Background: The Graham Williams Agency, a public relations firm that was founded by Stedman Graham and Armstrong Williams in 1991, was paid as least $240,000 by Omnicom Group’s Ketchum Public Relations to tout the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind program. The payment was part of a minimum $1 million contract Ketchum had with the Education Department. Williams was paid to ‘regularly comment’ on the program and to interview then Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige for spots that aired during the show in 2004.
Williams did not disclose this financial arrangement, even to Tribune Company that distributed his national column and required him to do so. Williams has been apologetic acknowledging it was an “obvious conflict of interest” to accept money and then support the education law in his weekly newspaper column. He also has not indicated that he will return the money, and says he’s not the only one who has ‘conflicts of interest.’ The latter for which he has not named names.
Background: I’m a registered Independent. Once was a registered Republican. Can’t ever recall being a registered Democrat, but may have. Don’t really remember. I’m African-American. I’m the Publisher/Editor of this magazine who holds as part of its mission – the unbrainwashing/ deprogramming/enlightenment of my black community. And for the same reasons as those who support black reparations – ‘if you take the value of slave labor out of the present value of American society there would not be much value left – that simple understanding creates an acknowledgement that our American society perpetuates consciously, but more unconsciously, the unprivileged status of Black Americans. While we may not always be able to change the system, we don’t have to accept the system as it is. We don’t have to play the game. But to play our own game successfully, we must know all the rules and all the players.
Background: I’m not an ‘authentic journalist,’ as defined in a conversation held recently with an ‘authentic journalist.’ I don’t write for a ‘heralded’ publication like our Clarence Pages or Leonard Pitts. By the way I firmly believe BlackBerrySpeak.com is as respectable. I have no writing credentials, honors, or awards. And a few classes through the UCLA Continuing Education Department is not ‘sufficient.’
Commentators rely on colorful or edgy writing to get the reader’s attention. Commentators give opinion. Opinion is not solid information. Journalists give the reader solid information because they have real reporting skills.
Journalists have a code of ethics. Avoid conflicts of interest so the impartiality of their solidly reported information can never be questioned. A journalist would have known the financial arrangement made by Armstrong Williams was a ‘conflict of interest.’ Armstrong Williams is a commentator. Tavis Smiley is a commentator.
I don’t think of myself as either a journalist or a commentator.
I just want the truth.
The truth IN MY OPINION is that Williams, a conservative, has a base of followers who look to him for information.
The truth IN MY OPINION is that this reader reliance is applicable across-the-board for journalists, commentators, pundits, and others who disseminate information, conservative, liberal, or independent. Let’s call them ‘jcpd’s.’
The truth IN MY OPINION is that all have a responsibility to disclose ‘where they are coming from’ and ‘where they are coming from’ is influenced by the bling-bling as well as their own personal experience and biases.
The truth IN MY OPINION is that when writing a story we have word choices that we know can sway the reader to see ‘things as we want them to see it.’ The truth IN MY OPINION is that any ‘jcpd’ who has a column, talk show, opinion piece, editorial, etc. at least once every time he/she speaks or writes mulls a point that raises the issue of impartiality.
The truth IN MY OPINION is that Williams’ acceptance of money does not rancor me as much as his failure to disclose he was paid to push a particular point of view to the black community.
The truth IN MY OPINON is that Williams’ acceptance of money to deliver the black community is no different than the Democratic National Committee paying former Democratic presidential contender and John Kerry rival, Al Sharpton, $86,715, of which at least $35,000 was a consulting fee, while the rest was reimbursement of travel expenses, at the request of the Kerry campaign. All of John Kerry’s one-time rivals in the Democratic presidential primary eventually threw their support to Kerry, but only one, the African-American, got paid for it, according to USA Today who cited a search of federal records collected by tracking service PoliticalMoneyLine. It is no different than the alleged monies paid by the DNC to Jesse Jackson, nor the payments, sorry, donations to churches whose preachers gave us ‘in person’ drive-by paid political announcements from the candidates themselves in pre-election Sunday morning services.
From Williams to Sharpton to Jackson to black churches to anyone else who comes into the black community and uses their ‘blackness’ to lead us to ‘what’s best for us’, without disclosing the incentive that has lead them to that conclusion, they are pimping us. If conservative Williams who has an uphill battle selling anything to the generally liberal-leaning black community can be called a whore, his action-in-kind liberal-leaning black leaders must be called the same, with an adjective.
The truth IN MY OPINION is we black community information disseminators were deservedly quick to call Williams on the carpet, but say little to nothing about the liberal Big Daddy Kane Pimps who run a train on us under the guise of care, community, and ‘soul salvation.
What the Bush administration did was disgusting. What Armstrong Williams did was disgusting. What Sharpton, Jackson, and any similar others did is disgusting. What we, the black media and black community, do by not asking the questions, and demanding accountability and disclosure across the board from those we trust to tell us the truth or some semblance of the truth, is even more disgusting.
There are questions to be asked, as my cousin said, from everyone tongue who got to lick the spoon before it was fed to us.
But that’s just my opinion. I’m not a real journalist, remember.