Opinion: Media Mangle

NBC’s theGrio.com needs diversity training

New Web site presumes just one “African-American perspective”

Updated below with a response from David A. Wilson, managing editor of theGrio.com

I notice that NBC has launched a new Web site, TheGrio, that will, according to a promo on the NBC News Web site, offer “the African-American perspective on news.” Not “an African-American perspective,” you’ll note, but “the” African-American perspective.

Could NBC be more condescending to assume that the black perspective on anything is monolithic and universal to all blacks? Why would blacks accept this degree of condescension when black leaders constantly and rightly protest that blacks’ views are not monolithic?

NBC says the “goal of TheGrio is to be the news portal that satisfies the desire of African Americans to stay informed and connected with their community. TheGrio’s editorial mandate is to focus on news and events that have a unique interest and/or pronounced impact within the national African Americans audience.”

The headlines on Aug. 10 on theGrio.com reflected that aim. There were stories about affordable housing in the suburbs for minorities, the lack of retail medical clinics in the inner city, the first black headmaster at Charlotte Country Day School, and a column by Al Sharpton decrying “racist rants” on the part of talk-show hosts (I’m not kidding).

The content of the site is nothing if not insular and self-referential. It offers but one “perspective” to blacks — a left-wing, race-grievance worldview that tends to encourage blacks to separate themselves from whites, Hispanics and Asians.

Ironically, one short story on the Web page reveals the errors of that very approach. “Teens look beyond first impressions at diversity camp,” discusses the positive change that can come from diversity training for kids in Fort Worth, Tex. Here’s an excerpt:

Before the camp, junior Janette Quezada says, “Mostly, I hung out with Hispanics.”

“I just mainly hung with people that were like me,” senior camp-mate Ariah Hoyle agreed. …

[The camp] forced the students to explore their own identities, reach out to other groups and discover similar experiences from different perspectives.

Contrary to the lessons learned by the teens in Fort Worth, NBC’s theGrio.com instead urges blacks to a) mostly hang out with blacks, 2) mainly hang out with people who are like them, and 3) ignore any experiences from different perspectives.

I would ask NBC if it considers this black man to represent “the African-American perspective” as portrayed by theGrio.com. Somehow I doubt it. The interesting part comes at 1:05 into the video:

Or this black man, who was assaulted by SEIU union members because he was selling flags and buttons at an anti-Obamacare rally:

Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of its newspaper, Carolina Journal.

UPDATE: David A. Wilson, managing editor of theGrio.com responds:


I just read your piece NBC’s theGrio.com needs diversity training. I am the managing editor of theGrio and I have to agree with you on one point. There is not just one single African-American perspective but many. Your article focuses on the semantics of one marketing spot.

In your piece you mentioned Al Sharpton, but he only represents one perspective on our site. We also feature conservative and moderate voices from the community. Here are a few pieces you might like to consider:

Liberal hyprocrites should remember their own rage: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/08/conservatives-have-every-right-to-be-angry.php

Government needs to get the heck out of health care: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/08/health-care-reform-is-at.php

Obama’s not good enough on black unemployment: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/06/obama-failing-to-address-the-root-of-african-american-unemployment.php

Consider this before crying “racial profiling”: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/07/i-am-not-al-sharpton.php

How to attract black Republicans: 7 tips for Michael Steele: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/07/how-to-attract-black-republicans-7-tips-for-michael-steele.php

On Michael Jackson, Obama is tone deaf: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/06/obama-tone-deaf-on-michael-jackson.php

Not all gays support same-sex marriage: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/06/not-all-gay-people-support-same-sex-marriage.php

How the GOP can win back blacks: http://www.thegrio.com/2009/06/how-the-gop-can-win-back-blacks.php

You won’t find that range of opinions on other prominent black news sites. My goal is to make sure this site reflects the diversity of thinking within black communities. We’re only 2 months out and there are a lot of imperfections, but we will get better and will continue to look for more voices. Let me know if you have any suggestions on possible contributors for our site.

David A. Wilson
Managing Editor