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African-American journalists are pessimistic about America's future

More than 30 years after the Kerner Commission's findings indicated a lack of media coverage of black issues in America, African-American journalists still have a gloomy outlook on America's future, according to a national study conducted by a New Mexico State University journalism professor.

J. Sean McCleneghan, a 19-year New Mexico State University faculty member in journalism and mass communications, says African-American journalists are pessimistic about America's future. McCleneghan's research is published in the current edition of the So

"They're pessimistic," writes J. Sean McCleneghan, in "How African-American Journalists View America's Social Institutions into the 21st Century," published in the latest edition of the national Social Science Journal.

In 1965 the African-American community of Watts in the Los Angeles basin was ablaze after three days of rioting and civil unrest; and in 1966, despite the passage of civil rights legislation, Army National Guardsmen were sent into six urban areas to strike down inner city riots.

"The Kerner Commission, created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 in hopes of uncovering the causes of this civil unrest, found that the white mainstream press failed miserably in its coverage of black issues and grossly underrepresented African- Americans in the media," McCleneghan said. The solution was to bring more blacks into newspaper journalism in hopes they would adequately relay a sense of reality about black life, he said.

McCleneghan said he decided to query black journalists "because they were the first vanguard of minority reporters hired on mainstream newspapers. They represent the largest minority bloc employed in the newspaper industry today."

McCleneghan selected 153 African-American newspaper chief executive officers, columnists, reporters and administrative support staff for his study. Defined as "opinion leaders," the journalists gave their respective forecasts on 12 of America's social institutions while predicting what the country might be like in the year 2015. Their attitudes were quantified on an instrument index scale from one to seven with seven representing the most "optimistic" outlook.

Pessimism and doubt dominated the forecasts for individual's rights, economic growth, democratic processes, education, living conditions, health, crime, equality and the media. The two lowest rated institutions were economic growth and living conditions. The journalists were optimistic only about religion, technology and agriculture "not deteriorating by 2015."

"As a society we are growing less and less patient with everything -- our jobs, families and institutions. This will lead to random violence," said Cox News Service Washington, D.C., Bureau Chief Rick Christie.

"There is a lack of consciousness and deterioration of moral fiber in America," said Clyde Barrow, circulation director of the Buffalo (N.Y.) News.

Philadelphia Daily News city editor Jacqueline Jones said technology improvements will allow Americans to minimize their social interaction with people of various colors, creeds and cultures. "As a result, there will be more racial intolerance as people become more isolated and too self-absorbed to work for a greater, common good in society," Jones said.

Michael Terry, a Los Angeles Times reporter, said people who feel they can provide for themselves will promote the general welfare. "But if the cost of living is grossly inflated, it could turn society into a free-for-all. Our only gross national product will be disillusionment," Terry said.

Pete McConnell, assistant city editor of the Seattle Post- Intelligencer, doubts that most Americans will be able to afford health care, particularly as "Baby Boomers" grow older. "Watch out. This will be America's number one problem when 2015 rolls around," McConnell said.

McCleneghan said black journalists should be queried about the future of America's social institutions. "This is important because today African-American journalists now occupy mid-to- senior level management posts at mainstream newspapers. They, too, must deal with the 'negatives' within the construction of social reality in the news business," he said.

McCleneghan, who covered the 1965 Watts Riots as a 24-year- old newspaper reporter for the Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta, is the author of more than 80 scholarly publications and 60 academic conference papers on media studies.