CNN Faces Backlash for Excluding Black-Owned Media from Presidential Debate Coverage

The rejection has ignited a firestorm of criticism, highlighting the broader issue of racial inequity in media representation. Atlanta, a city with a rich history of Black culture and leadership, finds its Black-owned media sidelined at a critical political event.

By Stacy M. Brown
@StacyBrownMedia

CNN has come under fire for denying media credentials to every Black-owned media entity, including those based in Atlanta, for the upcoming presidential debate on Thursday. Despite granting over 600 media credentials, not even one was extended to Black-owned outlets, sparking outrage and accusations of systemic exclusion in a predominantly Black city.

The rejection has ignited a firestorm of criticism, highlighting the broader issue of racial inequity in media representation. Atlanta, a city with a rich history of Black culture and leadership, finds its Black-owned media sidelined at a critical political event.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a leading voice for Black-owned media, revealed a letter from CNN rejecting their request for credentials. In an email, CNN’s Dylan Rose said the network could provide the Black Press transcripts and photos from the debate.

The NNPA represents the 197-year-old Black Press of America, which counts among its more than 230 newspapers and media companies, The Atlanta Voice, Atlanta Daily World, and the Atlanta Inquirer. The popular Rolling Out magazine also counts among the Black Press’ members frozen out by CNN.

Media personality and Black Star Network owner Roland Martin tweeted that his phone had been “buzzing from Black-owned media outlets in Atlanta who say they are being denied media credentials to the debate.”

The prolific news leader, further noted, “They don’t care about us.  This is despicable. The treatment of Black-owned media is pathetic.”

Added NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., “CNN’s decision is an affront to the very essence of press freedom and diversity. In a city where Black voices and perspectives are essential, this exclusion is both a slap in the face and a stark reminder of the ongoing struggles for equitable media representation.”

The timing and nature of the rejection letter have only fueled the outrage. Despite having ample time and resources to accommodate a diverse range of media outlets, CNN’s refusal to include Black-owned entities suggests a troubling oversight or, worse, a deliberate and overtly racially-motivated dismissal.

Local Black-owned media outlets, many of which have served the Atlanta community for decades, expressed their frustration and disappointment with collective assertions that CNN has intentionally overlooked the heartbeat of the city’s news and culture.

The exclusion comes at a time when media diversity and representation are under intense scrutiny. Advocacy groups and community leaders have also called for immediate corrective actions from CNN and other major networks to ensure that Black-owned media entities are not just included but are given the respect and opportunities they deserve.

As the debate approaches, the spotlight is not just on the candidates but also on the institutions that shape public discourse. CNN’s decision has cast a long shadow over the debate, raising critical questions about who gets to tell the story and who gets left out.

“Our exclusion from this pivotal event is not just an insult to our organizations but to our readers and viewers who rely on us for their news,” Chavis argued.

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