Our Interview with Premiere Journalist, Roland Martin
Roland Martin isn’t just a news journalist, he might just be THE premiere news journalist and media professional. A standard setter and standard bearer for journalists in the industry and media professionals on the rise, Roland Martin is unapologetically Black and undeniably knowledgeable. His daily news program, a TV One mainstay since November 2013, News One Now, is as strong, powerful and impactful as the man himself. News One Now, which airs weekdays at 7 a.m. is purpose driven, covering stories and topics that are relevant to the African-American community and the issues at heart.
We caught up with Roland Martin at a recent TV One event to discuss News One Now, his thoughts on the current state of media and the ongoing presidential election. Read the interview here…
Parlé Mag: Let’s start by talking about your show, News One Now. You’ve been on TV One for a while now, but how did it all start there?
Roland Martin: We launched Washington Watch in 2009 as our Sunday show. In 2012 Wonya Lucas was then our CEO, I went to Wonya and said we really need to do a daily show. I said a show fringe prime time would really work. I was pitching around 6 o’clock. Shortly thereafter Wonya left. So then Alfred Liggins our CEO began talking about doing a morning show because he wanted there to be a show that really spoke to interests of African-Americans. So we went through the second half of 2012 and we announced it in July of 2013 and we really felt like there needed to be a show that was by and for African-Americans, where we were able to cover issues that are often being ignored elsewhere. That’s really how it started.
Parlé Mag: How important is it for you to tell these stories and how important is it to be heard around the country not just by African-Americans?
Roland Martin: I’ve run three Black newspapers, I was news editor of Savoy Magazine, founding editor of BlackAmericanNews.com, and was news director of a Black American radio station in Dallas. So I’ve spent more years in Black media than I have in white media. And I’ve always believed that—if you look at Univision and Telemundo, speaking to Latino audiences—that no one can out Black us. They can try and they can cover it, but they can’t do us. I can talk about immigration but Jorge Ramos would do it much different than I will. And so, I’ve always believed in Black media and I’ve always felt—and I’ve said this repeatedly to Black people, Black folks will rule the day if we don’t have Black owned media or if we don’t control our own voice and are not controlling the narrative. What this show allows us to do is it allows us to put on Black experts you not going to see anywhere else. When we were talking about Boko Haram we had a four star Black general. We were talking about what’s happening with the economy, we had Black economists on, so we are bringing voices to bear who are otherwise being ignored by white media. And that’s really the difference between us and everybody else. And not only that. When something happens for white media that might be a story for a day, or 2 days. For us, we going to ride it everyday! That’s the difference that we bring compared to somebody else.
Parlé Mag: How do you handle the changes in media and the emergence of social media, video in news?
Roland Martin: Well I went to a communications high school and I studied newspaper, radio and television in college. I’ve also worked at radio, newspaper and television. I was doing conversions before they called it conversions, that’s never changed. Now it’s just recognizing that’s where we are. You no longer have newspapers, you no longer have radio stations, you no longer have television companies, you have media companies, because you’re not doing the traditional stuff anymore because of market fragmentation. Now you add social media to it and now you have to have a particular different types of understanding when it comes to that. What it requires is folks understanding what’s needed is developing a skill set, that allows you to be able to move and grow into these different platforms. That’s what it requires. I think a lot of people are understanding this from the out set. They are not starting in one form of media and making a transition, they are starting it understanding you have to do all these different things and you’re doing media companies and not just a newspaper, radio, television company.
Parlé Mag: Got to transition to this presidential election, you recently hosted the forum in Ohio with the Democratic candidates and at this point you are one of the top three voices I would say of the urban community for politics. What do you think are some things African-Americans aren’t considering with the magnitude of this election?
Roland Martin: First and foremost what we have to do is, and we do this a lot on the show, is we make it clear that it’s not ALL about the presidential election. There’s school board elections, lieutenant governor, council seats, congressional races, state assembly, state reps as well to understand this campaign. We see it a lot with Black Lives Matter is, this is not about a party, it’s an ISSUE thing. It’s not a candidate thing, it’s an issue thing. So getting people to really drill down, what are my issues? What are the things that matter to me and demanding that level of accountability. And that’s really what I’m saying. We are seeing a lot of people demand more of Sanders and Clinton. When Rand Paul was in the race, Rand Paul was discussing criminal justice reform and stuff like that, the rest of them weren’t. So you’re not getting it on the Republican side. So you’re seeing a lot of people who literally are demanding a level of accountability on issues that matter to Black folks and not accepting lip service. That’s one thing that you’ve consistently seen during this campaign.
Parlé Mag: I feel like President Obama helped get African-Americans to pay more attention to politics and be interested in an arena where far too often, particularly young folks aren’t interested in.
Roland Martin: We’ll actually, Black voting trends were steadily rising before Obama. He came on at the right time. Black folks have always been some of the most sophisticated voters. It certainly may have taken up a notch but Black folks were always there. That’s one thing I think a lot of people overlook is the fact that African-Americans are very involved in issues in those things that matter. It was simply a matter of he comes along and things just go to another level. But it’s not like it was here (put hands close to the ground) and they shot up here (raises hand over head), no. It just went up another notch.
Parlé Mag: So you don’t forsee that interest decreasing when he leaves office?
Roland Martin: No, because the reality is the consciousness among people is different, so I doubt it. No.
Parlé Mag: Coming back to News One Now, for people who haven’t seen the show yet, or are late jumping on board, give them some reasons to tune in.
Roland Martin: You are going to see stories, hear stories from people who otherwise you would not hear from. We’re not covering the same stuff everyday as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC is covering. You can look at us and you could swear it’s a whole different world and it is. That’s what we’re all about. And so I get tweets and comments like ‘yo it’s my first time watching the show, I’ve never seen anything like this’, and that’s what we want to hear, because we are offering something other people can’t offer. And that is something specifically African-American that is unapologetically African-American.
Watch News One Now on TV One every weekday at 7am with host Roland Martin.