The media undoubtedly has a huge influence on how many people perceive what goes on in the world. Often times the voice and tone used by different media outlets to convey information leave people misinformed about stories and, in the case of African Americans, an entire race. The Role of Media in Crafting the Social Narrative panel at the National Action Network (NAN) Convention delved deep into the concept of how African Americans are portrayed in the media.
The panel was moderated by Reverend Al Sharpton, President & Founder, National Action Network, and featured notable individuals who are well-respected in the media industry including: Jonathan Alter, former senior Editor, Newsweek Magazine; Jay Dow, reporter, WPIX TV; Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, The Nation; Joe Madison, host, “The Joe Madison Show” on SiriusXM Urban View; Desiree Rogers, president and CEO, Johnson Publishing Company, and Elinor Tatum, publisher and editor-in-chief, New York Amsterdam News.
It kicked off with a conversation about the roles that race and the media will play in the midterm elections.
“At EBONY we know that we are the authentic voice of Black America. We have a responsibility to put forth the issues, to debate the issues, to not be afraid to mention race. Our responsibility in these elections are to surface those issues that are important to our people,” said Rogers.
The session also featured a lively discussion about whether America is a post racial country or if it’s a media myth. All of the panelists chimed in and shared their perspective of the issue.
“We are not living in a post racial America. I make it a point in my reporting to not say ‘minorities.’ We’re not the minority, it’s ‘of color.’ Racism is alive and well on a much more subliminal level than a lot of us would like to accept,” said Dow.
Madison schooled attendees on how racism in the media has been an ongoing issue throughout history. “If you go back and read the editorial newspapers in the South, and listen to the radio and maybe what little TV existed, none of the legislators, senators, mayors of southern towns called themselves racist. They never said they were racist. How can we live in a post-racial society when people in a pre-racist society never called themselves racist?”
The panelists also shared why it’s important to support African America media and provided advice regarding how individuals can help shape the social narrative. “We have to support our Black media or the Black American voice will be silenced,” said Tatum.
Vanden Heuvel shared the importance of people creating their own outlets for stories and their perspectives: “We need independent voices that speak it like it is,” she said.