Television Newscasters

What was Black Journal?

Tony Brown (1933–) became host of the first and longest-running minority affairs show on television, Black Journal, beginning in 1970. He also became a leading voice on black issues. He was founding dean of the School of Communications at Howard University in Washington, D.C., designed to provide blacks with a better chance of success in the field of communications. Brown was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and raised by a family friend. He graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1959 and received his master’s degree in social work from that school in 1961. He left the social work field to become drama critic for the Detroit Courier. After working his way up to city editor, Brown moved to WTVS, Detroit’s public television station, where he worked in public affairs programming. He went on to produce C.P.T. (Colored People’s Time), which was the station’s first program aimed toward a black audience. He later produced and hosted another community-oriented program, Free Play.

In 1968 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funded a new program, Black Journal, which was produced in New York at WNET-TV and broadcast nationally on public television. Brown was hired as executive producer and host of the show in 1970. His concern, however, was that its content failed to represent the national black community. First an hour show which aired once a month, he changed it to become a thirty-minute weekly. He hired a predominantly black staff to run the show. CPB cut off funding from 1973 to 1974. In 1977 Brown received funding from Pepsi Cola Company, changed its name to become Tony Brown’s Journal, and moved to commercial stations. Another program of equal success, Tony Brown at Daybreak, later aired on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. In 1982 he returned Journal to public television. Continuing his efforts to enhance black people, in 1980 he initiated Black College Day, designed to help save and support black colleges. Brown has been widely honored for his achievements. Among his awards were the National Urban League’s Public Service Award in 1977, and an NAACP Image Award in 1991. In 1995 he received the Ambassador of Free Enterprise award; he was the first black so honored.


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