast understatement. According to his bio on the Black Agenda Report website, Ford was reporting the news live on the radio as early as 11-years-old and went on to enjoy a career in journalism for more than 40 years that included working as a Washington bureau chief as well as a correspondent covering the White House, Capitol Hill and State Department.
After getting his start in news radio in Augusta, Georgia, Ford honed his skills at other local news stations and eventually created the “Black World Report,” a syndicated half-hour weekly news magazine that paved the way for the Black Agenda Report to be founded. Years later, in 1977, Ford helped launch, produce and host “America’s Black Forum,” the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television.
That led to the creation of “Black Agenda Reports” two years later in a successful effort to focus his syndicated content in the areas of Black women, business, entertainment, history and sports.
About a decade later, Ford branched out into the then-burgeoning popularity of hip-hop culture with “Rap It Up,” the first syndicated hip-hop music show in American history.
After co-founding BlackCommentator.com in 2002, he and the rest of the website’s staff left to launch Black Agenda Report, which remains a popular source of information, news and analysis from a Black perspective.
In one of his final dispatches before his death, Ford, along with Kimberley, on July 21 addressed the jailing of former South Africa President Jacob Zuma, questioning on Black Agenda Report whether the resulting uprising there should be characterized as “riots” or an “insurrection.”
Born Glen Rutherford in Georgia in 1949, Ford famously has his surname shortened by James Brown, who owned the radio station where Ford got his start in Augusta, Georgia.
In an example of how Ford made a point to hold elected officials accountable, he once discussed during an interview in 2009 about the “ethical dilemma” he faced by questioning then-Sen. Barack Obama about his presidential agenda and his membership to the Democratic Leadership Council, which Ford — then working with BlackCommentator.com — referred to as “the right wing corporate mechanism of the Democratic Party.” Obama, Ford recalled, responded with a “fuzzy mish-mash of non-answers.” But because Ford “did not want to be seen as the proverbial crabs in a barrel” and affect Obama’s political ascent, he allowed Obama to pass what he called the “bright line test.”
Ford said that was a mistake that he would never make again and suggested that it was a lesson well learned.
“I’ve never regretted a political decision as much as having passed Barack Obama when he should have failed the test; and we never made that mistake again,” Ford said in the interview.