NAACP Responds to Journalist’s Open Letter. Is it Enough?

Following the NAACP’s 42nd annual presentation of the Image Awards earlier this month, Eric Chambers(at left), the producer and host of The Jazzspel, a Saturday-morning program on The Word Network,  issued a fiery open letter addressed to NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous and the chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors Roslyn M. Brock.

In the letter, Chambers takes issue with the promotion for the awards and press credentials that were — and weren’t — issued by the the organization’s PR firm The Lippin Group.

The letter says (Chambers’ emphasis):

Unfortunately, your public relations representatives, The Lippin Group, is NNF:not Negro-friendly and in my estimation need some serious diversity training. How does the NAACP hold the biggest Black Hollywood event of the year, and the Black press not be credentialed? Or just a select few. I’ve spoken to several press members whom were denied and are as hot as fish grease over this!

…In 15 years of trying, I have NEVER been granted a credential from them–to nothing. Not even a cat fight! I felt I had a better chance of succeeding Barack Obama as president than getting a credential to your event. Therefore, I spared myself the agony.

Chambers goes on to write that he will “surmise” that The Lippin Group gets the organization mainstream coverage in outlets like Access Hollywood, but that coverage is fleeting and he would’ve dedicated his entire 30-minute program to the Awards.

We were in touch with both The Lippin Group and the NAACP for their response. We received two statements from the NAACP attached below. While the statements address the issue of promotion in the Black press and ask for feedback on the credentials situation, there’s much in Chambers’ emotional letter that isn’t addressed here.

Do you think the NAACP went far enough in its response?

Statement from Benjamin Todd Jealous on advertising and the Image Awards
March 10, 2011

This year’s NAACP annual Image Awards television show was a great success. However, on the eve of the show a serious mistake was made: circulars that were supposed to appear in both the mainstream press and Black community newspapers only appeared in the mainstream press.

For the past five years, the Association has licensed its brand and content from the Awards program to an advertising company that specializes in producing “official viewer guides” for awards shows. These guides are distributed as circulars in local mainstream newspapers.
The advertising company originally conceived the guide and presented it as a fundraisier to the NAACP. It is solely responsible for selling the ads and handling the distribution. It pays the NAACP a licensing royalty which is used to support our ongoing diversity efforts in Hollywood.

I am very sensitive to the need to support Black community newspapers. They are the only way to assure Black readers in a given community that you actually want your ads to reach them directly. In the past, I personally have both sold and purchased ads in Black community newspapers across the country. Moreover, I dedicated years of my life to working for them directly. I served as an investigative reporter and editor for the Jackson Advocate–the most frequently firebombed Black community newspaper in the country. I also served as Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA)– the industry’s trade group.

Accordingly, I requested and received assurance from the advertising company that their distribution plan included Black community newspapers. However, the advertising company has failed to follow through. This year, when the guides came out they did not show up in any Black community newspapers.
The NAACP does not condone the agency’s decision to exclude Black community newspapers. It is contrary to our explicit instruction, and we were not aware of the agency’s decision until after the guides hit the papers. Nonetheless, it was made for a publication that bears our name, and as CEO I take ultimate responsibility for it.

For that reason, I have apologized to the NNPA and promised their leadership this will not happen again.

We have also let the agency know that we will not tolerate their abuse of the trust the NAACP has placed in them, nor that which Black community newspapers place in the NAACP.

Before next year’s show, this contract will be put out to competitive bid and we will only contract with an agency that can guarantee they will use Black community newspapers.

If this company wants to do business with the NAACP again, they will need to make things right with Black community newspapers in the markets where the guide was distributed, and convince us they are capable of keeping their word.

To Mr. Chambers:

Eric Chambers March 16, 2011

Harvest of My Dreams Foundation

7510 W. Sunset Blvd. #516

Hollywood, CA 90046

Dear Mr. Chambers:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter and feedback on the Image Awards. It is through constructive critique such as yours that we are able to improve and better serve our mission.

Please know that we are taking your concerns seriously and will do all we can to ensure that any problems you raised do not reoccur next year.

If you have any additional information such as specific individuals who were not credentialed, please forward that to our office.

Please note that, with respect to ads, I have attached the initial statement from President Jealous.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to us and share your concerns. It is appreciated.

All the best,


Leila McDowell

Vice President for Communications

[Image via]