Beef 2.0: The Year in Media 2009
Predictions on Tiger’s next roar, why Cathy Hughes got away with Reality Radio and Cory Booker’s media mastery. Natalie Hopkinson, The Root’s media and culture critic, looks back at 2009.
Conan O’Brien Versus Cory BookerGetty Images
Did you hear the one about the midsize East Coast city? You know, the one that is overwhelmingly black? Infant mortality rate equivalent to some developing nations?
Listen, apparently they elected some fancy-schmancy Ivy League mayor-thinks he can actually do something aboudit. Hey, Newarkers, you want an actual shot at life? Here's your "health care" plan: Bwaaa-haa haa! What? Not funny? Cory Booker didn't think so either.
CAPTIONS BY NATALIE HOPKINSON
Newark Mayor Cory Booker Weighs Options
Had the 40-year-old followed the path well-worn by previous generations of Black Big City Mayor, he might have convened a press conference, summoned the Reverends Jesse and Al or even Tavis Smiley -- and swiftly demanded a boycott of The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, their corporate parent and future heirs.
Booker Bites BackGetty Images
Thankfully for Newark, this particular mayor's breaking the mold and creating an entirely new paradigm for politicians managing the media. Read my earlier piece about how he's playing the media. Oh, and, he's got one million followers on Twitter. On the downside, without the usual media filter, no seasoned journalists are there to stop his avalanche of truly horrendous puns that he frequently spouts on Twitter. Corny jokes aside, Cory Booker playing the media game is a glorious sight to behold.
Doing the Right Thing Twenty Years Later
Anyone needing confirmation that the Post-Civil Rights Generation is good and grown need only take in the fact that this year, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing turned 20. A young couple who saw it two decades ago on their very first date is now living in some big, white house in Washington, D.C., with their two adorable daughters.
The Rebirth of Raheem’s Radio
In 2009, The Root celebrated this milestone by resurrecting Raheem's Radio and giving it a new, interactive life. Included in the package is a video interview between The Root's Editor-in-Chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Mookie himself. Spike talks about his "complicated" relationship with Rosie Perez, who later complained she felt degraded by the infamous ice scene in the film. Spike sets the record straight about how they first met (at a club; the go-go band EU playing; Rosie standing on a speaker shaking her culo).
Not That Spike’s Keeping Track…
Spike recites the names of each and every clueless critic who predicted violence from DTRT-not that he holds a grudge or anything. Also priceless: Spike talks about meeting a little-known Illinois politician at a party at Skip Gates' house in Martha's Vineyard. Community organizer with a weird name thanked Spike for making Do the Right Thing, thus giving him his first opportunity to touch Michelle's leg.
Cathy Hughes’ Rogue Radio
One of the saddest casualties of the devastation wrought upon the music and radio industries in 2009 is the reputation of the once-dignified, black-radio pioneer Cathy Hughes. With her so-called "Reality Radio" propaganda campaign against a new law governing musician royalties, Hughes has given good race women everywhere a bad name. In her campaign against HR-848, Hughes took to the airwaves to go after members of the Congressional Black Caucus (and their spouses).
No Respect for the Dead
When Michael Jackson died, Hughes took personal credit for his meteoric career and implied that if he were alive, he'd sign her petition against black members of Congress, too. She attacked Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and any other artist who dared admit they would like radio to pay them for profiting from their art. Then there's the Washington Post report detailing how she and her son, Alfred Liggins, are raiding profits of the publicly traded Radio One. (If you are a Radio One investor, sucks to be you!)
What Does Jay-Z Have to Say About Reality Radio?Getty Images
In my recent piece, I wondered Why No One Talks Back to Cathy Hughes. I'm still wondering. Still not a word from P-Diddy, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye, etc. in support of the artist's right to profit from his or her art. Hey, it's rough out there. And if you are an artist trying to move units, you still need black radio. Just goes to show that the Queen of Black Radio still has the juice.
Here’s What’s Next for TigerGetty Images
True, there were few tears from the black community when Tiger "I Am Cablinasian" Woods took the fall for chasing spools upon spools of blonde tail. Man Guided By Penis is hardly breaking news, but there is a little-appreciated lesson about how the media works here. Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz was on to something in his column about why members of the sports press looked the other way.
Leave African-American Athletes Out of This!Getty Images
But Kurtz was wrong in implying that sports reporters went easy on Woods because he was a "phenomenally successful African American athlete." But this little dig is not surprising given that it is coming from the same media critic who essentially suggested that black female journalists covering Michelle Obama would be trading snaps and fistbumps all day instead of doing their jobs, despite all evidence to the contrary.
R.I.P. The All-Powerful PublicistTMZ.com
Not so long ago, there was a dirty little secret in celebrity journalism: Powerhouse publicists tried to control every aspect of a celebrity interview, from what questions were asked, which photo was selected for the magazine cover and even which writer was assigned to write the profile. Even by these standards, the extent that Tiger's handlers protected the golfer's image, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, is pretty brazen. In this TMZ era, it's a real testament to the power of Tiger's brand that he was able to keep his tomcatting a secret for this long.
Sports Talk Radio Loses the Most from Tiger’s RetirementGetty Images
Much to the disappointment of the sports talk guys especially -- who seemed particularly giddy about Tiger's fall from grace -- the golfer says he's taking an indefinite break from golf. Given the billions he earns for the whole Tiger Industrial Complex, let's see how long that vow lasts. I predict an announcement about his return to the world of golf by Valentine's Day. Spring at the latest.
The Obama Media Stimulus PackageAnnie Leibovitz
Seems that in this global economic climate, there are few good currencies left-that is, except from the gentleman from Illinois and his gorgeous family. Thus, we have Obama thongs, Obama T-shirts, Obama condoms (yes, really), Obama picture books and Obama calendars. (In a moment of weakness at a Maryland rest stop, I admit to copping a stuffed replica of Bo. Don't judge me. ) So the ailing publishing industry is understandably giddy that so many people are willing to pay money for all things Obama.
Access to Obamas = MoneyGetty Images
Even a reporter for the New York Times parlayed an Oval Office interview with the Obamas into a book for a cool seven figures. This kind of "cooperation" (aka ass-kissing) between reporters and the Obamas isn't exactly accountability journalism. But in this climate, when 15,000 newspaper jobs were lost in 2009 and fistfights are breaking out in the very newsroom that took down Nixon, what are you gonna do?
Fourth Estate Needs More People
I love ogling pretty pictures of Sasha and Malia as much as the next person, but the reality is the Obama administration is spending billions of my tax money by the minute. Bloggers, I'm with you. I believe in you. I'm just saying: Who's gonna mind the store?