The Crusader Newspaper Group

CNN accused of denying Black Press access to cover presidential debate

Several Black media outlets have accused CNN of denying them credentials to cover last week’s presidential debate in Atlanta between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

The debate was held in CNN’s Midtown studio in Atlanta, less than five miles from Black Press publications, the Atlanta Voice and the Atlanta Black Star. Those Black news outlets said they never received any correspondence about media access from CNN. EBONY magazine also reported that it was denied press credentials for the event, saying the move “appears to undermine the democratic process.”

“It was disrespectful. I thought it was very tacky not to invite the Black newspapers. I thought that was just cheap and typical of CNN,” Atlanta Voice editor-in-chief Donnell Suggs told Atlanta Black Star in a phone interview.

“To be clear, I still covered the debate from the president’s press pool. I didn’t get into the debate through CNN,” Suggs told the Crusader. “Every publication in the country was here, including Spain, Japan and London. Not having room for a Black newspaper like the Atlanta Voice is a joke.”

Kianga Moore, who wrote a story on the alleged snub in EBONY magazine, said “EBONY Media has received limited communication, or invitation, in the quest to secure press credentials for the 2024 Presidential Debate. Given that this is one of only two scheduled presidential debates, it is important for Black media to be able to cover such events and identify the issues that pertain to our greater community.”

In a statement to the media, CNN said it gave all news outlets a deadline of June 7 to apply for press credentials. The network said Black media outlets refuted the claims of exclusion, saying the credentialing information was made public over a month before the debate.

But the Atlanta Voice and Atlanta Black Star said they were never notified of the deadline until after it had passed, while CNN contacted other outlets without having to reach out independently.

“We are happy to welcome more than 800 journalists from around the world to Atlanta this week to cover the CNN Presidential Debate, including credentialed members from local Black press who applied for credentials during the credentialing window,” CNN said in the statement.

“Unfortunately, due to size and security constraints, we are unable to accommodate additional credential requests following our June 7 application deadline, which came in only in the last few days.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman, Representative Gregory Meeks, in a statement, urged CNN to grant access to Black media outlets seeking to cover the debate.

“This afternoon, we learned that CNN has credentialed 800 members of the media for the first presidential debate of the election cycle. Not one represents a Black-owned media outlet. CNN’s exclusion of Black-owned media represents an egregious oversight and is totally unacceptable…Black-owned media provides a critical, trusted source of information to our communities, and their role in our democracy must be respected and honored by CNN.”

Meeks also called on CNN to ultimately “do better” and “immediately to credential a minimum of 10 Black-owned media outlets. “CNN must immediately credential Black-owned media outlets ahead of tomorrow night’s debate. Failure to do so is a choice, an offense to Black Americans and cannot stand.”

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) also urged CNN to grant access to Black news outlets.

“No matter the reason the local Black Press was not approved, in regard to guidelines, we are asking CNN to create space to ensure fair and balanced coverage so that all citizens have access to real-time content from the debate,” NABJ said in a statement.

“The Black Press serves as a primary news source for many Black Americans, who are key voices in the voting process. CNN is hosting the debate in a place that is commonly called the “Black Mecca” of the U.S. because of the rich and influential Black culture there. It is critical to ensure Black-owned and operated media are present and have prime placement to record, create, and share content for their audiences.”

The Atlanta Voice newspaper was founded by newspaperman Ed Clayton and J. Lowell Ware in 1966. The award-winning publication was founded after Atlanta’s white media refused to give fair and credible coverage to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.

The Atlantic Black Star was founded in 2012 by entrepreneurs Neil “Jelani” Nelson, Tracy Dornelly, and Andre Moore. According to its website, Atlanta Black Star was created to publish empowering narratives for people of African descent and those who adhere to Black culture.

EBONY magazine was started in 1945 by John H. Johnson, who built his media empire in Chicago with a $500 loan from his mother. In its heyday, EBONY and Jet magazines were immensely popular among Blacks.

Extensively covering the Civil Rights Movement, EBONY was among the first publications to print the gruesome photo of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy murdered in 1955 by two white men in Money, Mississippi.

The photo of Coretta Scott King and her daughter Bernice at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral won a Pulitzer Prize for EBONY. The magazine is currently owned by former NBA player Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman.

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