Journalism: Understanding the mission
Journalism ethnically is not monolithic; there can be no ‘circling of the wagons’ as objective scrutiny is primary Journalism by Black publishers in communities across America has always been held to a level different in scope by
Journalism ethnically is not monolithic; there can be no ‘circling of the wagons’ as objective scrutiny is primary
Journalism by Black publishers in communities across America has always been held to a level different in scope by Black leadership from mainstream journalism since the days of crusading abolitionist newspapers like the North Star and Freedom’s Journal, published by Frederick Douglass and John Russwurm & Samuel Cornish, respectively.
Those newspapers were not only “watch dogs” of government in the general sense of integrity, ethics, honesty, and fair play, but their primary purpose was to serve as the voice for morality and humanity for an enslaved and dispossessed people brought to America bound in chains.
The role of Black-owned newspapers changed over the years and decades following the abolition of slavery, to a role advocating equality of rights for freed Blacks in a nation that prided itself blessed under a righteous God, dispensing “liberty and justice for all.”
To achieve that end, Black-owned newspapers needed to be “one voice” to strengthen and maximize the message.
As segregation spawned Black communities with their own tiers of leadership in politics and business, the role of the local press changed to a more expanded one of watch dog dedicated to the scrutiny of power. Greed and the lust for power was not just the practice of the White mainstream. Sin is a human condition shared by all races and classes of people. Absolute power unchecked leads to corruption.
The problem in Urban America is Black leadership predisposed to greed and corruption loathes a free, independent press that shadows their every move. The desire is that publishers and editors will assume a blind trust.
Black-owned newspapers in Los Angeles and other urban areas are expected to “circle the wagons” of Black politicians, Black issues, Black viewpoints and so on. When we stray from support of high-profile African American politicians, community leader, and organizations like the NNPA [National Newspaper Publishers Assn. (an all-Black organization) or the local and National Black Journalists Assn., we are viewed as “outside the camp,” essentially branded as unorthodox or a “maverick.”
For a newspaper to be effective in its classic role of watch dog,”it must remain independent of outside influence, even if it means sacrificing revenue. To compromise journalistic responsibility to scrutinize city government is tantamount to “turning a blind eye.” That would make us complicit in corrupt practices that might occur.
Thankfully, city government coffers are not the only revenue stream in a municipality available to an independent, public newspaper.
Black-owned media often fall into this quandary because so many rely on minority political officials to steer revenue their way or they believe they must fall in line with the local leadership — the political, business, and clergy strata, which makes the publisher and CEO monolithic in opinions and views concerning the local community.
This is loosely defined as “Black Journalism,” a hybrid form of journalism that was essential during the time of slavery, post-slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, when the Black community was isolated by segregation and had to “circle the wagons” for survival.
That’s playing follow the leader. A publisher is a leader in a framework of many in a community and must be independent in this regard.
Times have changed. Segregation is a relic of the past as is the aforementioned type of hybrid journalism. The editorial thrust may still focus largely on issues and news endemic to a specific community, but giving Black political officials a “pass” or embracing their views and governing strategies simply because they are Black only breeds corruption.
We don’t subscribe to that. For this reason, alone, the Compton Herald receives zero support from the City of Compton, namely its mayor, city council, and city manager — the latter of whom moves at the behest of the mayor.
This is unfortunate for individuals who are arguably intelligent. The general consensus is they do not understand journalism in the classic sense, which is erroneous, because they do. Otherwise, they would expect the same favor from the mainstream press, which they do not.
In this sense, the Compton Herald is considered conservative, even though we have always served as a crusader in focusing the glare of scrutiny on issues of discrimination, police abuse, and lack of equal opportunity concerning the minority community in the tradition and style of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, orator, journalist, and newspaper publisher,.
The Compton Herald has served Compton with distinction since 2007 and will continue. We know and understand our journalistic mission and will stay the course. This is what our loyal readers expect and we will honor that.