A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis...
The Only Entity Holding The Black Press Back Is…The Black Press Themselves
TEXAS– – One of the tasks that I do every day is to actually check and see what is on the front page of the Blackathlete.NET website and for 99% of the time, I am in total agreement with how the ‘front page’ portrays the stories written by the various writers. However there is that one percent of the time that either I am scratching my head, cussing up a storm or just utterly befuddled by why a story would say one thing or the other and this op/ed just happens to be one of those times. The story that falls into the one percent of ‘rebuttal’ from me is Mr. Joe Booker’s op/ed entitled “Is Black Media Discriminated Against During Postseason and All-Star Games?” Now I don’t know Mr. Booker but I have heard of the Forward Times publication that is down in Houston, Texas. I am sure that Mr. Booker and the publication is an outstanding read but that’s not the issue. What is the issue is the fact that Mr. Booker writes in his piece that the Black press is discriminated against by professional sports and I vehemently beg to differ on that stance. If anyone is discriminating, it is often the Black press because many of us think there is some sort of entitlement that a professional league must give to us just because we are black. I say that in regards to Mr. Booker saying that the Houston Rockets should have done whatever they can to advertise in black publications. My response to such a stance is, “Have you forged a partnership with that professional team?” PARTNERSHIPS ARE VITAL WHETHER BLACK OR WHITE One of the biggest fights that I have to wage within my own publication is the fact that I have to constantly remind the people who write the checks that if they want the San Antonio Spurs to advertise in our publication, we have to be in partnership with them and make ourselves the crème de la crème of the minority publications in this city. For about six years, we were that and the Spurs did advertise in our publication. Yet what we did was go into a partnership to get that done. We did an “in” kind advertising partnership that allowed the team to pay for their advertising through giving the San Antonio Informer a season ticket package that was worth the actual cost of ad runs. Now maybe Mr. Booker and his bosses think that is the wrong thing to do but when you are in the newspaper business, you have to make some sort of concessions when you are small. The Houston Chronicle spends millions of dollars in advertising sponsorship with the Houston Rockets, Astros, Texans, Comets and Aeros. I wouldn’t expect a small publication like the Forward Times to pony up that kind of cash. Heck, I’m trying to figure out for my own publication how we can not only get back to a partnership with the Spurs but also how to incorporate the WNBA team and also have enough sponsorship money to actually have an advertising presence for the NCAA Division 1 college basketball team and minor league teams. Why am I trying to advertise in sports arenas that may not give a hoot about a Black publication? Because to me this isn’t about being Black but about being ‘green’ when it comes to showing sports entities that a small, minority owned publication can and is willing to be a media partner.
What Mr. Booker also fails to realize is that when it comes to such games as the NBA All Star game, there’s not going to be any advertising for Black media. This game isn’t open to the general public. Like the NFL’s Super Bowl, this game is all about corporate sponsorships. The African Americans who are going to this game can afford to pay the high prices for tickets and you can pretty much bet your rent check that they are not going to be reading a Black publication.
THE NBA GOES OUT OF ITS WAY FOR THE ‘SMALL’ PRESS Another point of contention to Mr. Booker’s op/ed is that he believes the league slighted the Black media. I fail to see how that happened. The NBA All Star game had more international media than national media. Mr. Booker should know himself when he goes to a Rockets game how many seats are taken up for the Chinese media corps who are covering Yao Ming. And he should also clarify who is the black press in this regard. The black press is more than just black newspapers; it is the membership of the National Association of Black Journalists of which many were in attendance. If you want to break down even further, it is the African American writers, radio personalities and television personalities who cover the league on a regular basis. Just on a national basis, your ‘black’ press members are: Michael Wilbon, Chris Broussard, Steven A. Smith, Robert “Scoop” Jackson, Stuart Scott, David Aldridge and Cheryl Miller. I’ll even include myself since I do some work with ESPN when the Spurs are the lead story during the playoffs. I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few others but for Mr. Booker to say that we, as members of the Black media, were slighted is so ever false.
Maybe what Mr. Booker fails to realize is that there were several “urban” magazines given credentials that did not use them properly. On Saturday night, while sitting in my seat with a friend of mine who writes for my competition, we spoke with a reporter from the Source magazine and her only goal was not to cover the fashion and music trends of the weekend but to get autographs of the players and celebrities. That was her mission. Now I have a personal problem with that because it does not bode well the rest of us who are out doing legitimate work during that weekend. There was also a credential space for another black publication in Houston that did not show up at all during Saturday or Sunday.
Mr. Booker said in his piece that he could count the number of out of town black media this past weekend and I have serious misgivings. I have serious misgivings because despite Mr. Booker’s assertion that the NBA teams give out limited credentials, that is the reason why the Black media gets overlooked. That’s not the case. As the managing editor of the San Antonio Informer, I have been covering the San Antonio Spurs for thirteen seasons. When the 1996 All Star game was in San Antonio, I had TWO seats even though I needed just one. When the Spurs have made it to all three of their NBA Finals appearances, I know for a fact that the two black newspapers that cover that team had a press credential.
My point is this. Mr. Booker may have misspoke on some key issues when it comes to the Black media. Maybe in Houston, where there is a large Black population, he can attest to how they are treated. But he does not speak for many of us. Correction, he does not speak for me or the other Black newspaper in San Antonio who have a great working relationship with not only the local team but also the NBA itself. And from talking with my cohorts like Scoop Jackson, Stu Scott, Steven A. Smith and others, we haven’t seen any special treatment by the league because of our color. If anything, I can attest to the fact that the league offices for the NBA have gone over and beyond the call of duty for me when I have asked for research material on a story; even when it was negative. Even the player’s union has been more than helpful.
Now maybe Mr. Booker and the publication he works for believe they have been slighted during this past weekend. Maybe they have. But for him to say even on this website that the Black press was treated differently, that is just wrong. If he or his publisher wants to know how the league treats members of the Black press on a ‘regular’ basis, all he has to do is ask. Because if he did, he would have not written a story that makes it look like ‘da man’ is holding us back. The reality of the sports media scene is that if the Black press wants to be treated like everyone else, it has to ‘act’ like everyone else as well. If the truth were really to be told, Mr. Booker might be surprised just how many of us “black media” folks actually screw up our chances. He would really be surprised.