It just keeps getting worse for Black people in California . Not only have we dwindled down to a measly 6 percent of the state's population, but now the few Black writers that we could depend on at the Los Angeles Times to champion our stories from our perspective are no more, including my dear friend veteran journalist John Mitchell, the last Black reporter in the Metro section.
Besides John, Lynell George, another friend and damn good journalist, and sportswriter Lonnie White are all casualties of a failing newspaper industry. Before that, there was Jocelyn Stewart from Obituaries, who left in August, and Gayle Pollard Terry in Metro, who left last year along with her husband and a couple of other Black writers in the initial layoff aka forced retirement.
I haven't heard anything regarding the fate of Lisa Richardson, Sandy Banks, both Black writers at the Times in the Opinion Editorial section.
This isn't good. I mean not just from an employee's perspective, but from a reader's perspective either.
Those of us in L.A. that read the Times' know that it's not often that positive stories regarding Blacks find their way into the paper. Usually when you see a Black person on the cover of the paper, be it the A section, Metro or otherwise, we're either a sports athlete, entertainer, or criminal.
Many times the positive stories in our community go unwritten in lieu of stories about gang violence, political misdoings, and other criminal misconduct. A perfect example of this would be the Los Angeles Taste of Soul Festival, which drew over 100,000 thousand people to Crenshaw Boulevard . Even though it's the largest street festival in Los Angeles ' history, the Times' neglected to cover it. However, in August, the Times' extensively covered Silverlake's Sunset Junction, which according to the Times' only attracted "tens of thousands" into a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard that "attempted to connect longtime Latino residents and their newer gay and lesbian neighbors." Go figure?
Another example is the Times' devotion to the Cannes ( France ), Toronto ( Canada ), Palm Springs International, and Sundance ( Utah ) film festival's. And when I say extensive, I mean dedicating teams of reporters to go off and cover these festivals-none of which are in Los Angeles -sometimes to the point of having their own special sections in the paper. However, the film festivals that take place right in their backyard-in particular the Black film festivals-are either ignored all together, or have to fight for the smallest mention in the paper. I know this because it's a fight I have almost every year and if it wasn't for the Black reporters at the Times' who oftentimes are the one's pushing their colleagues to cover these events, they might not ever appear on the pages of the Times'.
At some point you have to question the motive of a paper who during the Olympics, in one edition, successfully mentions and/or features gold medalist Michael Phelps in the A, Metro, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Health, and Olympic sections of the paper, but neglects to feature Venus and Serena Williams on the cover of either section after winning the tennis doubles gold medal-and they're from Los Angeles (Compton)! Instead they get reduced to a blurb instead of the full color photo and hoopla they deserve.
The Times' new blogs online were a great addition. And while the Times' has a blog on almost every facet of Los Angeles life, including traffic, pets and animals, history, celebrity sightings, food, and sports-there isn't one blog dedicated to the culture and happenings of Black L.A.
And I am not even going to get on the Op-Ed pages-but if I read one more article written by someone who is not Black about the history of Blacks in Los Angeles and California…
I sometimes wish that the Times' showed the same fervor and interest in covering the positive things taking place in Los Angeles ' Black community as it did when reporting on the not-so-positive-i.e. King Hospital , Tyrone Freeman, etc. Now wouldn't that be something.
I mean, I know we make up 6 percent of the State's population but does that mean that we make up the same percentage in content in the paper? Come to think about it, that's not even accurate. 6 percent would be an increase compared to our current coverage.
When was the last time the Times' ever held a town hall meeting with their constituency's to get feedback on how they're doing? Exactly.
I'm not hating on Times,' per se. After all, I still actually read the physical paper everyday. But I have become increasingly frustrated with the paper's editorial choices as it relates to Blacks. Many of the reporters let go today and in the recent past, were people that I turned to for answers and advice on how to push for a change and more inclusion at the Times.' Now they're gone and there are but a few of us left on the inside-and who knows for how long.
I guess it's that much more important to read both your daily newspaper and the Black newspaper-where you can rest assured that if the Williams' sisters win a gold medal, they will be on the front page of the Sports' section. In L.A. county we are lucky to have more than one paper that focuses on the Black community-my suggestion…find one, find them all, and subscribe to them today! After that, you might want to start familiarizing yourself with the New York Times and the Washington Post…I'm just saying.
At 31, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and Ebony Magazine. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes,' she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.