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Rosa Parks R.I.P.: Who Cared and Who Didn't?



Usually, it's a game I don't like to play.

Among journalists of color, I've come to call it: The Appreciation Game.

It is the inevitable grousing, story-counting and scrutiny that comes when a big news event breaks which is important to black folks. As media coverage unfolds, we ask the pointed question: Did white-owned media care enough?

Fortunately, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who died at age 92 last night, fared better than other recent subjects. I specifically recall the Millions More March (which I was forced to watch on C-SPAN while the cable newschannels gorged themselves on Iraqi election speculation) and recently deceased Ebony/Jet founder John Johnson, whose appreciations trickled out over weeks as editors slowly realized how important he was.

Checking out the first 111 daily newspaper front pages displayed by the Newseum, Parks' death is front-page news in 84 of them (to see one of the coolest tributes, check out the Montgomery Advertiser's eight page spread online).

Ten newspapers relegated her passing to a front-page picture referring to an inside obituary, including the Washington Times and Bradenton Herald. And 17 papers featured no story on their covers at all, ranging from Florida papers understandably caught up in Hurricane Wilma recovery (Miami Herald, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post) to publications that I'm hoping just got caught behind deadline (Washington Examiner, Arkansas Democrat).

The deluge of tributes today have been a fitting send off for a tough, principled woman who took a historic stand but never chased the spotlight and seemed to value a low-key life.

As I said on Ed Gordon's NPR show News and Notes today (shameless plug in full effect!), at a time when even the Runaway Bride is chasing book and TV movie deals, Parks was a refreshing reminder of a humble, average citizen who made a historic difference just by taking a stand in her own community.

As the flowery, overblown appreciations rightfully begin to fill the mediasphere, I think its worthy to note her most important example: That an average person, sticking to their own strong morals, can change the country and the world.

Talk about the American dream.


Just wanted to note that Infinity Radio finally fessed up to what we already knew: That David Lee Roth, Adam Carolla, Jimmy Kimmel and magician Penn Jillette are among the lineup of famous loudmouths recruited to replace the King of All Media, Howard Stern.

Once again, Stern gets to kick back and chortle while Infinity assembles a suicidal strategy based on throwing a bunch of radio newcomers and also-rans at his loyal audience -- a move likely to only encourage them to buy satellite radio, once he moves there in January.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:34pm]


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