Wednesday, April 23, 2008


BETTY PLEASANT, BLACK AGENDA REPORT Owners and operators of African-American media outlets throughout the country have just about had it with the Barack Obama campaign.

Yes, they acknowledge the Illinois senator to be the darling of the race - the exalted Great Black Hope, the charismatic champion of change who is making history for the ages as he mounts a formidable bid to become the nation's first black president. But they chafe at his campaign officials' insensitivity to, and total disregard of, the folks who brought him this far and whom he needs to take him through the White House door: Black people.

Publishers and editors of African-American newspapers - the beacons who live and breathe the blackness of their communities and who regulate the pulse of black America - are fighting mad at what has now become blatantly clear to them: The Democratic Party doesn't give a damn about them. The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign doesn't give a damn about them and, alack and alas, neither does the Barack Obama campaign.

Harboring decades of discontent about being ignored by Democratic presidential candidates (going back to Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry), the National Newspaper Publishers Assn. met on March 13 with the alleged shot-callers of the Obama, Clinton and even John McCain campaigns to vent their frustration at being constantly denied advertising revenue from and editorial access to the candidates. Speaking virtually in unison, the black publishers argued before Michael Strautmanis of Obama's campaign and Tracey Blunt of the Clinton campaign that the white media gets the campaign ads but the black doesn't; the white media gets interviews with the candidates, but the black doesn't.

"During the meeting, both Democratic camps acknowledged that their spending in the black community was anemic," said Pluria Marshall Jr., publisher of Los Angeles' Wave newspapers. "They admitted the need to spend money toward the African American market and that we were a good way to reach that market. Both camps agreed that they needed to start ads with us as soon as possible to reach the audiences that the black papers serve. I asked for the names of the people who are in charge of making decisions on advertising in our papers, and they assured us that we were looking at them; that they - Strautmanis and Blunt [both of whom are African Americans] - had the authority to make decisions about advertising in our papers," Marshall said.

"But they lied to us," said Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader and the Gary Crusader in Indiana. Leavell, who chairs the NNPA Foundation, said the meeting of which Marshall spoke was followed up with a smaller conference with Obama's guy, Strautmanis, who made a vow to hurry up and spend money on black papers in crucial states facing primaries in Pennsylvania on April 22 and North Carolina and Indiana, such as hers, on May 6.

"He promised he would get in touch with me in a couple of days to map out an advertising campaign and I haven't heard from him yet," Leavell said. "He gave us his cell number and I've called it repeatedly and gotten no response from him. I've even called the Fuse agency in St. Louis which is supposed to be handling Obama's advertising, but I have gotten no response from them either.

"They are the worst liars," Leavell continued. "Our papers are supportive of the Democratic Party but they have always taken us and our readers for granted. They spend millions on the white media and won't even spend petty cash on us."

Leavell said this present snub is the second time during this year's primary season that her newspapers have been rebuffed by Obama's campaign: "For the Illinois primary, they didn't spend a dime in my Chicago Crusader and here they're not doing it again - after promising they would - in my Gary Crusader. Gary is 90 percent African-American and we could be the margin of victory for Obama in this state, but his people believe we black publishers should be promoting Obama's candidacy for free."

"They spend millions on the white media and won't even spend petty cash on us."


At April 25, 2008 5:04 AM, Anonymous Philip Shropshire said...

I have mixed feelings about this. I speak from experience as a former reporter for the New Pittsburgh Courier. The black press isn't a beacon of light. Most, if not all, of the African American press is run by black republicans, or probably indirectly financed in my town of Pittsburgh by one prominent white republican, Richard Mellon Scaife. The other thing is that he's trying to distance himself from the perception that he's just a "black" or "protest" candidate.

That said, he should be buying ads in Gary Indiana! He's got the money why not?


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