Dyson’s popularity triggers discussion among African-American TV news journalists

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Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and ordained minister with his own pubradio show from WEAA in Baltimore, scored high ratings last week when he took over hosting duties on MSNBC’s The Ed Schultz Show, according to the Daily Beast. Dyson has been a regular guest on MSNBC and other networks for years, it notes, and, like the Rev. Al Sharpton, “was automatically considered the perfect guest host for primetime duties while Schultz was on assignment.” Now some observers are wondering if Dyson and Sharpton “may just be the new African-American faces of primetime news.”

“Dyson dominates the pulpit, the classroom, and really, every arena he’s in, so of course audiences are drawn to him,” says James Peterson, director of Africana studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

But the ascent of Sharpton and Dyson within the TV news industry also is raising concerns among African-American journalists, who have struggled for years to get onto major networks during primetime only to now encounter more celebrity-hosted shows. “There is tons of black talent out there that could be used in those positions, but the networks won’t look to those journalists,” said Roland Martin, former secretary of the National Association of Black Journalists and CNN political contributor. “They don’t want young journalists they can train and put in that spot.”

The Michael Eric Dyson Show launched around the same time as another public radio offering, Upfront with Tony Cox, hosted by a veteran news broadcaster. Support for the two shows split the African American Public Radio Consortium, which ultimately backed Cox’s show (Current, Oct. 13, 2009). Upfront aired its last show on May 14, 2010. “I had big hopes for this show,” Cox wrote in his farewell note. “And everything I could possibly have asked for came true … except the money.”

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