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July 29, 2004

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Q & A: Joe Davidson


Joe Davidson is a political columnist with BET.Com, editor of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Focus Magazine and a commentator for National Public Radio. A professional journalist since 1971, he has worked at several newspapers including The Wall Street Journal as a correspondent in South Africa and Washington. He was interviewed by Seth Effron.

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Sarah M. J. Welch

Q. How important are ethnic media in covering politics and public policy?

A. It’s very important because it is targeted. We try to give our audience more information about specific topics and people than they certainly get in the general news media. For example, when I’m covering the State of the Union address, I’ll focus on those aspects of the speech of concern to African Americans. I look at those issues in a way that will tell my readers how those issues or decisions will affect them directly. You’re more targeted with the reporting and the information that you provide in reports. That’s a service that the general media cannot provide.

Q. So, how will your reporting, on John Kerry’s acceptance speech for example, be different from reporting in mainstream media?

A. I’ll be looking at what Kerry has to say about issues that are of particular interest to black Americans. There are a lot of issues where there is an overlap. However, one of the things that will be interesting is how prominent [Kerry] makes those issues in direct relationship to concerns that black Americans faces. The [BET/CBS News] poll [in July] clearly indicated that jobs is the No. 1 issue in black America. … If he only talks about tax credits or about jobs at home, that’s not going to be specific enough for the black community. … I think that while he can count on getting nine out of 10 black votes, the question is how many people -- specifically black people -- will turn out. Kerry needs to come up with a jobs program where black people can see it will directly benefit them.

Q. How do you feel members of the minority press are treated compared with the mainstream media?

A. This week I’ve been trying to interview Barack Obama and haven’t gotten those calls returned. If I still worked for The Wall Street Journal, I would have those calls returned. BET has a bad reputation because there is so much booty-shaking on the network. To some extent, that perception is definitely understandable. Those of us who labor in the news and analysis side suffer with criticism that really doesn’t have anything to do with the news product.

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Q & A: R.Craig Sautter

Q & A: Al Franken


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