Friday afternoon, the Center for Black Studies held the first in a series of discussions regarding issues facing the black community in Portland.
Reporters from television, radio and print were on hand to speak about what they’ve learned through reporting. The speakers addressed the fact that the problem with reporting on the black community is getting other races interested and involved in the news.
“One challenge for me is trying to convince my bosses that what is going on in our community is important to the masses,” Ken Boddie, KOIN 6 news reporter, said.
“Every time you see a report on police brutality, there are a hundred that don’t get written about,” Lisa Loving, reporter for the Skanner, said.
“It’s going to take a lot of white and black people to make change,” Portland Tribune writer Promise King said.
Many on the panel mentioned that often times both black and white people expect blacks to act a certain way.
“I like to call it the standardization of blackness,” Boddie said. “Because we have similar skin tones, people think we are a lot alike.”
“On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a ‘Judas’ for my writing,” Renee Mitchell, Oregonian columnist, said. “It’s only fair that if I can point out the faults in other communities that I be allowed to point at my own, too.”
David Walker, screen editor and the only black writer for Willamette Week, sympathized with Mitchell. Although he works in the arts and entertainment section, he is often called upon to cover news when it involves northeast Portland or the black community.
“After running stories, I’ve been told such things as, ‘Go back to Africa,’ from both whites and blacks,” Walker said.
There are many instances where journalists are accused of putting blacks in the news only when a crime is committed. Some of the journalists on the panel discussed how they work around that.
“When I interview for a story, I don’t go grabbing the most ignorant-looking person,” Boddie said.
“Whenever a movie comes out with a non-white lead, I try to get pictures of it in [Willamette Week],” Walker said.
Loving said she would like to see more black people covered in the business sections of papers.
“We don’t ever talk about all these great small black businesses,” Loving said. “Some people are just invisible in the media.”
The panel said the black community is faced with myriad problems, but that much of this can be solved by people getting involved and making a difference.
“The housing authority just got a grant for $40 million, and yet when I walk in to their meetings most the people who are listening are from that industry,” said Bernie Foster, publisher of the Skanner. “Walk in like you own the place, get involved.”
Loving feels that many people who read the stories fail to act on them.
“Sometimes when we do these stories, I wonder if people are even paying attention,” Loving said.
The panel discussion ran from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information on future roundtable discussions, e-mail [email protected]