News directors for the city’s three major local news networks are considering signing a joint agreement on coverage policies regarding Pittsburgh’s black community as part of an effort to add positive messages to the news as an offset to crime coverage.
The idea was forwarded by WPXI-TV news director Mike Goldrick at the latest Black Political Empowerment Project summit on media portrayal of violence. More than 30 media and black leaders attended the summit Wednesday at the Channel 11 studios in Summer Hill to discuss–and oftentimes vent–about how the city’s black community is covered by television, newspapers and radio.
Many attendees complained the main coverage of black Pittsburghers was at murder scenes or courthouses. “I’m tired of turning on the news and seeing a sister with her hair all over the place, five teeth missing and looking like she just stepped out of the bedroom. That’s not something I want to see every time an African-American is interviewed on the news,” one BPEP activist said.
News officials countered that they go wherever important crimes are, and don’t choose coverage along race or neighborhood lines.
Activists and news directors at the session (including KDKA-TV’s Anne Linaberger and KQV Radio’s Frank Gottlieb) also discussed ways to educate community groups on communications, support internships and jobs, work together on multimedia projects and other efforts–including the joint agreement by the city’s news outlets–all of which the group committed to work on further.
“The challenge that we have is to represent a community that is in fact divided in many ways,” said Ron Porter, the facilitator of the two-hour summit meeting. “Our job is not to accentuate or accelerate the polarities but to identify the common ground.”