Thursday, July 17, 2008

BET Finally Realizes It's An Election Year

I've been moaning and complaining about the relative "blackout" in terms of news coverage all year, especially as pertains to this historic Presidential election. While black radio was been on top of the subject, black TV (as it exists) has been largely oblivious. Sure, BET had that series of superficial interviews with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last winter, but anyone who watched that crap knew it was little more than a puff piece. Last week, TV One announced plans to finally leverage some of it's radio talent to cover the Democratic National Convention. I saw this as a largely positive development, even though the possibility for Extreme Coonery is likely with folks like Huggy LowDown and Sheryl Underwood on the set. Still, I'll be watching it, at least on the Tivo.

Not to be outdone, BET finished admonishing it's immature 106 and Park hosts long enough to announce some election year programming of their own. But for some reason, their choice of hosts tells me this thing is doomed to fail.

BET Networks unveiled its plans for extensive, multiplatform election year political coverage, including the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. BET and BET J will air hours of on-air programming, including live coverage, daily news specials, public service announcements and extended news briefs.

“106 & Park” co-host Terrence will provide updates and news from Denver, while BET News correspondents will file extended news briefs featuring interviews, which will be integrated into “106 & Park,” “Rap City” and “The Black Carpet.”

The network also announced plans to launch the BET News show “The Truth With Jeff Johnson” on Aug. 15. The half-hour weekly talk show will consist of investigative reports and one-on-one interviews with experts on the week’s events and what they mean for the black community.

“The Truth” will present a special report live from the Democratic National Convention in Denver. BET J host Keith Boykin, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and political pundits Jamal Simmons, Keli Goff and Angela McGlowan will join Johnson from inside the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field.
I guess I should laud BET for at least trying. And by pulling in relatively savvy pundits like Simmons[1] and McGlowan, at least there's some semblance of serious journalism in the air.

But when you mix in ass-clowns like 106 and Park's Terrance (yeah, that Terrance), you're already bringing the show down a few notches. I understand trying to appeal to your core demo, but daggonit, Terrance? Are you tellin' me Prince DeJour[2] wasn't available, cause I'd take him far more seriously.

And then there's Jeff Johnson himself, whom I'm pretty sure has incriminating photos of someone at BET Corporate. Something about the cat just rubs me the wrong way. I'm not knocking anyone's personal style, nor would I hate on a young brother trying to come up. But c'mon. Is that really who you want running your election coverage?

This is the same cat who asked such unnecessary questions of Obama like "what do you think of hip-hop music?", "what about reparations?" and the infamous "why was it important for you to marry a black woman?" This is the same cat who let dudes like David Banner run roughshod over BET's flimsy attempt at self-examination, Hip-Hop vs America. This is also the same cat who actively campaigned for Kenneth Blackwell's failed gubernatorial run. Yeah, that Kenneth Blackwell.

I'm not sayin' the dude's in waaaay over his head, but let's be real. TV One has Joe Madison. Love him or hate him, you can't question his credentials. Isn't Jeff Johnson only a couple of years removed from Rap City? Why didn't they just go pull Chris Thomas[3] from his afternoon shift at Sizzler? He'd be just as good, and probably ask better questions.

I'm just sayin'.

But I guess I should give credit where it's due. BET is trying. Succeeding? Not so much. But trying, sure.

But I still say TV One wins this round.

Question: Will you give BET's coverage of the election a look? Do you think I'm a bit too critical of Jeff Johnson? Whose coverage sounds better, BET's or TV One's?

BET Details On-Air, Online Election Coverage [TVWeek]

[1] Hmmm. Jamal Simmons is working on BET. Roland Martin is working on TV One. Amy Holmes is working on the AM shift at Sizzler. Does anyone get the very strange feeling that CNN was just taking us for a ride during that Democratic nomination? I've noticed a dramatic re-whitening of the pundit lineup there since Hillary kicked rocks. I'm just sayin'.

[2] Somebody please tell these folks who Prince DeJour is.

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