Friday, July 24, 2009

What Was All the Fuss Over CNN's Black In America Series?

This time last year much of the black blogosphere was going off about CNN's Black In America 1 series. Folks thought the reporting wasn't in depth, the series reinforced stereotypes of black people, it focused too much on poor black people and not enough of the black middle class, CNN put a cloud over the experience of black women in America, coverage of the black woman was thin, Soledad O'Brien isn't "black enough" to be covering this series. I could go on but check a blog post on Racialicious from last year to read some of the critiques. Honestly, I didn't feel it was as bad as people thought. Cocoa Fly wasn't born yet so I didn't have a space to counter people's complaints. Black In America wasn't on an Eyes on the Prize level but it wasn't horrible. It was educational and real about some of the plights black people are facing 40 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Black In America 2 aired this week. No cyber beatdown like last year. It seems people feel better about the series this round as it shows future leaders and pioneers in the black community. I found it inspirational and uplifting while still looking at some of the plagues in black America--poor education system, poverty, health, etc. But I've still heard complaints about shallow reporting, too much focus on poor blacks, lacking variety in the black experience, yadda, yadda, yadda. Okay let's be real, CNN's Black In America isn't just for black folks. CNN is trying to target all people so they're not going to get 9ft Black Studies deep in their coverage. Does that make it right? No. But they're targeting a general audience and I believe trying to start a national discussion.

Another issue, CNN can't cover every black experience in an eight hour, two-part documentary. Like Fredric Mitchell said over at Jack and Jill, "The dismissive snark that seems to be evident about the piece because it lacks a depiction of your personal experience is not the point. The point is to cut a swath as large as possible to provide perspective, ultimately countering the generalizations that derail progress in our country." Speak on it Mitchell. Hey, most of the stories took place on the East Coast. What about the black experience on the West Coast? That was missing but it's cool, CNN couldn't get it all. Still a lot was covered in little time. Each story in part I and II were so captivating that they could be flushed out into individual documentaries. Maybe that's why some people felt the reporting was lacking.

The bigger issue is not CNN but BNN, Black News Network. Never heard of it? Me neither. That's because it doesn't exist! We don't have a news station to explore what's going on in the black diaspora. I'm not just talking about reporting in Harlem and Oakland. There' s black news in Europe, Canada, Central America, etc. But those stories go untold. If we had a bigger black press to really dig up stories and shine light on Blacks in America and across the globe, maybe CNN would not have ticked people off so much. BET cut it's nightly newscast. My old show NPR's News & Notes got whacked earlier this year. Our stories are underrepresented in mainstream and minorities as a whole are underrepresented in the newsroom. So where are black folks supposed to get quality broadcast news?

Well, Soledad isn't tripping off of the complaints because she's going to keep it moving this October with CNN's Latino In America. Hmmm....I wonder if my brown people will share similar complaints with black folks.

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