Black Journalists are Left and Right at Political Conventions
Friday, August 31, 2012
Posted by: Aprill Turner
By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the NABJ Journal
Throughout the week, black journalists have made known their presence at the Republican Convention in Tampa. Eugene Robinson, in his Washington Post column and contributing role on MSNBC, offers his unique perspective on the political posturing taking place in Florida. Others keeping us in touch or tuned in are PBS’ Gwen Ifill and Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post.
Added to this year’s Republican theatrics is the now infamous CNN black camerawoman who had peanuts thrown at her. NABJ’s Richard Prince landed an interview with CNN’s Patricia Carroll in record time, nabbing the sad quote for his Journalisms column: "This situation could happen to me at the Democratic convention or standing on the street corner. Racism is a global issue."
Party In, Party Out
Next week, the marathon reporting continues when a plethora of black political reporters pile into Charlotte, N.C. for the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. With them they will bring trendy and not-so-trendy tools of the trade to ensure round-the-clock coverage of all things Obama.
"Everything is different because everything is faster,” said William Douglas of McClatchy Newspapers. "We had laptops in 1996 with AOL "you got mail” alerts. Now we have iPhones and tweeting and blogging responsibilities.”
Yet the Washington correspondent says he won’t be taken hostage by instant communication or new technology. "My main focus is doing full stories. I’m looking for something that’s more than 200-word blog posts or 140-character tweets. There are stories to be done. Pundits say the same things happen at the conventions, but with hundreds of delegates, thousands of people, there will be moments that are spontaneous, unscripted and unexpected.”
In addition to Douglas and Henderson, Gloria Browne-Marshall of the Bay State Banner of Boston confirmed her RNC presence in Tampa. And Washington Post editors Kevin Merida and Terence Samuel also were on hand supervising some coverage.
When the Democrats meet In Charlotte next week, confirmed journalists include Charlotte-based Mary Curtis or the "She the People” Washington Post blogger, Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television, and Michael Cottman of BlackAmericaWeb.com/News.
Other black journalists ready for the Queen City include Perry Bacon and Joy-Ann Reid for MSNBC/TheGrio and Suzanne Malveaux and Soledad O’Brien of CNN. CNN editor Bryan Monroe, who is in Tampa, will soon head to Charlotte where he will lead CNN’s Digital team.
Browne- Marshall said Tampa will be her first political convention. "I anticipate doing a general, experiential review of the conventions. I have been getting the schedule by e-mail, and there is an RNC app. I intend to be the eyewitness at the RNC. I’m here as a fly on the wall. This is what you would see. My readers and listeners are primarily African-Americans. This is what they will see here. I’m going to report on the primary speeches and delegates with diverse viewpoints.”
Browne-Marshall said she will use several media platforms to satisfy multiple clients. The Bay State Banner has a Wednesday morning deadline and she intends to file a traditional story for them. Other clients, WVON-AM, Chicago, and theGistofFreedom.com blog radio from Philadelphia want audio content streaming to a blog. "I’ll have my laptop, Skype and cell phone, which I will use for the radio,” Browne-Marshall explained.
Curtis, a freelance multimedia journalist, has multiple clients, too. In addition to the "She the people” blog, Curtis writes for TheRoot.com, thegrio.com, and the Fox TV station in Charlotte.
"I’m a journalist based here, and I’m a host too,” Curtis said, explaining that she will assist visiting journalists seeking food, housing and transportation.
What she’ll cover is still undecided, Curtis said.
"I’m still figuring things out among the official and unofficial events. There’s Clinton, Biden, Elizabeth Warren and the delegates in prime time, but the ancillary events look interesting, such as Madeline Albright’s National Democratic Institute that brings in foreign dignitaries to witness participatory democracy.”
Robinson, of Maryland Public Television, has multiple conventions in his playbook.
"This will be my sixth rotation through RNC and DNC conventions,” said Robinson. "I’ll be looking for the next big thing. In 1988, I met Michael Steele [future GOP Lt. Gov. of Maryland, then RNC head] and in 2004 I met Barack Obama in Boston when he was running for U.S. Senate. I’m always looking for the next big thing.
"I’ll be in Charlotte to watch the emergence of Gov. Martin O’Malley [D-Md.], a featured speaker,” Robinson continued. "I’ve covered him since he was a mayoral candidate who ran the "zero to hero” campaign in Baltimore.”
Robinson predicts one "next big thing” may well be Mark Veasey, an African-American from the Dallas area, who won a head-to-head primary in a redrawn, predominantly Hispanic district.
Robinson said he is eager to use new gadgets at the convention such as software that acts as a switcher, allowing him to conduct Skype conversations. He also will provide running tweets for five radio stations using Storify. Robinson said he will use a laptop and iPad to blog from the convention for MPT and his blog "Charles Black Politics.”
Douglas, whose McClatchy newspapers include the Charlotte Observer, Miami Herald, Raleigh News & Observer and Sacramento Bee, said he has been a rover at previous conventions.
"In 2008, I wrote about Michelle Obama’s speech, which was a pivotal moment,” Douglas said. "It was the time of The New Yorker magazine cover that caricatured her as an angry black woman. She gave the "I’m as American as you” speech. I also covered the McCain campaign. At the GOP convention, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin speeches ragged on Barack Obama for being a community organizer. They acted as if he did not hold a real job. I interviewed members of an association of community organizers and they registered their outrage, then I found a book in which Giuliani had once praised community organizers.
Looking back, Douglas surmises: "You can be counterintuitive, and a truth squad.”
Wayne Dawkins is an assistant professor at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications