Black Reporters

Black Reporters (June 9, 1986)
Duration: 00:28:24

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Themes: Urban Challenges | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals | Motor City and Motown |

Guests: Bill Black, Chauncey Bailey, Emery King, Susan Watson
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Dianne Atkinson Hudson

Summary: Gordon then examines the issue with a panel of three African American reporters from major white-owned news organizations: Emery King, a former NBC White House correspondent who had recently joined the staff of WDIV-TV; Chauncey Bailey, a reporter for the Detroit News; and Bill Black, a reporter for radio station WJR who had been a reporter in Detroit - in both print and broadcast - for 24 years.

The discussion - which includes several phone calls from viewers - gets pointed and almost personal at times. Black is particularly critical of media coverage, asserting that positive stories about blacks in the city are almost non-existent and that negative stories about blacks are sensationalized almost as a matter of habit. Bailey agrees to an extent, but also defends the News, which he says elicits "an almost Pavlovian" response from some blacks because of its reputation for negativity toward the city.

"I did a story, for example, about the fact that the Detroit Grand Prix stops in South Africa," Bailey says. "Now, that may be negative news to the city administration, but it should be positive news to blacks of conscience who want to know that this grand prix is on a circuit that includes Johannesburg."

Bailey takes some heat as a representative of the News and for a story he had written that revealed comments by black leaders at a meeting he attended that those black leaders considered off-the-record. One caller says Bailey has "a very serious identity problem in terms of him trying to do a white man's job in a black man's body. It's an unfortunate perspective because white executives use brothers like Chauncey as pawns."

But Bailey responds: "I'm not a cheerleader for black leadership. I'm a megaphone through which people, not just black leadership, can speak to the community. Black leadership tried to put me in a straightjacket by saying you can come to this meeting as a leader. I'm not a leader, I'm a reporter, and I report not just to black leadership but to the black community."

The panelists agree that there are not enough blacks in positions with the authority to decide what stories make it into print and onto the broadcasts.

Says Black: "There are some people in executive news positions in this town who have never forgiven Coleman Young for winning the election in 1973. They don't like paying the income tax, don't like coming into town to work, and when they get an opportunity to express their dislikes, they are only too happy to do it."

The program concludes with a commentary by Detroit Free Press columnist Susan Watson who says the double standard in coverage of black officials and institutions is obvious and unfair - but an unavoidable reality.

"As long as we remain black in this society, there always will be someone waiting for us to fail. It's like my mother used to say, 'As long as you live, don't forget you're black because white folks certainly won't.'"

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 19, File 4, Miscellaneous News Articles Pt I
Box 19, File 5, Miscellaneous News Articles Pt II
Box 19, File 6, Miscellaneous News Articles Pt III