Where Was The Black Press In T O’s ‘Circus’ Coverage?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: September 30, 2006

SAN ANTONIO � I wanted to wait a few days before I pinned my own piece about Terrell Owens and the incident that literally took front page of every single newspaper around the world one time or another. I wanted to wait because I didn�t want to get caught up in the fray of irresponsible journalism that has plagued this coverage at times. I�ll be the first to admit that when it comes to medical issues such as drugs, dosage and side affects, I�m as clueless as the three blind mice in the nursery rhyme. And when it comes to what a person may see if confronted with such a situation that Kim Etheridge faced, again I want to feign ignorance so that I can side on the err on the side of caution. So after 48 hours of my own introspective of the situation, I am left to wonder the following; just how did the Black press fair in all of this circus coverage of an accidental overdose?

I ask that question because I received an e-mail from a guy who thinks that the only thing the media does is to take successful Black athletes to task. Let me just share some bits of this e-mail in regards to what the author felt was another injustice.

�Gregg: It is becoming ever so clear to me that my frustration is being misdirected towards the white press; when it should be towards the nonexistent black press!

There seem to be a shift in the perception from white man to the elite black man, that some black athletes (Quincy Carter, Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman, Terrell Owens, etc.) are shiftless and lazy. When it is proven fact that environment plays a major role in how success is handled. I guess they (successful black men) feel because they have work their way to top by the so-called ‘white man rules’, only to have those good for nothings, leap-frog ahead of them into the spot light is frustrating.

Meanwhile, lost in this whole issue is a leveled playing field. Neither, the NFL, professional sports, and/or the media should have the power to overrule ‘civil rights’ violations. Therefore, again, I ask the media did Jerry Jones sabotage Quincy’s right to privacy under Federal Law? And, if you could forget your dislike for lazy Negroes for a minute, you just might be able to see my point!

I am not ashamed to stand firm for Quincy, OJ, Michael, TO, Iverson, etc., even if I am called the ‘N’ word lover of black athletes. Because, I am not seeking political correctness but justice that is a right for all Americans. Shiftless or not.� The writer continued, �I understand Gregg. You are a part of this so-called fraternity that invades individuals� privacy. Well, I believe a show of no mercy would eradicate the arrogance of today�s media. Fear is wisdom and knowledge according to God’s Word. Lies, deceit, leaks, etc, had become everyday folly for some your elite comrades. I believe it is time for the public to re-take the press that has been hijacked by some individuals with no morals or decency for individual rights. See the Goat and his kids.� A lot of that may be frustration of one Black man against the establishment of the media. It may be the mindless rantings of someone who will continue to believe that there is some undeniable force out there trying to tear down black athletes. It could even have some validity although his assessment of civil rights is definitely off base in areas of laws and violations of them. Civil rights are one thing; constitutional rights in regards to laws are another. However, out of all of this, two paragraphs stood out and had me thinking about the Black press and this coverage and those were the first and last paragraphs. The Black press, of which I am a part of and of which BASN is a major player in, had a shining moment of covering this event and many of us did not take advantage of it. That is inexcusable and bears witness to what this e-mail attests to. This writer of the e-mail and thousands of others truly want to know: where was the coverage of this event from a Black community�s perspective.

A few of us did a masterful job of covering this event and did go out of their way to voice opinions that may have been sounding boards for others. BASN�s own LaToya Hardaway did an exceptional piece on the events as they unfolded amidst the circus atmosphere at Valley Ranch. LaToya is our Dallas Cowboys writer and our resident all things about Dallas guru in regards to sports coverage. It was refreshing to read something from a Dallas native that saw the issues from a Black woman�s point of view. Also Richard Prince from the Maynard institute had a great column of his own that you can read at http://www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince/060928_prince/. Prince�s �Journalisms� column is read by many members of the National Association of Black Journalists and by other journalists around the country. His summarization of views from various Black columnists across the country gives you a wide spectrum as to what many others may be thinking.

But what did some of the bigger names in the Black press and that is namely the newspapers and few media outlets that are supposed to be the voice of the Black community? How was their coverage in this whole ordeal? What did they write? From what I have gathered, not much and that are troubling. The Tom Joyner show did this great promo of ongoing coverage when it first broke on Wednesday but by Thursday they were back to their usual shucking and jiving self and included the story in their skits. Not something a serious morning show would have done but let�s be real, the TJMS is not a morning news show; it�s a morning infotainment show. Big difference. Joyner�s own website, Blackamericaweb.com, had one story about Owens and the writer included Dr. Alvin Poussaint. This esteemed doctor of psychiatry at Harvard�s medical school told BAW that there is a misnomer of Blacks does not commit suicide. In that piece, Dr. Poussaint said, �Black people commit suicide and always have committed suicide, but black folks won�t admit it because there�s a big wall of silence around suicide.� ��The suicide rates of black men overall is half the white rate, but it is still suicide,� Poussaint told BlackAmericaWeb.com. �And the rate among young black men is almost equals the rate of young white men. One reason the black rate is half of whites is mostly because with white men, the older they get, the higher the rate. As black men get older, they don�t tend to commit suicide. But the rate for black men is four times the rate of black women.� Now that�s a sidebar note to this article but it�s worth mentioning because of so much misinformation in just the coverage of this event. Although the media, as a whole, did a so-so job of covering this event, the various rumors, unverified sources, and general lack of quality information disseminated to the public became quite apparent in a world where it is now more accepted to be five minutes ahead of the competition and flat wrong on content rather than be five minutes late and have all angles of a story covered with verified facts and credible sources on hand.

But this still does not answer the question that the e-mailer raised and that question may never be answered. For those who are in the Black press, this story was ripe for giving the community it serves coverage like no other media source could. In many instances, this part of the media machine failed the very people it was suppose to serve. That could mean numerous things but it should be taken for exactly as it is intended. When it came to enlightening the community, putting knowledge in the hands of those who wanted it and to tell the story in �our own words�, this time the Black media missed a golden opportunity. Could it happen again? Maybe. But there are so many lessons that need to be learned here and hopefully those who did not cover this story and tell it in a fashion that was beneficial to their audiences will not miss another big one.