Sporadic Crawls to the Abyss: Surveying the Landscape of Blacks in the Mass and Social Media

When I was a small child, the major concerns regarding mass media often focused on African-American inclusions and representations in newspapers, radio and the three major networks: CBS, NBC, and ABC. Now, we have satellite radio with hundreds of channels and more than 900 television channels offering varied programming, targeting a spectrum of demographics and including content to please the visual palates of nearly anyone on the globe. 

Perhaps what is now more pervasive than traditional mass media is social media and the Internet. Both have transformed how we communicate with not only our friends and family, but individuals in every corner of the world. Within seconds, messages are transferred, ideas are shared, a collective understanding can be achieved and engagement can be heightened. We, too, have the option of streaming content and video on demand, as well as the phenomenal choice of essentially finding and avoiding any content we want.

Nonetheless, few would argue representations of African Americans have increased in mass media, perhaps a result of the sheer volume of media or society’s acceptance of African Americans. Further, we now can point to a few AfricanAmerican-owned media and production companies that add to the media landscape. However, none of this is enough to erase the decades of negative portrayals and systematic shutout of African-Americans in traditional media. We can’t be so naïve as to believe that what was seen or not seen, heard or not heard, and covered or not covered did not leave a lasting impression on U.S. society. Too many studies have proved this to be true.

The question of inclusion or exclusion is often posed. Ultimately, we must push for the inclusion of non-stereotyped roles in mass-marketed programming. We have to search out and support African Americans who are producing, writing, directing and developing content with our own stories, our own casts and our own destiny in their hands. It’s not about separate and equal. It’s about the recognition that we belong, and we deserve space, recognition and attention, regardless of race.

Today, we have a greater role to play. Howard University does its part each year by graduating media professionals with the right skills and consciousness to make a positive difference in the media landscape. However, we have so far to go, and we need your help. It’s your turn to rise up and make a difference, too.




“Connecting You to HU” is our goal. Howard alumni truly define this university and reinforce the powerful legacy that is our alma mater.