Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Do the Right Thing? Filmmaker Spike Lee Says He'd Prefer to Be Interviewed by Black Reporters; Los Angeles Times Balks

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Do the Right Thing? Filmmaker Spike Lee Says He'd Prefer to Be Interviewed by Black Reporters; Los Angeles Times Balks

Article excerpt

Filmmaker Spike Lee, whose movies include Do the Right Thing, has requested that the media send only black reporters to interview him about his new movie, Malcolm X.

However, the report emerges a little fuzzily since he has held one recent interview with a non-black writer from New York Newsday, and a studio publicist said he has conducted a "couple of phoners" with white journalists in connection with Malcolm X.

Still, the Los Angeles Times refused to assign an African-American reporter to interview Lee as requested by a Warner Bros. public relations woman.

"We do not grant writer approval," John Lindsay, editor of the Times Calendar section, told E&P.

Calendar movie editor Kelly Scott said she asked the studio to arrange an interview with Lee by staff writer Tery Pristin.

"Of course, Hollywood studios are always trying to get a sympathetic writer assigned to stories, but this is the first time we've been asked to send anyone on the basis of race," Scott said.

According to Scott, the studio agent said she was relaying a preference from Lee, who wants to give African-American journalists a "boost."

This was confirmed in E&P's interview with the agent, who asked not to be identified.

"Spike informed our office that, if at all possible, he would like to be interviewed by African-American reporters," she related. "He believes they should be given more of a chance. It's Spike's decision."

In response to an E&P query to his Brooklyn, N.Y., office, Lee issued this reply via fax:

"I've never said I want black journalists only to interview me about the film Malcolm X. I said I would prefer to speak to African-American journalists. It is my belief that because Malcolm X is such a part of the African-American psyche and experience, that African-American journalists will be that much more sensitive to the subject matter."

Lee went on to say that he had been "burned by recent articles written by white journalists, articles which I know are unfair. No black journalist is going to ask me, |Spike, do you have any white friends?' But my asking for African-American journalists points out a much greater problem - the embarrassing lack of black writers at these various media institutions.

"Some have one or two black journalists, but in most cases these publications have no blacks on their staffs. According to the American Society of Newspapers Editors, blacks comprise only 4.8% of professional newsroom staffs.

"Instead of questioning me, the white media should take a hard took at its own hiring practices and ask, |Where are the African-Americans, the women and the other minorities?'

"I ask, what crime have I committed by asking for qualified professionals who will be sympathetic to the film and myself? My effort to control the representation of my art and my image is nothing extraordinary, but rather commonplace and traditional in respect to Hollywood's standards.

"Movie stars often flex their muscles and pick and choose who they wish to deal with. I'm sick and tired of this |Spike Lee hates your cracker ass' image. I don't like that, never have, never will."

The Times' Pristin wrote an Oct. 28 Calendar story about the request and the Times' response. She quoted a Warner Bros. spokesman as saying that Lee was unhappy about two hard-hitting articles by white journalists, a Los Angeles Times Magazine profile by Hilary De Vries when Lee's Jungle Fever was released, and a recent Esquire cover piece by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, who wrote that Lee "made me feel like a racist. …

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