Obama impacts black titles' DC coverage

For media outlets that serve a primarily black audience, Barack Obama's election and inauguration as the first black US president provide a once-in-a-lifetime story - one that will give political and public affairs, as well as lifestyle coverage of the new first family, a more prominent spot in black media.

For media outlets that serve a primarily black audience, Barack Obama's election and inauguration as the first black US president provide a once-in-a-lifetime story – one that will give political and public affairs, as well as lifestyle coverage of the new first family, a more prominent spot in black media.

Lenox Magee, a Chicago-based reporter who has written for such titles, including Savoy Professional, N'Digo, and Monarch, says that since Obama's campaign gained momentum before the January 2008 Iowa caucuses, his editors have asked for more political reporting and less on entertainment and religion.

“I know that, in the past, we talked a lot about arts and entertainment and religious issues, and it's totally switched over to politics,” he says. “When African-American leaders are becoming politically influential... African Americans want to know more.”

Bryan Monroe, VP and editorial director of Ebony and Jet, says the Obama presidency, which he calls “the biggest story to hit black America in several decades,” has pushed his magazines to expand their Washington bureau coverage. Ebony and Jet also plan to cover the effect the Obamas have on Washington, DC, as a whole, he adds.

“It's as much a cultural, social, and American story [as a political one], and as journalists, we have been at ground zero of one of the most amazing political stories,” he notes. “As important as it is to have Obama in the White House as the centerpiece of any coverage, we also realize that DC is going to change. Socially and culturally, the people and the texture of a city like [Washington] take on the personality of whoever is president.”

And while Essence announced January 12 that Cynthia Gordy will become its first Washington correspondent, smaller black media outlets might not follow suit, says Kim Hunter, president and CEO of Lagrant Communications, an integrated marketing firm that specializes in efforts targeting multicultural audiences. Essence, for example, can more easily expand its political coverage than other outlets because Time Warner owns it, he says.

But any increase in political coverage will likely not occur at the expense of other areas that are important to blacks, Hunter adds.

“Out of all of these, arts and entertainment and religion are big factors in the African-American community, so I don't think you can [expand political coverage] at the expense of one or the other,” he says.

Lifestyle coverage of the new first family, the first of the TV age to feature two young daughters in the White House, will almost certainly increase in the black and mainstream media branches, Monroe adds.

“At the Easter Egg Roll, you can imagine the pictures... the impact it's going to have on people across the country large and small,” he says. “I'm still both amazed and impressed at the level of connection the American people have with the new White House, and certainly it is affecting media coverage.”

Magee adds that any expansion of lifestyle coverage of the new first family will also follow incoming first lady Michelle Obama.

“Many political people [in Chicago] are just as interested in her as Barack [Obama] and what she is going to be doing in the White House,” he says. “I think people are really intrigued... and people are going to be more interested in their lifestyle.”

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