For those of us that aren't on the NABJ listserv, there were some people who felt some kinda way
about Al Sharpton's new MSNBC post. (He is filling the space that Cenk Uygar used to occupy, though it is unclear if Uygar has completely parted from the network. For THAT backstory, click here
Richard Prince, the one man grapevine for black journalism, reported that some people weren't cool with Sharpton's appointment:
When rumors surfaced this week that Sharpton was under consideration for the MSNBC job, one NABJ member told colleagues without challenge, "This would still be just another non-journalist media 'celebrity' receiving a TV show based upon their name recognition, not their years of experience, training, ability and talent."
Another listed five African Americans who have had their own cable news shows, and noted that all but one have been nonjournalists: Alan Keyes, prime time, MSNBC; Carlos Watson, weekend, MSNBC; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, weekend, CNN; Arthel Neville, Talkback Live/daytime, CNN; D.L. Hughley, weekend, CNN. Only Neville has a journalism background.
When I inquired about the situation with others at NABJ, some also told me there were rumors about Sharpton's relationship with where Sharpton came down on recent issues of corporate consolidation as well.
Either way, Sharpton didn't take it well:
Sharpton reacted in an interview with Lynette Holloway published Friday on theRoot.com.
"We can't get into a crabs-in-the-barrel mentality," Sharpton said. "We cannot let them play us off one another. There is a history here. Kweisi Mfume had a talk show. Jesse Jackson Jr. had a talk show. If someone can advocate nationwide, we need to do that given the pain of our people. We need to do that on television, in newspapers and magazines. And all of us need to be united."
Holloway wrote, "Sharpton emphatically stated that he is an advocate, not a journalist. If he accepts the offer, he said, it would be in that role. The format under consideration at MSNBC is not for news but for opinions and advocacy, he said."
A news release Thursday from the National Association of Black Journalists cast the issue as pro-journalist, not anti-Sharpton. Sharpton's prospective hiring does not diminish the need to hire black journalists, NABJ said.
The official party line was that Sharpton felt he would be more of a hindrance in the debate than a commentator. Despite NABJ's pleas to the contrary, he elected not to show, and was replaced ny Sophia Nelson.