Monday, May 11, 2009

Vitter's hooker history, Rachel Maddow, and Tidwell of the Louisiana Weekly, a black newspaper


This Rachel Maddow piece on Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana trying to block Craig Fulgate's nomination as head of F.E.M.A. highlights Vitter's infamous track record with hookers. He's running for re-election and seeking donations. The Louisiana Weekly via Twitter brought my attention to Maddow's video clip because it's happy to have made national news. However, it didn't really make national news as much as one of its staff members made the news.

I was kind of surprised that The Louisiana Weekly's associate editor, according to Maddow, is a white guy and a Republican, Christopher Tidmore, who also has a talk show on KKAY. I say this at the risk of maybe never writing for the Louisiana Weekly, a historically black newspaper. (Remember, I lived away from NOLA for a good while and there've been a few changes.)

The paper looks good, and I don't know who gets credit for that since the website doesn't have a staff list up (a design flaw) and I tossed my last hard copy last week. Still, I saw Tidmore as the face of the paper on national television being one more sign that the old-guard black newspapers I grew up with are dying. I'm not sure most black newspapers today are the "guards" or "advocates" for the black community that people once perceived them to be. Honestly, all it ever was was perception:
From an economic perspective, African-American newspapers were formed in order to make a profit. According to a study of early African-American newspapers, the "primary motivation" of African-American newspaper proprietors was "not uplift, but profit." (from History of African-American Newspapers site)
BTW, publishers who produce publications to make money tend to be conservative whether black or white, but will ride the wave of what makes the most money.

Nevertheless, with African-Americans being left out of mainstream media papers for many years and some feel even today, we appear mostly in the crime news section, weddings, church, or deaths and births pages, some black people have looked to their African-American weeklies for more substance and elevation.
... from a social standpoint, these newspapers were a source of pride for the African-American community and a focal point for African-Americans to stick together and fight the constant oppression they were under. Taking this into account, it seems apparent that it was most beneficial for African-American newspaper editors to be motivated by both uplift and profit.

In the United States today, it is not uncommon for cities to have a variety of newspapers (printed in a variety of languages) that are aimed at specific racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Because large newspapers tend to cover the news that would be of interest to the majority (and thus not the minority) of people, it is easy to see why people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds would be interested in hearing about events from people who might see the world with the same cultural lens as themselves. (History of African American Newspapers at Virginia.edu)
I'm not sure what's up in the industry today, but I recall in the 90s that some of the best known African-American weekly newspapers were being bought up by white companies. Black publishers and some in the black community were concerned that the newspapers would become no more than the BET network in print. Just like anything else, whenever bad things happen to white institutions, the bad things are worse for black institutions. Newspapers are dying all over the country.

I think The Louisiana Weekly is still a black-owned newspaper, and Tidmore as associate editor may be simply a glorified copy-editor, someone who edits the paper and nothing more. Nevertheless, while Tidmore may be very good at what he does, his showing up on Maddow's show as a face of the paper could be more evidence that it's black bloggers who are the authentic face of black community news, especially in the spirit of being advocate and voice.

I reiterate that this is just an observation and opinion, and I know nothing about Tidmore other than that he's run for office as a Republican. What I remember of the Louisiana Weekly is that it's owned by a Louisiana "black" Creole family, Dejoie.

Sometimes "black" Creoles can be just as resistant to change and as bigoted toward darker black people as some white people. One segment of "black" Creoles have seen themselves as a separate race and culture, focused on preserving lighter skin and any socio-economic status quo that preserves their rank above darker-skinned blacks.

I don't know if that's the case of the family that owns the Lousiana Weekly. Like any other group, black Creoles are not monolithic in thought; however, many old-school Creoles, whether they considered themselves as African-Americans first or not, were members of clubs such as the Autocrat Club of the 7th Ward that induldged in brown-paper bag and pencil tests for membership acceptance. Your skin had to be lighter than a brown-paper bag and your hair had to be straight enough to not hold a pencil if you bent over. Young people who've descended from black Creoles don't pay attention to this nonsense, I hope, the way some of their parents did.

The Louisiana Weekly was pro-civil rights back in the day, as were most black-owned newspapers. And its late publisher, Henry Dejoie, son of its founder C.C. Dejoie, helped former mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial, also a 7th Ward Creole, win office as New Orleans's first black mayor. A few books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been written on "black" Creoles in New Orleans.

What I do know is that if a black newspaper will not be "the voice of the black community" and reflect its many facets, not just middle-class milieux with with black faces in it, it might as well die because that's just mainstream white media in blackface.

Fronts are a scourge, and if a black newspaper were to be influenced by a traditional white Louisiana Republican it would be compromised. Many white southern Republican leaders hold the racist ideology of those who have advocated the "Southern Strategy" to win elections. The Republican party in the south has been happy to be the enemy of African Americans in order to win votes from whites. I'll stand by that statement.

However, who knows what Tidmore really is? He may be a young white, southern Republican that's not like the rest of them, meaning Vitter or that crazy one, LaBruzo (who is also young). Could be Tidmore's only a fiscal conservative. Could be he ran as a Republican because it's a Republican state and he's practical, but I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around a white southern Republican having influence at a black newspaper. Maybe I should ask him to lunch and ask him about his political views. Would feelings on Rush Limbaugh be the litmus test for his attitudes on race relations?

I associate most southern Republicans with the era of Dixiecrat flight in protest of integration passed on to suits by day maybe wearing white sheets by night. If they don't wear the sheets, they at least drink beers with the people that do. What can I say? I'm old enough to know some history, which is why I add that one of the more well-known racists of my time is the late Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Harry Lee, a southern Democrat.

Tidmore seems to be singing a different tune from his Republican companions.
It may sound like a cliche', but we are a family. Regardless of our skin color, religion, or economic circumstances, the people of Greater New Orleans, whether in Jefferson, Orleans, or elsewhere, relate to one another with love of living and community few other Americans, in fact few other human beings, can ever know--or will ever experience. Dysfunctional at times, but special among the communities of our nation. (from Tidmore's website)
He also told Maddow that he likes her show. She's not a favorite on most Republican playlist. But his platform isn't for me. His proposal to turn neighborhoods into municipalities is off.

A question bigger than race

Tidmore used to be called a Louisiana Weekly "columnist," which means he writes opinion. Maddow's show identified him as an "associate editor," which throws him in the journalist category. Can he be a journalist and also be a politician? Shouldn't he be moved from the editor roster to the pundit roster?

Whatever he is, he definitely had Vitter's number early.

Nearly five years ago, Louisiana Weekly columnist Christopher Tidmore reported that David Vitter, while a Louisiana State Representative, had allegedly conducted an eleven month affair with a known prostitute, Wendy Cortez—meeting typically at a small apartment at the corner of Dumaine and Dauphine Streets in the French Quarter.

Despite testimony from four senior Republicans who spoke to Cortez--and direct confirmation from the source--then-Congressman David Vitter accused Tidmore of “crass Louisiana politics, now that I am running for the Senate. I have made that clear that it is all completely untrue...And, it's obviously politically motivated." (a Bayou Buzz post, 2007)
Vitter called Tidmore a "liar" back then, but we know how the story turned out. Taking a leg up when he sees one, Tidmore's been riding the Stormy Daniels versus David Vitter train. Daniels is a former porn star.

One thing that hasn't changed while I was away, Louisiana politics still has a strangeness all its own.

Disclosure, I've only seen the Lousiana Weekly a few times since I moved back. It's not the only "black" newspaper in Louisiana, but the oldest survivor, I think.

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