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White On Top: Tea Party and News Media Aren't All That Different

Credit the recent NAACP resolution calling out racism within the Tea Party with producing at least one significant result – a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of black faces appearing in mainstream news programs as the media cover the latest ‘controversy’ triggered by America’s oldest civil rights organization.

While news coverage of this Tea Party racism controversy did increase the media’s typically limited use of black analysts, that use didn’t stray beyond the standard media practice of basically segregating black analysts/commentators into civil rights-related issues.

Typical of the news media’s standard practice of superficial this-side/that-side coverage, conservative star Sarah Palin figured prominently in initial reportage of Tea Party rejection of NAACP racism charges, without there being any mention of her own history of inciting bigotry in public statements made during the 2008 presidential campaign.

As happens routinely when it comes to stories involving racism in American society, no one pointed out that the paucity of minorities in the Tea Party “Movement” closely matches the paucity of minorities in America’s news media.

Telling parallels exist between the Tea Party’s exclusively white leadership ranks and the predominately white decision-making hierarchy of the mainstream media.

Whites hold 88.9 percent of the supervisory ranks at U.S. newspapers according to the 2010 newsroom census released by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE).

In 2009, a report released by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) documented a “discouraging lack of diversity in top tier newsroom management at seven of the nation’s major broadcast companies.”

Even surging web-based news entities evidence exclusionary minority involvement at supervisory and reporting levels. ASNE, earlier this year, announced its intent to conduct a diversity census of online news organizations – an area of concern noted during congressional testimony late last year by past NABJ president Bryan Monroe.

This oft-documented lack of minorities reporting and supervising presentation of news content contradicts claims by conservatives that the news media is a bastion of liberals blighted by the cancerous affirmative action infecting American society.

Not surprisingly, while much of America’s mainstream media treats racism within Tea Party ranks as something hidden in plain sight the nation’s Black Press and the foreign media have repeatedly cited the bigotry within that disgruntled anti-tax movement.

For example, in November 2009, syndicated Black Press columnist Dr. Julianne Malveaux, an economist and college president, wrote about the Tea Party’s having “introduced an acceptable racism into what might otherwise be reasonable criticism about policy matters.”

Coverage by the Guardian newspaper of London of the Tea Party’s first national convention earlier this year carried the headline: “Prejudice and principle brew at tea party meet.”

The misunderstandings percolating through American society on issues involving race and racism persist partly from the news media’s often exclusionary practices on viewpoint diversity and employment.

Today’s misunderstandings mimic those existing when the 1968 presidential Kerner Commission harshly criticized news media practices for contributing “to the black-white schism” in this country.


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