Roland Martin's show shifts to mornings
By Ron Wynn
Until this past Monday morning there was no news program on television anywhere, broadcast or cable, that presented a wide range of news and information from a Black perspective.
But that is no longer the case. "News One Now," a show anchored by longtime national newscaster and commentator Roland Martin and aired on TV One, moved to 7 a.m. weekdays on September 14. It is a long overdue move, and one that amazingly has never been tried by BET, which for many years was the only Black owned and operated television network in the country. They are now owned by Viacom, but neither Bounce TV or any of the recent Black owned additions to the television landscape had ventured into the morning television arena until TV One made its decision.
It is the second recent move by Martin and the "News One" show that has attracted national attention. The first was their decision to interview the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan live on Sept. 10.
They devoted an entire hour to him, discussing mainly the upcoming "Justice or Else" commemoration of the Million Man March, but also asking him other general questions about the state of Black America and his views on a number of issues.
Martin told "Rolling Out" News that he felt it was long past time that Black Americans had the opportunity to have their issues and ideas presented during morning time on television. Previously, the televised part of the program was at 9 a.m. But he said it was only logical to make the move, especially with a chance at expanding the show's audience.
"We were already a morning show just simply after the main news hour," Martin said. "As you go later in the morning, it changes the level of content; you go from harder news then softer. Our show will be a harder news show. One of the things our producers look at is that during the 7 a.m. time you see a larger segment of news viewers. There are 830,000 African American viewers at that time period."
He was also very critical of what mainstream news shows, particularly television shows, choose to spotlight regarding Blacks. "It goes back to people who make the choices and why for African Americans," Martin added.
"For example, Latinos don’t give a damn about the mainstream media. You know why? Because you look at the top ten shows in Hispanic households and it’s on Univision for news they look at Jorge Ramos. So for African Americans, it is crazy to ask somebody who does not have our best interests, to have our best interests. For me and TV One, we have our best interests because we know where these interests are."
"The reality is what you see now on TV One is different from what you will on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News or other networks. Because for us we have African Americans making decisions, our focus and concerns are going to be different from lots of other people. I think that is critically important for us to recognize and understand. I think we have to demand that; we should not be dismissed or ignored when it comes to our issues and perspectives."
He is also critical of those who dismiss the power of television or its value as a news source. "First, if you are ill-informed you are ill-equipped; that is what is important. I think what happens are folks have to be aware of the voices on the various issues. I understand those who say I can get my information through social media, but a 140-character tweet does not show all that we need."
"So, I think it’s important for people to understand that we have to be informed. African Americans are avid readers, but it is important for us to understand that we have to have our outlets speaking to us and speaking to our issues and that’s why we are doing what we do at TV One."
"I would love to have a three-hour morning show, but you have to build that audience, we are coming up on our second anniversary in November. That’s why I tell folks watch it, DVR it, Facebook it and tweet it and talk about it. Again, I go back to the Freedom’s Journal: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”
So, we at News One now are not asking other networks for support or to talk about us. Our point is we can do it ourselves, just as good as anybody else." Now, of course, the important thing is that the Black audience support this program.
The main excuse that has often been cited at outlets like BET is that Blacks don't support news and public affairs programming the way they do entertainment. Whether that in and of itself should be the barometer for putting news and public affairs on the air is valid, it is a reality that ratings and audience size still matter in TV circles, and TV One is no different.
Should this move not yield positive results in terms of audience improvement, it will not last. That is a cold hard fact, and one those who push for more news and public affairs on Black media outlets must recognize. If "News One" fails, it will be a long, long time before another similar effort is attempted. It is essential that those who believe there need to be more shows like it watch it, and urge others to follow suit.