Taking the Narrative: Black Men who Gained Ownership in Media
Access to media means access to information, education and most importantly a voice. Throughout the years, Black men have not procured sufficient access to media but also ownership.
Men like Earl G. Graves of Black Enterprise, John H. Johnson of Ebony and Jet Magazine, and Robert Johnson of BET, paved the way for Byron Allen (The Weather Channel), Sean “Diddy” Combs (Revolt), and Ulysses Bridgeman (Ebony), and J.C. Watts (Black News Channel) to pick up the torch and carry further than most of us would imagine.
In any functioning society, especially a democratic one, it is vital to have a voice. That voice is even more important in America, a country built to provide a voice for all citizens, but historically disregarded its principles to silence minorities, in particular the voice of the Black community.
Throughout America’s history, Black media has served to not only provide a voice to the Black community but also inform and educate Black citizens.
A perfect example of these intentions is the Freedom’s Journal, America’s first Black newspaper, founded in 1827 by Rev. John Wilk, and other free Black citizens. This form of Black media was created to improve the literacy rate among free Blacks. However, the newspaper ultimately became a tool to fight against other written works and media that mocked free Blacks and encouraged slavery. And this was the beginning of the long history of Black media providing a voice to its community.
While the Freedom’s Journal is no longer around, its existence gave birth to the Savannah Tribune, founded by Louis B. Toome in 1875; the Philadelphia Tribune, founded by Christopher J. Perry in 1884; the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, founded by Rev. William Alexander in 1982; The Washington Afro-American, founded by Sgt. John H. Murphy and Sr. Murphy in 1892; the Indianapolis Recorder founded by George P. Stewart and William H. Porter in 1895.
All of the men listed were pioneers in media and all of their newspapers are still active today, either in print or digitally. The same way Johnson became a pioneer 75 years ago when he created Ebony Magazine, a lifestyle magazine known for covering Black America from entertainment and sports to professionals and politics. It was an instant success, selling out 25,000 copies of its first issue. Within recent years, the magazine and its sister publication, Jet Magazine, have gone through several financial troubles and were recently purchased by Ulysses Bridgeman, a former NFL player who gained much success in business after retiring from football.
However, when discussing purchasing media, Allen’s name comes to the forefront as the man who purchased The Weather Channel from Comcast and battled the company for carriage agreements for three of his cable channels Comedy TV, Recipe TV and JusticeCentral TV.
He was able to acquire ownership of Fox Sports Networks from The Walt Disney Company, through a partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Allen was able to use his talents in business to strategically acquire media outlets that were already profitable but for men like Diddy, the struggle was creating popular media outlets and building them up amongst all of the noise.
Diddy created Revolt back in 2013, and though it is a television channel, it offers much more with a news site and an annual festival. The channel covers news, Black culture, and, of course, Hip-Hop. With mostly original content on its digital platform, Revolt is available almost worldwide.
It’s important to remember that men like Diddy own media outlets that are at the height of visibility, but there are many Black men who own newspapers, magazines, radio stations, podcasts and blogs.
A perfect example is Jason Lee, who was able to turn a couple of appearances on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Hollywood, into a marketing opportunity for his blog Hollywood Unlocked. Through that exposure, he was able to expand his blog to include a radio show, a podcast and video content that does great numbers online.
Lee was able to take his voice, incorporate others, and produce a platform that resonated with his audience, the same way thousands of other Black men have done through different forms of media, right in their own community.