At the end of January, I organized and moderated a panel at Temple University’s School of Media and Communications called “Separate But Equal? The Role of the Black Media in the 21st Century.” The title of the panel was deliberately provocative, because I wanted people to consider whether having media outlets that cater to specific ethnic groups was regressive and racist or a progressive sign of the times. The four panelists, representing the worlds of television, radio, newspaper, and digital media, never truly answered that question, but they did offer plenty of evidence that today’s black press provides a valuable service to a community that continues to be underserved by the mainstream media.
As a journalist, as a black woman, and as a media observer, it occurs to me that some people might believe that the time has long since passed when a separate black media is necessary. We no longer live in a (legally) segregated society, so why would we need a segregated press? In my opinion, the answer is, we don’t. We don’t need a separate black media in the 21st century, but we deserve to have one. And therein lies the difference between past and present.