TV News Magazines Can Still Rile Viewers

Some irked by shows on black relationships and Detroit.

The Nighline Face-off cast; (Credit: Guy D'Alema/ABC)
The Nighline Face-off cast; (Credit: Guy D'Alema/ABC)

NBC and ABC demonstrated this week that newsmagazines have not lost their ability to be provocative — or offensive, depending on your point of view.

Detroit leaders, accompanied by Vickie Thomas, president of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, a black weekly, are expected to meet with “Dateline NBC” producers in New York on Monday to discuss what they say is the program’s negative portrayal of the city, as Leonard Fleming and Mark Hicks reported Thursday in the Detroit News.

[On Saturday, the NABJ chapter issued a statement saying it will not be at the New York meeting, but objected to the portrayal.

[“The title of the Dateline piece is ‘America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope.’ Thomas said, ‘We believe the majority of the focus centered on the heartbreak and left the hope on the cutting room floor of the editing booth.’

[“We believe Dateline should return to Detroit to present ‘the other side of the city,’ Thomas said,” the statement continued.

[“DC-NABJ will not have a representative at the meeting in New York on Monday but we will send correspondence to NBC stating our concerns about the piece. The chapter will also host a community forum on the issue.” Text of the statement at the end of today’s posting.]

ABC’s “Nightline,” meanwhile, returned to the subject of black male-female relationships, engaging in what social critic Melissa Harris-Lacewell called “superficial, cartoonish dialogue that relied heavily on personal anecdotes and baseless personal impressions while perpetuating damaging sexism.”

Columnist Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Daily News said she could not bring herself to watch the two-hour forum, “Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” asking readers, “What more could possibly be said on this subject?”

Demetria Lucas, relationships editor of Essence magazine, was more charitable, “I took away some useful male insight from the panelists — I am the potential link to a man’s success, men may be more ashamed of their lack of success than ‘intimidated’ by a woman’s accomplishments, and men aren’t trying to see me taking out my hair. But ultimately, what I re-learned was the biggest obstacle to building healthy relationships might be an inability to catch on to the fundamentals like communication and hope.”