turn in their surveys on the first go around were promptly informed they’d be summarily failed in the NAACP’s report if they didn’t reply. Within two months, all had responded.
The outside response to the report cards has been impressive, says Witherspoon Haithcox. "Many general responses never became public. Major organizations have called saying they’d be making their convention decisions over the next five years based on our criteria. Two African American medical associations changed their decisions on where they would hold their national conventions."
With the lodgings industry covered, the organization added the multibillion-dollar telecommunications industry. Companies such as AT&T, BellSouth and Bell Atlantic are being surveyed. Next up, the group is considering financial institutions.
Simms applauded the effort the organization has made thus far, and urged it to take it a step further. "A feature of this as you go forward is the importance of not only following up with the industry itself, but also to get that message out to the broader community. If there are people who aren’t connected to the NAACP but who see that folks are effectively using their dollars, then they might say this really does make a difference. So I ought to act the same way."
Adds Hitchcock, "In a nutshell we’re surveying what we consider to be things that are important to African American business and African American economic development. This includes what does the employment picture look like? What minorities do you have at the board of directors and executive officer level? What is your vendor development program? What about advertising and marketing? Were you marketing to African Americans and are you advertising in the black media?"
As he oversees his own initiative against the advertising agencies, Sharpton says the issue is not only about making sure black-owned media outlets receive their fair dollar share. He believes there’s also a significant political consequence to the survival of black-owned media, which desperately require advertising revenue to exist.
"If there wasn’t a WBON in Chicago, Harold Washington may never have been mayor of that city," Sharpton points out.
"If there wasn’t a WLIB in New York, David Dinkins may never have been mayor of New York. So it’s not just about making business people money. It also impacts the rest of the community."
Reuben says there’s also the employment factor to consider. "If these black-owned enterprises go out of business, then that affects employment. So the extent to which these companies are not [advertising] means that they are impacting what the future will be."
Adds Graves: "The irony is that by devaluing African American stations, it makes it easier to purchase them because their valuations have gone down. Then, when you buy them cheap, reformat them into what you want them to be, or even if you don’t reformat them, if you own them as white and then put out the same exact thing, you can do demonstrably