Pitt to Host One-Day Summit to Explore Image Of African American Male in American Media

Issue Date: 
October 17, 2011

The news media’s depictions of Black males can have a profound effect on readers and viewers. How Black men are portrayed can often reinforce stereotypes, which can lead to negative perceptions and result in racial bias in everything from court decisions to policymaking.

A group of scholars, experts, and news media executives will discuss these issues at a one-day summit at the University of Pittsburgh Nov. 1 titled “Evolving the Image of the African American Male in American Media.” The by-invitation-only event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the second-floor Ballroom B of Pitt’s University Club. The summit, presented by Pitt’s Office of Public Affairs, is made possible by a grant from the Heinz Endowments.

The day’s panelists—regional and national journalists, newspaper publishers, and researchers who have studied the issue—will explore the impact of negative reporting and present ways for the media to incorporate more accurate and balanced images of young Black men in their coverage. The invited audience of about 100 people will comprise media representatives, community leaders, foundation representatives, and Pitt faculty, staff, and alumni.

A complete schedule follows.

8:45 a.m. Opening Remarks and Introduction of the Keynote Speaker

Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, University of Pittsburgh.

Keynote Address

Marc Lamont Hill, associate professor of English education at Teachers College of Columbia University, host of the nationally syndicated TV show Our World With Black Enterprise, and regular commentator for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.

9:30 a.m. Imagery in the News

A discussion of the power of major news media to shape opinions and the problems that result from unbalanced news coverage.

Travis Dixon, professor of communications, UCLA;

Robert Entman, J.B. and M.C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University; and

Paul Hitlin, senior researcher, Pew Research Center.

Moderator: Paula Poindexter, vice president, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and associate professor of journalism and graduate advisor, University of Texas at Austin.

10:30 a.m. A Conversation Among Young African American Males

Seven teenage and young adult Black males will discuss their perceptions of the news media as well as how their communities are depicted.

Amani Davis, senior at Winchester Thurston High School, Pittsburgh;

Antoine Allen, freshman at Syracuse University;

Ashton Gibbs, senior student athlete, University of Pittsburgh;

Tosen Nwadei, sophomore, University of Pittsburgh;

Raymont Hopkins, Pittsburgh youth who attended Pittsburgh Carrick High School;

Jasiri X, Pittsburgh-based entertainer; and

Jay Oriola, senior, University of Pittsburgh.

Moderator: Chris Moore, producer and host of WQED Horizons.

Noon Luncheon Speaker

Larry E. Davis, dean of the School of Social Work, Donald M. Henderson Professor, and director of the Center on Race and Social Problems at Pitt, will address the psychological impact on Black men of negative stereotypes promulgated by the media.             .

1:30 p.m. A Conversation Among Black Media Executives

Executives from traditionally African American-focused news outlets will discuss the role of the “Black Press” in the 21st century.

Tene’ Croom, former news director, American Urban Radio Network;

Rod Doss, editor and publisher, New Pittsburgh Courier;

Pamela Newkirk, professor of journalism, New York University; and

John B. Smith, publisher, Atlanta Inquirer.

Moderator: George E. Curry, president and CEO, George Curry Media, LLC, and former editor-in-chief, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.

2:30 p.m. A Conversation Among News Decision Makers

Panelists will reveal how decisions are made in the coverage of the African American community, providing an insider’s view into how race and race-based issues are discussed and managed at major news outlets.

Shirley Carswell, deputy managing editor, The Washington Post;

James N. Crutchfield, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism and Multimedia Arts, Duquesne University, and former president and publisher, Akron Beacon Journal;

Rick Henry, former president, WTAE-TV; and

David Shribman, executive editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Moderator: Lorraine Branham, dean, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University.

4 p.m. Town Hall Meeting

This session is designed for open feedback and discussion.

A representative from each of the panels will engage with the audience  about topics discussed during the day and answer questions.

5 p.m. Concluding Remarks

Ervin E. Dyer, senior editor, PITT Magazine, and former news reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

About Marc Lamont Hill

Marc Lamont Hill, associate professor of English education at Teachers College of Columbia University, is the host of the TV One television series Our World With Black Enterprise and has contributed commentary for such national news outlets as NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Hill serves as a columnist and editor for the Philadelphia Daily News and has been published in The Washington Post, Essence Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the author of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity (Teachers College Press, 2009). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Temple University and a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.

About Larry E. Davis

Larry E. Davis, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, established in 2001 Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP)—the first research center on race at any school of social work in the United States. The center and its programs look at how race affects economic and education gaps, relations between groups of people, mental health, criminal justice, youth and families, and the elderly. The inaugural holder of Pitt’s Donald M. Henderson Professorship, Davis has established programs to mentor faculty from traditionally underrepresented groups, launched a successful CRSP lecture series as well as summer institutes, and added several courses to the social work curriculum aimed at educating students on racial issues. In 2009, Davis created the groundbreaking Journal on Race and Social Problems. A multidisciplinary periodical, it is designed to unite scholars who may previously have been divided by fields of study. Davis’ projects are designed to help faculty and the community understand racial conditions in Pittsburgh and beyond and to explore promising solutions to race-related problems.

Davis is coeditor-in-chief of the 20th edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Work (NASW Press/Oxford University Press, 2008); coauthor of Measuring Race and Ethnicity (Springer, 2011) and Race, Gender and Class: Guidelines for Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups (Prentice Hall, 1989); and author of Black and Single: Finding and Choosing a Partner Who Is Right for You (Agate, 3rd edition, 2004).

Davis earned the Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at Michigan State University and a master's degree in social work, a master's degree in psychology, and a PhD in both social work and psychology at the University of Michigan.

About the Heinz Endowments

The Heinz Endowments was formed from the Howard Heinz Endowment, established in 1941, and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, established in 1986. Its vision is for Southwestern Pennsylvania to prosper as a premier place to both live and work, as a center for learning and educational excellence, and as a region that embraces diversity and inclusion.

The foundation’s mission is to help the region thrive as a whole community—economically, ecologically, educationally, and culturally—while advancing the state of knowledge and practice in the fields in which people work. Its fields of emphasis include philanthropy in general and the disciplines represented by its five grant-making programs: Arts & Culture; Children, Youth & Families; Education; Environment; and Innovation Economy.