Forum on race, religion in media held in Tampa
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05/30/08 Jamie Kidder
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Last night in Tampa, a public forum was held to discuss the issues of race and religion in the Media.

The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, along with the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), hosted last night’s panel discussion.

The panel consisted of Ahmed Badir, a local civil rights activist and president of the Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council. He is also the host of WMNF’s True Talk, which airs Friday mornings from 11 to noon.

Other panelists included Michelle Bearden, a reporter who covers religion for the Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8; Ken Irby, diversity director for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg; Bill Keller, an evangelical christian who used to have a controversial television show until it was cancelled - he now broadcasts on liveprayer.com. Also on the panel was Arthur Jones, a close friend of the Rev. Jerimiah Wright and a pastor at the Bible Based Fellowship Church, and Otis Anthony, who hosts the Sunday Forum on WMNF Sunday mornings from 10 to noon.

Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg Times hosted the forum. He asked Pastor Jones how he felt the media handled the Rev. Wright story. He also spoke about how people should diversify how they get their news.

Deggans then asked Michelle Bearden how she felt about the allegations that the media was taking unfair shots at Rev. Wright for political purposes. She said that if the local media had better access to Rev. Wright, then there would be a better balance to the story.

Deggans asked Bill Keller how he felt about the Rev. Wright situation, and if he felt like he was targeted unfairly by the media for being a black pastor.

Ahmed Badir brought up the disparity in coverage between black and white pastors, noting that while black pastors are in hot water because of their message, white pastors who preach the same message only get negative coverage for their criminal behavior, and not their preachings.

Deggans went on to ask Bill Keller how he could bring people together after making divisive remarks, such as “Islam is a 1,400 year old lie from the pits of hell.”

Tempers flared between members of the Muslim community and Bill Keller, who has a history of anti-Islamic sentiments on his show. A Muslim resident in the Tampa Bay Area asked him how he can talk about removing the bias in media when his preachings can be so offensive.

To learn more about the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists and to see a calendar of upcoming events, visit TBABJ.com. Eric Deggans’ blog can be found at blogs.tampabay.com/media.

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