Blogging from Philanthrapolooza: How Media Impacts Life Outcomes for Black Men and Boys

You can’t have social justice until you have media justice” – Dori Maynard, President, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

Hello New Voices readers! My name is Tracey, a guest blogger from BlackGivesBack, a blog dedicated to philanthropy in the black community. As most of you know, the Council on Foundation’s Leadership Summit – the largest-ever gathering of leaders in philanthropy from the U.S. and around the world - began today at the beautiful Gaylord National Resort in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of our nation’s capital. Although my schedule is jam packed this week, I wanted to definitely be a part of this unprecedented event, so I attended a couple of sessions today, one of which was the ABFE (Association for Black Foundation Executives) sponsored session titled How Media Impacts Life Outcomes for Black Men & Boys.

Moderated by veteran African American journalist Tony Brown, host of the longest running PBS show Tony Brown’s Journal, the session featured three panelists who discussed the cultural, political and social impact of the media on black communities. The panelists were: Dori J. Maynard, President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; Makani Themba-Nixon, Executive Director of the Praxis Project; and Steve Montiel, Director of USC’s Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism.

So why should we care about this topic?

Ms. Maynard began the discussion by giving examples on why we should care:

The census shows us that 80% of white Americans live in segregated what that means is for the most part, that we don’t go to school together, we don’t go to church together and we don’t eat in neighborhood restaurants together – so what we learn about the black male is from the media.

People of color, and black men in particular, continue to be overrepresented in stories about crime, sports and entertainment and underrepresented in stories about business, lifestyle and everyday life.

So when you read a story that says 28% of all black men at some point spend some time behind bars and that story does not address what the other 72% of black men are doing, it makes a difference on how black men are going to be judged when they’re going out on job interviews or just walking down the street.”

She went on to say: “You can’t have social justice until you have media justice. Until we correct the images of African Americans in mainstream media, it’s going to be almost impossible to change public policy around issues of crime, education and healthcare.”

How can funders and philanthropy effect change in this area? One place to start is by supporting organizations and programs working everyday to expand the number of people of color working in the field. Ms. Maynard discussed her newest program at the Maynard Institute, the Media Academy that trains entry level journalists of color. She stated that studies show journalists of color leaving the field after five years because there’s no career advancement and they’re not feeling challenged. She shared the story of an alumnus from the program who is now the editor of the Oakland Tribune. She says he’s making a difference in the way that the paper reaches out to communities – by setting up a satellite office in West Oakland, an under reported community that needed more media coverage. Mr. Montiel shared the Justice in Journalism Fund that provides modest support to journalists who want to do in depth journalism.

Other ideas raised by the panel on ways philanthropy and funders can address this issue is for funders to look at what you’re currently supporting. Do an inventory on what your foundation is supporting related to diversity in media and compile a wish list on what you want your foundation to support. Also, create a committee comprised of philanthropic leaders and organizations to create media equity, using funders that have experience in funding media projects in relation to race and racial justice to assist. Suggestions on what funders can do in their local communities: Funders should look to their local media, get to know who the players are, form relationships, and then convene meetings in their communities with these journalists to figure out where the gaps are and how they can help facilitate them.

In news related to today’s panel discussion, Tony Brown shared with the audience that advertising giant Procter & Gamble is asking America whether they should change their advertising on MTV and BET. He read from an article that appeared in the NY Daily News last month:

The household-products monolith doesn't like its ads appearing in television or radio places that could tarnish the P&G image, and there have been complaints for years that MTV and BET traffic too heavily in videos that degrade women, glorify violence and drug dealing, overemphasize sex and portray black men primarily as thugs.

So P&G has taken the unusual step of setting up a toll-free number, 1-800-331-3774, where anyone can vote "yes" or "no" on whether the company should "change our advertising" on MTV and BET. While there's no option for an explanatory message, P&G will accept faxed comments at its consumer relations department, (513) 983-2881." Read article here.

At the conclusion of the panel session, Tony Brown announced for the first time in public that after 40 successful years, his show Tony Brown’s Journal will cease due to funding at the end of this month. He stated that he has contributed $500,000 in personal funds to the program and he can’t continue to do so. He said the show was a privilege for him and the greatest blessing he could ever have.

On the web:

The Maynard Institute:
The Praxis Project:
USC Annenberg Institute: