By Tatyana Hopkins, Howard University News Service
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Black participation was noticeably low at the Republican National Convention as Republicans gathered to nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate, but black media outlets were present to cover an event they said was important to their audiences.
The total number of African-American delegates at the RNC was last officially reported as 18 out of 2,472 delegates. This figure represents less than 1 percent of total delegates and is the lowest number in generations. In 2004, for example, the percentage was seven times higher.
Still, black media, which included radio, television and print, were there. The Chicago Defender and the Michigan Chronicle newspapers sent two reporters each, one broadcast and one print. Those reporters provided coverage for nearly 200 National Newspaper Publishers Association member newspapers.
Harold Fisher of WHUR radio in Washington and other African-American media said they felt it was important for them to be here to provide their perspective.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Fisher, who anchors and produces the Daily Drum news/talk show. “We cover it all.
“The RNC, just like the DNC (Democratic National Committee in Philadelphia) are both political entities, and even though there aren’t a lot of black people here compared to what we expect to see and have seen at the DNC, we still have to cover it,” he said. “There are still issues that affect our community.”
Pew Research Center reports that 89 percent of African-Americans lean toward Democrat as their party identification as opposed to 11 percent who lean Republican.
Dwain Doty of the NPR Affiliate WJSU in Jackson, Tenn., said that doesn’t matter.
“Any news is black news,” said Doty, on-air host of Full Spectrum, a news/talk program on the Jackson State University’s radio station.
Doty said it was important that the African-American perspective be present in all the conversations.
“I have a point of view more than an agenda,” he said. “But you have to be fair and accurate in whatever you choose to talk about.”
While at the convention, he said, he was able to interview Henry Barbour, a GOP National Committeeman from Mississippi.
“We had a frank discussion about race in Mississippi,” Doty said. “We both agreed that something needed to change.”
A Pew Research Center poll reported in July that 63 percent of registered voters said treatment of minorities is important to their vote for president. The poll also reported that 66 percent of registered voters thought the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would do a better job of dealing with race relations, while only 26 percent said Trump would do a better job.
Another section of that poll reported that only 7 percent of registered African American voters would vote for Trump over Clinton, while 91 percent of registered Black voters would choose Clinton over Trump.
Al Berry, who cohosts WWDB AM radio show Tone and Tenor: Bipartisan Voices of the People with Randall G. Jefferson, said the show covered the event without thinking about race.
“It’s obvious you aren’t going to see but so many people of color, but none the less without even thinking about that we just do what we do,” Berry said. “We are just forged on our direction, and our vison, and our mission.”
He and Jefferson, who are Republican and Democrat, respectively, do not identify their party affiliations on the air, he said.
“That’s not what we’re all about,” he said.
The show offered diverse coverage of the RNC, including interviews with retired Lt. Col. Allen West, former New Hampshire Sen. Scott Brown and RNC spokesperson Gianno Caldwell.
Roland Martin is host of TV One News, the only daily television news program dedicated to African-American viewers.
“Our perspective is African-American,” Martin said. “We are unapologetically black.
“We want to know what plans Donald Trump has when it comes to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), when it comes to economic development, when it comes to jobs. People want to see us hold folks accountable.”
Rashad Drakeford, director of content development at Revolt TV, said the channel was there to get answers for young people and to get them excited about the election.
“We are learning that young people really care,” Drakeford said.
Revolt TV got a number of diverse reactions to their coverage of the RNC while they engaged with the audience using the hashtag #revolt2vote, he said.
The multi-platform, multi-genre music network founded by hip-hop music artist and producer Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, was also there to get answers for African-Americans who live in areas with Republican leadership, he said.
“Sometimes I think we get in to the habit of ‘black folks only care about what Democrats are talking about so we don’t need to be at the Republican National Convention,” he said. “But the Congress is still Republican-run, most state houses are Republican-run. So, so we need to be here.”
“I would challenge black media to be here more. We need to be here asking Republicans, ‘What is you path forward for young black folks?’”
The organizations said they will all provide coverage of the DNC this week in Philadelphia, where they said they expect there will be lots more black journalists and much more black media.