Citadel Broadcasting, which owns Little Rock urban station Power 92, was kind enough to forward us a letter from programming director “Broadway” Joe Booker soon after we went to press with the last media column. As you'll remember, two weeks ago, this column was about “The Truth Behind Juneteenth: A Paradox of Freedom,” a documentary by first-time Little Rock filmmakers Julian Walker and Darrell Scott. In that film, Walker and Scott take Power 92 to task for its annual Juneteenth concert at Riverfest Amphitheatre. Their film implies that Power 92 exploits Juneteenth to promote what is essentially a moneymaking endeavor, shunning the cultural and historical aspects of the holiday.
Juneteenth marks the date — June 19, 1865 — when Union Gen. Gordon Granger announced to the slaves of Galveston, Texas, that they were free. Celebrations of the event have since spread to black communities, large and small, across the United States.
In his letter, Booker contends that Walker and Scott never contacted him for the film. He writes that Power 92's annual concert, which saw its 20th anniversary occurrence last Saturday, was originally called “Power Jam.” He notes that this year the concert reverted to a version of that name: “POWER JAM — A Juneteenth Celebration.”
Booker said that in previous years, Power 92 has passed out brochures outlining the history and significance of Juneteenth, and said that this year they would be handing out pocket-sized cards featuring the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Booker noted that the Power 92 concert is not the only local celebration of Juneteenth, and was never intended to be an educational event.
“We have no workshops or classes,” Booker wrote. “Our event is festive, just like the celebrations of freedom that occur on July 4. And we feel that the best way for us — a music radio station — to celebrate is with music. So that is how we honor the Juneteenth holiday.”
Filmmaker Darrell Scott responds that he and co-director Julian Walker attempted to set up an interview via e-mail with Booker at the time they were making their film, but said that after several exchanges, Booker stopped responding to their inquiries. Scott said that though he has attended Power 92's last three Juneteenth concerts from beginning to end, he has never seen one of the brochures Booker mentions.
Responding on behalf of himself and Walker, Scott e-mails: “After reading Joe's response that Power 92's event ‘is not an educational event, nor was it ever intended to be one,' we are even more adamant that it is inexcusable for a black station that claims to be involved in the community to utterly fail to capitalize on the opportunity to empower 15,000 young black minds. We continue to call attention to the facts: (1) Most attendees do not know the history; (2) Power 92 advertises the concert far more than they highlight the meaning behind the celebration; (3) and Power 92 has the chance to touch 15,000 young minds but are instead preoccupied with monetary gains … It can certainly be asserted that concert performances are a celebration of black people's freedom to gather and support artists who make millions doing what they love. The problem, however, is the fact that many of these black youth do not know their history.”
Though I had my doubts about Craig O'Neill's bump to the KTHV 10 p.m. anchor desk, I've got to admit that he's been impressive so far — a definite breath of fresh air in a stale market. Though a little stiff the first couple of nights — something too morticiany about his unfamiliar black suits and the “serious news” scowl, which just doesn't work with his face — he has settled out nicely since his debut on June 10. The former DJ with the made-for-radio mug has finally, it seems, found his niche.
In a memo issued to the KTHV staff on June 5, KTHV news director Chuck Maulden said that O'Neill's jump to the big desk represents the station's newfound commitment to “community journalism.” Something of a bee in the bonnet of KTHV parent company Gannett in recent years, community journalism — with stations trying to be more proactive and responsive to the e-mailed and phoned-in concerns of viewers — is currently being tried in one form or another at several stations owned by the media conglomerate.
“Journalism is now becoming a two-way conversation,” Maulden wrote. “In the past, the flow of information has come from professional journalists to citizens through traditional gatekeepers of information — newspaper, radio, television and Internet websites. Everyday people lacked the power, the influence, the wealth and the know-how to communicate local news and information about their neighborhoods, their communities, and their towns to the world. But now, Today's THV is offering the people of Arkansas a way to do just that.”
Wess Moore and Mark Edwards will take over for O'Neill on the KTHV sports desk — Moore on weekdays and Edwards handling weekends.
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