If it’s one thing that’s generally accepted within our community, it’s that media does a very poor and inaccurate job of portraying Black life in America. All too often we’re called to endure commercials with stereotypical innuendos, over exaggerated depictions of the Black family, and news reports that utilize race baiting as method to spike ratings. There have been several discussions on this matter, yet many outlets and journalists are ignoring the African elephant in the room: the lack of minorities in media-related occupations.
This phenomenon isn’t exactly new, but the affects of dismal African-American representation on the backend of the industry are causing more lasting damage than ever before. To help you understand why this is so troubling, we list five reasons that make it hard for Blacks in journalism.
5) It’s Expensive as Shit: You want a good job in the media world? You better go to a good (usually expensive) college with a solid (and probably more expensive) communications program. Now we know a degree certainly doesn’t translate to income, but there are certain invaluables you obtain from these programs. Like networking, which is another expensive way to gain clients and potential job offers. You’ll be required to travel, entertain clients, and attend events to cover stories, and contrary to popular belief; there isn’t always a magical press pass to get you in stuff for free. If you’re a student, you may have to take unpaid internships (which will prevent you from getting a paying job to cover expenses… like idk, FOOD!) in order to gain tangible experience in your field.
4) It’s Extremely Conservative: If you’re an idiot like me, you’ve always thought of media professionals as these creative intellectuals who want to use their gifts of gab to progressively change the lives of your readers/viewers/clients. Well actually (in my Twitter voice), the media field is extremely PC and conservative, especially the large market agencies. See the way you make money in this business is to provide your product for free, use your advertisers/sponsors to cover the cost of output and pocket the rest as revenue. As you could expect, people don’t like to piss off the people that pay them, so everyone toes the line of assimilation as much as possible to keep them checks coming.
3) It Probably Won’t Make You Rich: Now this is a double whammy here. Like I said earlier, breaking into the media world is going to hit your head at some point or another and the shitty result of all that hard work and struggle is that you will be underpaid for most of your career. There’s a reason why many famous journalist come from well-off or wealthy backgrounds. At the end of the day, communications is no different from any other industry where a small minority owns the channels of production and the majority creates the output. Basically, unless you own your own platform, or have a high-level position within a corporation, you better have a positive taste palate for Oodles of Noodles.
2) Shit Skressful Bruh: The media industry is made up of several different professions who all work together to basically do the same damn thing: sell and control information. Public Relations controls perception, advertising sells products/services, and journalists control the flow of information and news. In order to provide these services to you lovely (and needy, dependent) people as quickly as possible, we all run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to chase stories, meet deadlines, and fix problems that are usually out of our control. It’s mentally taxing, leaves very little room for error, and damn near impossible to do with a well-rounded social and personal life (especially for those with dependents such as children or disabled family members).
1) Your Job is Always Misunderstood: Literally, as I’m writing this piece, I have gotten at least six non-emergency phone calls from friends, my mother is repeatedly asking me where something is instead of looking for it, and a client is sending me email after email about something that was done two hours ago. I’ve asked for everybody to leave me the fuck alone long enough for me to bust out a long-winded rant about how my job sucks but the common misconception is, “You’re a writer, this is easy for you, and you don’t need to concentrate.” How would you feel if all the money, time, and tears you invested into your craft was looked at as “hobby” or “natural talent”? The reality is, to create or promote quality content; you have to do a lot of work. Majority of this industry is researching, lots of collaborating (and therefore being on other people’s time and frequencies), and a lot of reporting (not the fun Anderson Cooper type either, we’re talking about news budgets and marketing strategies here). For a lot of us, if people can’t see the glitz and glamour side of our occupation, they assume we’re doing nothing, when usually that’s when the workload is heaviest. You didn’t think all these industry parties throw themselves did you?
The next time you tell a minority in the media that they’re doing their job wrong, call them a sellout, or devalue the importance and difficulty of their work, just think about this list. If you read it and thought, “Oh nah, that would’ve had me fucked up. They better than me…” well, you’re welcome.