African Americans in the Media Today: An Encyclopedia

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African Americans in the Media Today: An Encyclopedia. Sam G. Riley. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. 632 pp. 2 vols. $175.00 hbk.

In the introduction to African Americans in the Media Today: An Encyclopedia, author Sam G. Riley remarks that after aggressive hiring of African Americans by white-owned media outlets in the 1980s and 1990s, "By the dawning of the new millennium, African Americans in the news media had achieved a sort of critical mass." This two-volume reference collection is his catalogue of some of the people who constitute that critical mass.

Riley, a professor of communication studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has compiled the biographical listings for nearly 250 African Americans working in print journalism, radio, television, and online media. His intent, he explains, is to profile "today's most accomplished African-American journalists . . . and to include a few younger individuals of special promise." The individuals profiled in the text are those who Riley states "work or very recently worked in news or news related jobs" at "mainstream"-i.e., white-dominated-mass media outlets. So if you're looking for information about journalists of accomplishment in contemporary black media such as Chauncey Bailey, the recently murdered editor of the African American weekly newspaper the Oakland Post, who previously worked for the Oakland Tribune, or of individuals of promise such as cultural critic Esther Iverem, the founder and editor of the Web site SeeingBlack.com, you will have to look elsewhere. Despite its inherent incompleteness, African Americans in the Media Today provides an informative snapshot of the lives of women and men working in the mass media.

Besides the author's introduction, the first volume of the book contains listings of entries in both alphabetical order and by the field or medium in which subjects work, as well as a timeline. Each entry contains a brief biographical essay about the subject and a list of items for further reading. The second volume contains a selected bibliography. The subject of the bibliography is not given, but the titles listed include a wide assortment of books by and about African Americans and the media.

The biographical essays provide essential and interesting information about their subjects, and the listings for further reading provide good sources for those looking to find out more about the individual subjects. The strength of African Americans in the Media Today, however, lies in the fact that for many of the journalists, Riley manages to include an excerpt of their work. …