Posted: June 2, 2008 in Commentary

Black bloggers fight to make voices heard

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

With its power-to-the-individual approach, the new media world promises anyone with a laptop the possibility of a publishing empire. But, as some black bloggers are finding out, the new media world is a lot like the old one: racially segregated, with many prominent black voices still fighting to be heard.

Some bloggers felt insulted this month when the Democratic National Committee selected 55 state-oriented blogs to cover its convention in Denver; critics said few featured African American voices. The DNC said race wasn’t considered in its selection from 400 applicants. Officials were more interested in the sites’ audience size and how much chatter about local issues appeared on them. The DNC answered critics Thursday by adding several sites led by African Americans to its general blogger pool.

But some critics say the DNC situation is indicative of a larger media divide. It’s a division in which stories like the racially motivated beating in Jena, La., last year lingered for months on black blogs and talk radio before the mainstream press picked up the issue.

That coverage gap is partly what inspired Gina McCauley to help organize the first Blogging While Brown conference this summer in Atlanta. The most popular online community conferences – like the Netroots Nation confab that grew out of the Daily Kos blog – tend to be predominantly white gatherings.

“The progressive blogosphere is segregated,” said McCauley, whose What About Our Daughters blog was accepted to the DNC’s blogger pool. Essence magazine named McCauley one of its 25 most influential people last year alongside Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and filmmaker Tyler Perry. “Black bloggers link to other black bloggers, and progressive white bloggers link to other white progressive bloggers,” she said.

“I don’t know why that is,” said Gina Cooper, executive director of the Netroots Nation conference. After last year’s second annual convention, she expressed her frustration about the lack of diversity. Netroots Nation is offering scholarships this year, and Cooper is seeking other ways to make the gathering inclusive. (


I can’t tell you how tired I get of hearing fellow Black bloggers complain about not getting the attention of Whites. The irony of this article is worthy of saving this to my hard drive. Here you have the same group (Black progressives) who regularly accuse Black conservatives of ‘toe tapping’ for Whites, yet they themselves are angry that those same Whites are not giving them any attention. Go figure!

By nature, you segregate yourself if 90+% of your posts deal with “Black” issues. Nothing wrong with that IMO if that is what you want to talk about. But don’t expect folks of other races to feel some sort of obligation to include you P.O.V. if your P.O.V. is race-based. B.T.W., Gina McCauley gets PLENTY of media attention over the work she is doing at her site “What About Our Daughters?”.

In the article, she complains about the progressive blogosphere being “segregated”, yet she is spearheading a conference with the title “Blogging While Brown” exclusively for Black bloggers. Nothing wrong with that, IMO. But if “segregation” is a real problem, why not TAKE LEAD a do a conference that highlights all bloggers of various ethnic backgrounds–including Whites?

Or are we once again waiting for Whites to once again take lead?

  1. MIB says:

    I’m inclined to defend Ms. McCauley’s point here for although it’s my belief not many bloggers merit inclusion with mass media and the Black blogosphere itself is small to the point of being irrelevant, Black voices are still discriminated against in media.

    I would be interested in what, if any, brainstorming Blogging While Brown does to address the challenges presented by racism in media.

  2. Duane says:

    I think that it is a double-edged issue when it comes to Black bloggers. When one makes the comparison against Whites, yes, the number of Black bloggers is small (again, there are many who do not identify their race in the blogosphere). Second, as I mentioned in the post, as long as Black bloggers segregate themselves by exclusively talking about “Black” issues, it is foolish to expect to get that call to comment on other issues of the day.

    Back when LaShawn Barber was blogging politics, she was a regular on MSNBC’s bloggers’ segment (now defunct?). Although she touched on racial issues, she also covered other topics that were not necessarily race-based. Oliver Willis is a Black Democrat blogger who has been on CSPAN and featured in a number of papers. Again, he doesn’t regulate himself to only Black issues.

    While “News and Notes” is a great way to get exposure to Black bloggers, what are we talking about? Interracial marriage, the latest noose incident, the latest “off” comment about Blacks, etc. etc. .

    McCauley gets PLENTY of exposure–When?–when some infraction committed against Blacks is committed. But again, what does she talk about on her site 95% of the time? Injustices against Blacks. Nothing wrong with that because that is her passion. But don’t expect sites like DailKos (a progressive political blog) to include her P.O.V. when it comes to Beltway politics.

  3. MIB says:

    I don’t believe Ms. McCauley’s gripe is with White bloggers like the Daily Kos. Her comments appear to be aimed at organizations like the DNC that regularly stage media events but do not invite many Black journalists/media pros (like Oliver Willis and LaShawn Barber).

    But I understand what you’re saying about Black bloggers and self-segregation. One of the blogosphere’s negatives is bloggers tend to create echo chambers for themselves, thereby undermining their credibility as journalists. Regardless, I don’t believe Black bloggers segregating ourselves to be an explanation for why so many Blacks are excluded from media events.

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