Hartford – Local TV stations are boasting great ratings. They brag about being number one; how they are the most viewed and trusted by their audiences in the marketplace.
What they don’t tell us is who their target audiences are. This directly affects programming and what they choose to televise. A quick glace at the news and it becomes crystal clear who their primary audience is, and how differently they treat another audience.
What I find disappointing is the news they choose to cover or to promote, particularly in the less affluent urban communities of Hartford or the other large cities of Connecticut. Unfortunately, for the most part, that news will not be positive.
Let’s face it, the news we see about African-Americans and Latino’s on TV is quite one-sided — the bad side. The primary news coverage is most often related to crime and punishment. This is unfair and irresponsible journalism, as it perpetuates centuries-old negative stereotypes about people of color.
I understand how dramatic breaking news draws viewer’s attention and may provide a public safety service. I run a newspaper; those same stories land on my desk daily. So do a multitude of other stories with positive news and events taking place every day in our communities. These stories outweigh the negative stories by a fairly large margin.
During African American History Month, the media reported a positive story or two, but I am afraid those were an attempt at being politically correct. Throughout the year, the calendar of positive events taking place in the minority fails to receive the positive attention that similar events in suburban communities receive. That includes features on our young people as well, along with fundraisers and other events that need high public input support and even TV station participation. We, too, need you to promote a call to action in our communities. I urge all of my friends in general market media to provide the same coverage to events that we bring to your attention.
Here is just one example: on Feb. 22, a wonderful event took place in Hartford’s North End, when the Hartford Enterprise Zone Business Association hosted its annual luncheon. The luncheon, which celebrates National African American History Month, showcases and honors the many achievements of minority entrepreneurs in the Greater Hartford Area and beyond.
For more than a month, we notified and contacted the press with follow up phones and messages. Though there was no breaking news the afternoon of the event, it did not get any coverage. More than 100 minority businessmen and women from all over Connecticut attended the luncheon, broke bread together, sharing common ground on how to make the future better and more prosperous.
The event was very positive and newsworthy. State and local leaders took time out of their schedules to attend and speak with the group. In fact, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who we all love, was our featured speaker for the second year. Yet, no coverage. How can any TV station pass on the awesome Nancy Wyman?
Sad to say, but if one call had been made to the local TV stations that day about a tragic shooting or some other crime in the North End, the TV stations would have immediately rolled out their satellite trucks and reported the incident “live” or “breaking news.” coverage would have been there. The story, then, would have been broadcast at 5, 5:30, 6, 10 and 11 p.m. It would have also led the morning news the next day.
On March 15, Nancy Wyman was on hand, again, when dozens of African American women were honored as “trailblazers’ at the American Legion Hall on Main Street in the North End. If our awesome Lieutenant Governor sees fit to participate, why cannot our TV stations consider this kind of story fit to report? Again, had there been a shooting, the TV stations would have been trying to scoop each other with how well they, the TV stations, shot and told the story.
As many people — red, yellow, black and white — well know, the Inquiring News, along with many other papers like ours, have been the voice for minority people struggling to survive and succeed in a world that, unfortunately, still discriminates. It does not help when local TV stations continue to portray us as thugs, drug dealers and generally ne’er do wells. Our community is much more vibrant than this lowest common denominator news reporting.
Our community has thousands of positive, success stories and events that warrant coverage. We here at Inquiring News do our best to tell the good news and to express the dreams and desires of our people.
The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” In other words, we all should be helping each other, as we all – red, yellow, black and white — need each other whether we realize it or not. Though I focus on lifting up the African American community, I report on many non-black people who help lift our community, such as our wonderful Nancy Wyman, etc.
Corporations can help by taking out advertisements in my paper so I can continue telling the story. In doing so, corporations, including TV stations, convey to our community that their operations are being socially responsible. That’s Journalism and Marketing 101. Also, our communities pose no threat to your existence or bottom line, only a better bottom line.
One of the reasons TV stations unfairly and irresponsibly project our communities as thug-ridden is because most local TV media are owned by and or run by people that have no roots in Hartford or the state, and ratings, which leads to wealth, is all the owners care about. These disconnect from the local community and local affairs almost guarantees no coverage of the many positive news stories that do indeed exist. Media, by any moral standard, must, at least, care about the community it reaches.
We at the Inquiring News will continue to do our best to tell the whole story— the good, the bad and the ugly — about anything going on in our community. So I am not afraid to say to local TV networks, that the African American community, of which I am an integral part, needs your corporate help and support.
In conclusion, for more than 100 years, the African American press has been the best, most accurate voice of the people in our community. We will continue to supply African-Americans and people of color the positive voice they deserve. But please know that Dr. King meant it when he said that we’re all in this together, this effort to lift up and build a strong community, which I believe is the only way to enhance the great state of Connecticut. We believe TV stations can do a much better job of reporting in our community and supporting our community. We ask you to do so. I and the Black Community welcome your response.
Reggie Hales is the publisher of Inquiring News, New England’s largest Black newspaper, where this article originally appeared.