BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. TV One will cover the Democratic National Convention because and only because the party's nominee is black.
And yet, oddly enough, some of the people who will be involved in that coverage took umbrage at the suggestion that the cable/satellite network is, um, covering the Democratic National Convention only because the nominee is Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"Yes, Sen. Obama running for president is a huge deal at TV One, as it is in the African-American community," said Johnathan Rodgers, the CEO of the network that, in his words, "targets African-American adults."
According to Rodgers, "African-Americans have fallen in love with his candidacy, his family, and what it means to our community." Thus, TV One will cover the convention "which is not normally part of what we would do at TV One."
In addition to coverage of the convention itself, the channel plans a nightly telecast tentatively titled "TV One Live: DNC Afterparty," which will be "a ceremonial, historical, irreverent, celebratory look at the process and a look at Sen. Obama and what it means to the African-American community."
"With Barack Obama being the nominee, there is the unique dynamic of history not only for African-Americans but for all of America," anchorwoman Jacque Reid said. "So, it's a very special occasion, and so that's why TV One decided to cover this particular convention in this way because of the uniqueness of it and how, for the first time, I think, a lot of African-Americans will be tuned in to the Democratic National Convention."
To be clear, no one gathered here at the Television Critics Association press tour questioned TV One's interest in Obama and, thus, the Democratic convention. But no one on the panel seemed to want to answer a perfectly legitimate question about whether TV One's coverage wouldn't create the sort of racial divide that Obama has sought to avoid that a "black" TV channel covering the convention only because of the candidate's race flies in the face of the candidate's effort to be "post-racial."
To be blunt which the questioners were not isn't it possible that this unprecedented coverage by TV One could provide ammunition for those who want to make Obama's candidacy into a question of race instead of a question of politics and policy?
And if not, just tell us why not.
"I think we don't want to be post-racial. We want to be post-racist," said Michael Eric Dyson, the author/writer/commentator/minister who will co-host the "DNC Afterparty." "We want to get beyond racism, not race identity."
Fair enough. So, TV One will cover the Republican National Convention, too, right?
"At the moment, TV One does not plan on covering the Republican Convention," Rodgers said. "We are not a news organization. We are a television network that is designed to celebrate African-American achievement. That is why we are covering this convention.
"If Hillary (Clinton) was the nominee, we would not be covering this year's Democratic convention."
So ... TV One will be in Denver because Obama is black, right?
"Even though it's on a network that's geared predominantly to an African-American audience, there's something for every group that wants to watch this show," Reid said. "We are not just going to get on this show and talk about black issues. Yes, Barack Obama is the nominee, but there are several issues that black people care about."
Issues that will be made clear by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, we were assured.
The weird thing is that several of the folks involved in TV One's coverage didn't simply embrace what they plan to do but, instead, became defensive.
"As the only Republican on this panel, I don't understand why the question is not shaped that this is an American success story by a man who just happens to be black," Sheryl Underwood said. "Why do you want to talk about his blackness?"
Which was very, very confusing because it's TV One that wants to talk about Obama's blackness.
And Rodgers doesn't think there's anything unfair about covering the Democrats and not covering the GOP.
"My audience is 93 percent black," Rodgers said. "I serve my audience."
But should black Republicans feel at all slighted because there's no coverage of their party's convention?
"I speak for all eight of us. We are not slighted," said Underwood, a self-professed Bush Republican who campaigned for Hillary Clinton and now supports Obama.
The session went completely through the looking glass when Dyson seemed to suggest that those asking about TV One's coverage of the Democratic convention were somehow, well, racist.
"We see some of the problems, some of the pitfalls, and some of the possibilities reflected here today even in terms of the questioning," Dyson said. "Is Brian Williams going to have to put a disclaimer on (NBC's coverage) because John McCain is a white man? We don't even think about that."
Nobody asked TV One to put a disclaimer on its coverage. And, of course, Williams and NBC and all the other mainline networks will cover both conventions. Which is something they'd do regardless of the candidate's race.
TV One cannot say the same.
THE REV. AL SHARPTON was scheduled to appear on one of TV One's panels, but he wasn't there, and there was no explanation forthcoming from the folks at the network.
It isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened the TV critics' press tour version of bait-and-switch. Which was definitely the impression that the network's CEO left when he failed to answer the question about where Sharpton was.
"I think Rev. Sharpton is in New York," Rodgers said.
Yes, but wasn't he supposed to be here? He was on the schedule until just a few hours before the session began.
"We had invited him to come, and he wasn't available," Rodgers said, clearing up nothing.
And when the subject came up again a short while later, Reid was more than a bit testy.
"If you don't mind, a very close friend of his, Rev. Timothy Wright, is fighting for his life," she said. "He was in a car accident where his wife died and his grandson died. And so Rev. Sharpton, who was planning to be here, had to change his plans at the last minute to be by the family's side."
A perfectly fine answer that we couldn't get from Rodgers a few minutes earlier.
He could have made the issue evaporate. We would have moved on.We're not awful people. Well, not really awful people. Well, not all of us.
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