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Interview with Eric Chambers: The ‘Black Press’ and Reaching Audiences with Positive Stories

Actress Regina King with her NAACP Image Award

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the open letter that Eric Chambers, host of The Jazzpell on The Word Network, wrote to the leaders of the NAACP, taking issue with the organization’s PR firm, The Lippin Group, and the lack of press credentials issued to the Black media for the NAACP’s Image Awards, which took place last month.

We caught up with Chambers to discuss the issue further, learn a little more about what prompted his anger and disappointment, and to gather details about what sorts of pitches he’d be interested in.

Read on after the jump.

“It’s been brewing and cooking and stewing and all of that stuff for years,” Chambers said about the letter, adding that he also heard from other journalists and publicists with similar complaints. Chambers hasn’t covered the Image Awards since it was handled by Black publicists, he said, and blames “a combination of both” the NAACP and The Lippin Group for the current disconnect.

Chambers told us he hasn’t heard any further from the NAACP and calls the answer he received from the organization “a canned response.” (We’ve been in touch as well and will report back with any further response.)

However, he also boils the problem down to two other issues: the lack of recognition of the Black press and the NAACP’s approach to its work.

“I’m tired of The Lippin Group and others that deny the power of the Black press,” he said. The Word Network is the second largest urban network behind BET, he continued, reaching 80 million households in the U.S. as well as TV screens in London and other international geographies.

“The NAACP has become more corporate-driven and not people- and mission-driven,” Chambers added. And while he commends the organization for its inclusiveness, evidenced by the ‘We Are One” campaign that launched yesterday, Chambers said the organization must also remain focused on its original mandate.

“The NAACP was founded to help thwart discrimination specifically against Negroes,” he told us. That founding purpose, he added, is “no longer self-explanatory” and the organization must go to greater lengths to “discuss its history and purpose.”

“I think they put far more emphasis on the entertainment things than social justice and injustices,” he continued. “That’s why people like my daughter who’s eight and other young generations, they look at [the Image Awards] and think of it as just another awards show.”

In terms of what Chambers would like for his own show, he says The Jazzpell focuses on the positive, focusing on things that both Blacks and others have done to contribute to the Black community, and on topics that “educate and entertain.”

“Every one of my shows, my daughter can watch,” he told us. “I don’t try to show anyone in a negative light. We want to see more images of us in much more positive ways. And that’s what my crusade is with this show.”

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