Black Media in the White House

President Obama's outreach is truly to all Americans

On Feb. 9, I achieved the career milestone of interviewing President Barack Obama — his first magazine Q&A. In the 15-minute phone interview, we talked about the prospects of his multi-prong economic agenda and his administration’s plans to bolster small business. That same day, I had a seat in the East Room of the White House alongside scores of print, broadcast, and online journalists as part of the president’s first news conference. Last week, on March 24, I was once again in the East Room for the president’s second news conference — this time seated in the front row, almost close enough to touch the presidential seal embossed on the podium. After Obama addressed his “blueprint for America’s future” — job creation through renewable energy; a competitive workforce that’s a byproduct of a qualitative education system; and affordable healthcare for all — I answered the stream of congratulatory e-mails from friends and colleagues. Yes, it was another great moment for Black Enterprise.

Since those events, I received a few calls from my brethren in the media, including Politico.com, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and, most recently, BBC News. The question I received from the BBC was similar to those asked by other media outlets: “Why would President Obama grant an interview with your publication and not The New York Times, a publication for all people?” I told the interviewer that he gave Black Enterprise the interview because he recognized the importance and influence of our audience.

Since my conversation with the president, my press interviews have focus more broadly on why Obama “has embraced” black media. My take is that President Obama is staying true to his message of creating a more inclusive America, which has been reflected in the make-up of his cabinet and White House staff as well as the outreach to media. In addition to Ebony, Essence, NNPA and Howard University’s Hilltop — all publications that have gained access to news conferences, press briefings and, in some cases, direct access to the nation’s chief executive — Obama has reached out to Latino media and regional publications. Since taking office, he has also given interviews to every major media outlet including the evening news anchors of CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. The President is interested in gaining the ears of as many Americans as possible.

Obama is in the process of remaking government like no other president since FDR’s New Deal, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Deal, and Ronald Reagan’s Conservative Movement. He realizes that times of crisis require unconventional modes of communication. No president so early in his term have entertained the public’s questions at Town Hall meetings. Last week, he took the unprecedented step of giving American citizens the opportunity of asking questions via the Whitehouse.gov Website. He didn’t go on the Tonight Show to yuck it up with Jay Leno; he used the appearance as a vehicle to share his visions and policies with the widest possible audience.

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