By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
With the celebrations over and the White House move-in complete, the clock has begun ticking as the Black Press waits for a promised interview with President Donald Trump.
It will be the first major one-on-one Black Press interview with the new president since Trump was sworn into office January 20. It will also be a major departure from his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who despite being the nation’s first Black president, was often criticized for not granting interviews with the Black Press.
Before Trump officially became America’s 45th president, Omarosa Manigault, Director of Communications in the Office of Public Liaison for the Trump administration, promised the first Black Press interview with President Trump. Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will interview Trump once a date has been set. NNPA represents 200 historic Black newspapers nationwide, including the Chicago Crusader.
According to the Black weekly, The Washington Informer, Manigault’s promise of the interview was disclosed during a closed-door meeting she had with Chavis and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) representatives in January. During the meeting held at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., Manigault made the promise after a NABJ representative “stressed the importance of Black reporters interfacing with the president,” according to the Informer.
No member of the working press was allowed in the meeting, billed as a “listening session” with Manigault and senior members of Trump’s transition team, according to the Informer. However, the Informer said the meeting drew dozens of leaders from 30 nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations.
The Informer did not state a specific date for the interview with Chavis, who was also mum on details but provided a general statement to the newspaper.
“2017 marks the 190th year of the Black Press in America. [Our] tradition has been to engage whoever is in the White House on behalf of Black America. There are issues that affect our quality of life and we cannot afford to be excluded from the position and the power that would impact the quality of life of Blacks,” Chavis said.
The Black Press has become a critical medium for Black America as Trump’s administration threatens to reverse advances made in recent years on civil rights, police brutality and health care.
The presidential interview would also be a significant step for Trump to repair relations with the Black community after his divisive campaign, and his recent social media attack directed at civil rights leader and Congressman, John Lewis.
During his race for president, Trump promised to address the high crime rate in Black communities like Chicago. He also pledged to help rebuild inner cities. The Black Press will be invaluable in reporting on whether or not he does so.
While Trump continues to have a complicated relationship with the mainstream media organizations, he has no connection at all to the Black Press. No Black newspaper interviewed him during his presidential campaign and none are qualified to have correspondents in the White House because they are weekly publications and not daily newspapers.
However, Trump’s anticipated interview with the Black Press will be a significant improvement over Obama’s relationship with Black newspaper publishers and journalists.
While Obama granted interviews with Black Enterprise, BET, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Joe Madison, for eight years he did not speak one-on-one with Black newspapers which have been operating far longer than broadcast media. Nationally syndicated journalist George C. Curry, who died last year, unsuccessfully requested several interviews with Obama but was never granted one.
Many Black journalists still remember a press conference where four journalists representing Black newspapers sat in the front row of a White House press conference where they were not called on by then President Obama.