Judy, Barbara And Juan: Random Thoughts About A Journalism-Filled Holiday Weekend

Watching and, frankly, enjoying the unapologetically hagiographic network television tributes to the semi-retired Judy Woodruff and newly-deceased Barbara Walters over the weekend, and then waking up to this Juan Gonzalez speech on Democracy Now!, shows how stark differences in mainstream American journalism can be–or at least, used to be, pre-Web and pre-1,000 channels. I accept my membership in Juan’s camp. But it’s clear to do today and tomorrow what he did means using Substack, etc. Effective mainstream journalism has this weird history of coming out of the American muckraking and capitalist traditions, and the millions made by mass advertising created a lot of space for approaches that don’t exist today. So you have to make them yourself, the way I.F. Stone and those folks did.

What’s also interesting to me is how in America, “alternative” spaces, if created by middle-class whites, can eventually become mainstream–or, as some critics of the mainstream would say, co-opted. We remember that at its creation almost 50 years ago, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and All Things Considered, the newsmagazine of National Public Radio, were silent critiques of, and alternatives to, commercial mainstream news. (Note that among NPR’s alumni is former Philadelphia radio journalist and now Leftist legend Mumia Abu-Jamal.) Almost 30 years ago, Democracy Now! was a radical, almost anarchist critique of the million-dollar media institution it now is. ūüėČ I guess it now sees itself through that Gonzalez lens of outsider-within-the-inside. Which makes me think: is the middle-class, millionaire blond public television anchor Judy Woodruff just a “purer” version of her commercial counterpart, the long-ago-gone-Hollywood Barbara Walters? It’s a good, fair question.

In 2023 and beyond, more and more truthtellers must struggle with Amiri Baraka’s words, applied to race but easily, in this monochromatic circumstance, given to class:

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I know it’s hard to be Black, and we’re all controlled by white folks.

[W.E.B.] Du Bois said we always have the double consciousness.

We’re trying to be Black, and meanwhile you got a white ghost hovering over your head that says, “If you don’t do this, you’ll get killed. If you don’t do this, you won’t get no money. If you don’t do this, nobody’ll think you’re beautiful. If you don’t do this, nobody’ll think you’re smart.”

That’s the ghost.

You’re trying to be Black and the ghost is telling you to be a ghost.

***

I appreciate Walters intervening Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. But I appreciate more that she said a few years ago that in today’s commercial news media climate, no one would care about it. I will appreciate what Woodruff soon will teach me about parts of America of which I know nothing. But I still see ghosts in my TV tube. And with money and stardom on the line, very few Juan Gonzalez-es who will challenge powerful people like Woodruff’s and Walters’ employers.

Juan Gonzalez’s Final NYC Lectures (Before Moving To Chicago)

https://www.democracynow.org/2022/12/23/latinos_race_and_empire_a_talk

https://www.democracynow.org/2022/12/6/juan_gonzalez_reflections_on_40_years

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More on Juan Gonzalez can be found here.

The New, New Black Public Intellectuals (Or, The Digger-ati ;))

Black Twitter

Leave it to Michael Eric Dyson to write this. (I remember he did something similar almost 20 years ago in his book “Race Rules.” )

It’s an interesting list. It would be a bit more interesting if it included people I met¬†over the years, like Jared Ball and Rosa Clemente. They are no strangers to public intellectual work, but, alas,¬†they don’t color within the lines.

But then again, looking at the older generation:

* Herb Boyd has written about 25 books in the 30 years since he left academe AND he has TWO National Association of Black Journalists awards (one with Dyson!), including a NABJ Hall of Fame award: when does HE get picked as a starter on the schoolyard? When he turns 80 in three years? 
* Another friend and mentor, Don Rojas, should be writing and teaching right now about the Grenada revolution.
* A Black radio broadcaster I grew up listening to, ¬†Imhotep Gary Byrd, is holding on in the 21st century, incredibly,¬†with a free two-hour show on WBAI-FM on Friday nights and a WLIB/WBLS two-hour simulcast on Sunday nights. He will turn 70 (?) in 2019: when does HE get a DAMN¬†NATIONAL show in either/both broadast mediums!?!? Almost 30 (!) years ago in¬†Newark, when I had more hair and teeth than I have now :), I used to listen to the Rev. Al Sharpton on Byrd’s WLIB show, so¬†how can Sharpton get TWO national Black radio shows and ONE national white TV show and Byrd, with almost 50 years in the game as a living legend,¬†can’t get ONE of these?!? (Even the guy at The New York Daily News who used to cover Byrd and the rest of New York City’s Black radio fairly just got canned. :))
* And, if we can broaden out to Latinos here,¬†will Amy Goodman hire Juan Gonzalez as a REAL “Democracy Now!”¬†co-host once The slow-death¬†News lets him go? How much more award-winning (I still remember his “stolen” Pulitzer for 911 ash) investigative journalism does his 66-year-old, clearly-spends-all-his-spare-time-writing-serious-history-books¬†butt has do? When he’s cut, will¬†he get the $200,000 a year New York City professorships others of less stature, ability and accomplishment get?

I just remember that Manning Marable and Earl Ofari Hutchinson were among those who started this “post-Civil Rights Movement Black public intellectual” thing 40 years ago on the Op-Ed pages of Black newspapers¬†that only a few give¬†a¬†crap about now. Time is not the only thing that keeps on slipping into the future.