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Missing the story

Empower Wisconsin | June 30, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON  —  The event story is the domain of TV journalism, hungry to fill a generally quiet weekend newscast.

It’s also an easy turnaround for producers and reporters who are either too lazy or afraid — often both — to ask a follow-up question.

Such was the case for Madison-based WKOW’s Saturday evening newscast, when an enterprising reporter was handed an assignment to cover Black Money Matters. The event at Madison’s Elver Park featured music and food, but the focus was on the many black-owned businesses that set up tables to interact with their community, according to the reporter.

Black Money Matters was organized by “We Are One: The Young Panthers of Madison”, a black student union started by Madison high schoolers.

The stories, not just WKOW’s, seem to sing the praises of the young activists for their initiative and moxy to push social justice — the usual child-shall-lead-them pabulum. Perhaps there’s some truth in that, but the reporters gloss over or fail to note the mission of the Black Money Matters educational event: Business segregation.

Noah Anderson, one of the founders of the Young Panthers, told the Wisconsin State Journal that the group learned about Vernon Johns, “a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement.”

“His tactics, in short, was only to support Black businesses, creating a cycle of generational wealth within our communities. We the Young Panthers of Madison believe that this is the way. Black people, we’ve got to understand our true power in this country,” Anderson told the newspaper.

Johns was actually a pioneer in the fight against segregation. His economic philosophy was that blacks must help blacks to establish businesses and then support them.

According to WKOW’s trite coverage, organizers of Saturday’s event said when they “saw people causing damage” downtown, they “felt there could be a more productive way to get their message across.”

“We wanted to do something simultaneously to that, in response to the rioting,” said Young Panthers member Denaria Rowe.

“If you’re going to destroy white people’s businesses, why shop there after you get done destroying them? Why not then come and support your own businesses and try to focus in and build yourselves up?” she added.

Wow. That’s an amazing statement — packed with the kind of unreasonable rhetoric that has swept through Madison and so many liberal-led cities in this country. You might expect an inquisitive reporter to say something like, Wait, what? 

Not in the WKOW story. Not anywhere really in much of mainstream media today.

“They said they hope to be able to grow the event in the future and bring more businesses out to show businesses they want to support if they want to ‘Buy Black,’ as they’ve seen on social media,” the reporter says in wrapping up the obtuse video package.

He missed the point. Or at least a pretty damn important point.

Such flawed reporting is a big reason why America is in the sorry shape it’s in.

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