01 Sep 2004 Liberal Dominance of Black Media Won’t Fix Itself, by Michael King
Not all blacks are liberal, but liberals nonetheless dominate the black media.
So what’s a conservative – especially a black conservative – to do about it?
For one thing, stop allowing this dominance to occur by default, because it’s falsely defining black America as less conservative than it really is.
In a October/November 2003 Gallup poll, more blacks identified themselves as conservative (30 percent) than liberal (22 percent). A 1996 Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll similarly found a nearly equal distribution among blacks who defined themselves as conservative, liberal and moderate. School choice and gay marriage are just two of the recent high-profile splits between black America and the liberal establishment.
It’s obvious there’s a diversity of political opinion in the African-American community, but what about the seemingly monolithically liberal black media?
In most major radio markets, black radio dominates the dial. In black radio, Tom Joyner rules the roost. His ABC-distributed program is among the top draws not only in black radio but in urban and suburban radio, period. A long-time radio veteran with extensive local-market experience in Chicago and Dallas, Joyner holds court over a cornucopia of topics. He and his cohorts are frequently visited by phone or in person by newsmakers and commentators who maintain a definite sway among black Americans. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Julian Bond are among Joyner’s semi-regular guests. NPR and PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley is a regular weekly contributor.
Joyner additionally hosts gatherings at Disney World, festivals around the nation and even an annual ocean cruise. He holds fundraisers for historically black colleges and is an outspoken advocate of “giving back” to the community.
Tom Joyner is an opinion leader in the black media establishment.
His mantra nowadays is getting President George W. Bush out of office. Joyner’s program hosted several of the Democratic presidential candidates, but he hasn’t had on anyone from the GOP. While part of this can be attributed to the current anti-Bush, anti-Republican bias of Joyner and his compatriots, just as much blame lies with the Republicans themselves.
The visible communication sources in black America – from Joyner and Smiley on the radio to BET to TV One on television as well as publications ranging from Johnson Publishing’s Jet and Ebony to Earl Graves’ Black Enterprise and the local black press – are a virtual wasteland when it comes to conservative ideas.
Conservative blacks from Project 21 often are represented in press reports and with New Visions Commentaries, but why isn’t the President there? Why aren’t Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell there? Why aren’t John Ashcroft or Donald Rumsfeld there?
Why was Trent Lott only on BET to apologize for putting his foot in his mouth regarding the late Strom Thurmond and not to discuss conservative proposals to reform Social Security, how tougher standards and choice can improve education and how tax cuts don’t just help the rich?
All those individuals will readily show up at Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh’s bully pulpits. That’s not a bad thing. It’s always good to preach to the choir.
But always rallying the faithful doesn’t expand one’s presence. One cannot expand their message unless and until they step outside their comfort zone.
Going on black radio may not be easy or comfortable for conservatives at first. A wariness exists on both sides. As the ice is broken – and as black America recognizes that this is not a matter or a means of being used or pandered to simply for votes or support – both sides will begin to open up and to discover that a common ground truly exists.
Even Tom Joyner may discover there is not only room but a necessity for a vigorous political debate among black Americans. To deny it is to deprive black America of something it truly deserves. But it is something that both he needs to be open to as well as those pushing conservative policies.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.