Who better to tell Black stories than well-versed and accomplished Black journalists? The Black experience in America is no fairytale, and while our community has overcome a lot, there are still many mountains to climb. There’s no better time than now to tell our stories, dive deep into history, and examine the complexities of being Black in America.
BET and CBS have partnered to premiere “America In Black,” a groundbreaking new monthly prime-time newsmagazine series featuring a mix of original long-form investigative reports, one-on-one newsmaker interviews, human interest stories, and exclusive in-depth celebrity profiles by award-winning Black journalists.
“America In Black” will feature reporting by some of the most impactful and important Black journalists of our time, including Gayle King, cohost of CBS Mornings; Marc Lamont Hill, BET News anchor & correspondent; Errol Barnett, CBS News streaming anchor and national correspondent; Ed Gordon, former BET News anchor and more. Each original one-hour episode will go beyond the headlines and focus on the people, issues, and stories that matter most to Black America.
21Ninety caught up with Sr. Executive Producer of BET News and Documentaries, Jason Samuels, to talk about the state of black media, why this new monthly prime-time newsmagazine series is needed, and much more!
Liz Smith: Hats off to you and your amazing team. I’ve watched both episodes, and it was so moving and very entertaining; you guys definitely came in hot with the first two! How imperative is it for our culture to have a series like “America In Black” right at this moment?
Jason Samuels: Thank you for watching, and I think to answer your question, there aren’t enough shows that are really telling the stories of the Black community that are featuring our voices and our perspectives. The more these shows, the better! Our great colleagues at CBS News are incredibly enthusiastic about partnering with us on this show, and we have a lot of tremendous talent and assets going into the production of this show. Our mission that we’re trying to accomplish is to give it that BET point of view.
LS: You started the season off with an exclusive sit-down interview with non-other than Sheryl Lee Ralph! Such an icon, and I’m so happy to see her receive her flowers in this winning season. What prompted you to highlight her journey first in this series?
JS: We wanted to find a celebrity to profile that was relevant and somebody that we thought our BET audience would be interested to hear from at this particular moment, and we were so thankful that Sheryl Lee Ralph gave us the time. Again there are a lot of shows that book celebrities to interview, and one of the things that we’re trying to strive for with “America In Black” is that when we sit down with an African American celebrity, we want them to feel like they’re talking to Black people quite frankly.
ES: Awesome, love that you’re creating a safe space in this industry for celebrities and everyone involved. We see iconic journalist step into this series, Ed Gordan being one of them! After an 18-year hiatus he’s back to grace our screens. Why was it so important as an executive producer to have him be a part of this primetime news magazine series?
JS: I can’t believe it’s been 18 years! If you’re going to write the history of BET, Ed Gordon is going to be a part of that history, especially in the news space. One of the most iconic moments in BET history, and I would argue journalism history was his sit-down interview with OJ Simpson. So if you’re going to try and rebuild a new show at BET, who better than Ed Gordon to bring back? When I spoke to him about this show, he couldn’t have been more thrilled and excited to get back in it, and we couldn’t be more thrilled because he has such a connection with our audience, and he is an icon in his own right.
LS: Shows like these are important and needed, so as a viewer who wants to continue to see more seasons, what do we need to do to make sure shows like these stay on our television screens?
JS: Love that question! Honestly, spread the word, tell your friends, and tell your family and coworkers if you like what we’re doing. Your question is really important because a lot of times, people would say, “why doesn’t BET do more news?” Sometimes the answer is as simple as when we do it; we don’t get the type of audience that we would hope. However, with your help and others by telling people to watch, tweeting about it, and spreading the word, it can reach an audience we may not be able to. We appreciate the support and hope to grow the audience month by month.
LS: What are your hopes for Black media in 2023?
JS: Another great question. To me, I don’t feel competitive in terms of “I want our show to be the best and only show.” In terms of Black media, I want our show to be one of many and a wave of shows and start-up websites, and news organizations. I just want to see more! Post-George Floyd, a lot of media, in general, realized that they didn’t have enough if any, programming that really showed authenticity in terms of the Black experience. We all have to demand more coverage and better coverage and have a seat at the table. That’s being in front of the camera, behind the camera, all of the above, and we still need more hiring, more shows green-lit, more people in the executive meetings, and we can’t go back to the status quo; we have to keep pushing!
Check out episode one of “America In Black” below. Be sure to tune into the all-new prime-time newsmagazine series airing monthly on BET.