Afrobella of the Month* — Farai Chideya

NPR junkies are a dedicated lot. I’ve known some who lull their latchkey pets with A Prairie Home Companion on busy weekends. I’ve known others who are utterly obsessed with Ira Glass. NPR fanatics drive to work with Diane Rehm and come home with News and Notes, hosted by the razor-sharp Farai Chideya. If you’re not a regular NPR listener, you may not be aware of what a brilliant journalist or great interviewer Farai Chideya is. She’s an accomplished author, a compelling personality, and a strong-minded afrobella who does her part to keep America informed about politics, culture, and the issues that affect the black community. She’s become one of the key figures in new media, and is an inspiration to any young, smart journalist who is trying to find a place in the changing landscape of American media.

Farai Chideya is young still — she’s in her mid-thirties, and her drive is evident in the amazing range of her achievements. Let’s break it down by types of media, shall we?

In terms of print, Farai started out as a researcher at Newsweek magazine. She was a writer for MTV News from 1994 to 1996. She’s already published three books — 1995′s Don’t Believe the Hype is already in its eighth printing. 2001′s The Color of Our Future: Race in the 21st Century was named one of the best books for young adults by the New York Public Library. In 2004, she released the timely Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters. In 1997, Newsweek named her to its “Century Club” of 100 people to watch.

In 1996, Chideya founded PopandPolitics.com, a brilliant site that combines music, film, international news, and political perspectives. The site has won beau coup awards and accolades, including a MOBE IT Innovator award. Chideya has been named one of Alternet’s New Media Heroes, and both her and the site were ranked in PoliticsOnline.com’s list of 25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics.

On television, she’s been a correspondent for ABC News, and anchored Pure Oxygen on the Oxygen channel. During the 1996 Presidential election campaign, she provided commentary on CNN. She’s also appeared on ABC News, Fox, and MSNBC. Before she found a home at NPR, she hosted a daily news and cultural call-in show on San Francisco’s KALW 91.7 FM.

And oh yeah, then there’s this from her official bio: “In 2001-2002, she was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. She has published articles in newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Time, Spin, Vibe, O, The California Journal, Mademoiselle, and Essence. Awards for her writing and broadcast work include a 2004 “Young Lion” award from the Black Entertainment & Telecommunications Association (BETA), a GLAAD Award for the Spin article “Hip Hop’s Black Eye,” and a National Education Reporting Award for work at Newsweek. She currently serves on the Journalism Advisory Committee of the Knight Foundation, which disburses over $20 million in journalism-related grants each year.”

Whew. Got all that?

In a remarkably short span of time, Farai Chideya has managed to rack up awards, publish books, start websites, and establish a stellar reputation within her myriad fields of expertise. On her daily program News and Notes, she delivers the kind of information that is meaningful to a listener like me — and quite possibly a reader like you. Just in the last month, Farai has interviewed soul singer Martin Luther, then tackled the Jena 6 case in a really refreshing way by reaching out to the community for their feedback. Most recently she hosted a sizzling discussion about old school vs. new school civil rights activism, addressed the extremely disappointing Marion Jones scandal, and hosted a great round table discussion on black journalists covering the world of black celebrity.

In this fascinating interview with PIP magazine, she explains why so many young Americans aren’t watching the news: “Younger Americans — and I speak here mainly of people in their 20s and 30s — are rarely seen in speaking roles on network news. The target audience is middle aged, middle-class, and white. The networks use people meters to test what stories those audiences like, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that that’s the kind of audience they get. Meanwhile, younger audiences have drifted away, and many people don’t watch the news at all. To change that, news editors will have to really respect the voices of their whole potential audience — younger and older, of all ethnicities.”

And she does just that on News and Notes every day. Chideya’s areas of interest intersect neatly with mine — hip hop’s surface level activism and its depiction of black women has been an issue she’s addressed boldly and bravely. She spoke out about opportunistic hip hop political posturing in her book, Trust, and her interview with Russell Simmons left the yoga master with his feathers ruffled after her questions about his role within the kingdom of pimps and hoes. (She addresses the interview further here). That notably uncomfortable interview set the stage for Chideya to further explore this issue with the rappers who help to perpetuate negative and limited female images. Recently she appeared as a panelist on BET’s Hip Hop vs. America, which gave her an opportunity to address materialism and ask Nelly about the portrayal of women in his infamous “Tip Drill” video. After watching the BET debate, I’m honestly not sure the rappers understood where the criticism was coming from, but the fact that there was a healthy discourse on the source of the issue is a good start towards positive change, I think. I hope.

I’d like to see more of that kind of enriching interdisciplinary discussion on TV. For now, I’m more than happy to get my fix on News and Notes. I respect Farai Chideya because she always speaks her piece intelligently, uses her power wisely, and isn’t afraid to ask the questions or make the statements that are sometimes unpopular. She’s a go-getter who is paving a path that others might follow. And besides all of that, she’s a beautiful and strong black woman who is setting an example that old media needs to learn from. She gives this afrobella a lot to aspire to. Hats off to you, Farai Chideya! You’re my very first Afrobella of the Month! *

Want to keep up with the news according to Farai? Check out the News and Views blog, which adds context to the on-air reporting that she and her co-workers do so well. Do you prefer to crank your tunes on the way home from work, rather than plug into talk radio? You can listen to all of NPR’s broadcasts online whenever you want.

* I had to do it, y’all. The weekly pace was killing me!

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Comments

  1. I’m one of those NPR nuts. *lol* I love Michel Martin’s “Tell Me More” show and Farai Chideya’s News and Notes show. What I think I love most about their shows is that they discuss things from our perspective as opposed to a scripted mainstream perspective.

  2. I am an NPR head too. I have long been an admirer of Ms. Chideya and I love to see our contemporaries take a larger role in the issues and how they are covered. Great choice for AOTM!

  3. MochaSiren says:

    Love NPR, really enjoy Farai’s show. And also, who doesn’t also enjoy Terry Gross’ Fresh Air? Both of these shows showcase great music artists in addition to captivating news and current events.

  4. I love NPR also. I listen to it everyday. Her show is great!

  5. Thanks you so much for shouting Farai out! I too love NPR. I get cranky when I don’t get to listen in the morning and the afternoon. Farai is great. I didn’t know she was so accomplished. Nice to see that great people are being recognized.

  6. oh yeah…love me some npr. ira glass is just plain hot to me. ah that voice. there, i said it. and don’t even get me started on some elvis mitchell, who does the movie reviews. oh lord. what a wonderful post, bella! i love this blog. once again you have set my reading agenda and i can’t wait to read farai’s books!!! news and notes is so much better that the black slapping, hey brother, barber shop hour that was the tavis smiley show. oh and guess what..after all those posts about perfume, i felt i was missing something and i’m not wearing No. 5! keep it coming on, bella

  7. I love News & Notes and Ms. Chideya. i had read articles years ago that she had written in VIbe and in Essence. I just happened to stumble upon her NPR show (I used to like Tavis’) one day driving home. I was happy to hear her. She is even and fair and does ask good questions. Thanks AFROBELLA for making her the “Bella of the Month” and highlighting her many accomplishments.
    I love this blog. I just found it a few weeks ago. It’s great! keep it up:)

  8. oops — meant i am noW wearing Chanel No. 5. i tell everyone one i know about this blog!!

  9. I love News & Notes and Farai Chideya! She is such an inspiration. Great choice…again :)

  10. awww shuu…just noticed… Afrobella of the Month!!
    *hangs head*

  11. :) :) so excited you wrote this. her show comes on late on my local brodcast of npr, which is very disappointing since im usually trying to fix dinner. i also love her voice lol. also makes u think about the wide variety and abilities of black media. if only stations like bet were to capture/portray stuff to this level.
    besides my daily drive i get the free podcasts to listen to while at work.at lunch time i drive to a local park to eat while tuning in. npr covers bbc in the morning so im very grateful for that.
    i have the bumper stickers,canvas bags and donated my really runned down car last year towards membership. lol i could careless if npr has its liberal views. it maybe one sided at times but im soo darn liberal i feel right at home. however i do take in regular bs news to even out my bias. great post !!! (goes to download more podcasts)

  12. I love NPR, and great choice for AOTM. I agree with the comment about the tone of Tavis’ show (back slapping, barber shop). The tone of Ms. Chideya is defintely the next level. NPR has been like my guilty pleasure, no one I talk to really listens to it, it’s so cool to know I’m not unusual, there are lots of 30-something black women lovin’ them some NPR. Once again, love this blog!

  13. And the monthly instead of weekly Afrobella gives me a chance to explore that person fully. Usually by the time I was halfway through checking out one, here was another one! I probably should manage my time better, but until then…

  14. I love news & notes & listen everyday!!! Farai is supposed to be my baby’s mama but I don’t think she knows yet.

    Bygbaby

  15. Yup, ceecee… the pace was killing me. This way I can marinate over who’s a good choice, do my research, and write something polished every month. No more rush jobs for that category! Glad to discover so many fellow NPR fans!!

  16. I just started listening to NPR because it was recommended by a classmate of mine. I love it! (Much to my Gangsta Hip Hop Head husband delight! lol)I must check out this show on my local affiliates schedule so I can hear this! Sounds interesting.

  17. Great choice! Did you know that Farai has also written a novel, about “a modernized Billie Holiday-esque singer whose dreams are as spectacular as her talent for self-destruction,” entitled Touch, according to an article in October’s Oprah magazine, ‘The Finish Party’?
    Can’t wait to read it.

  18. Thanks. I am not much of an NPR head, however I will be checking her out this week. Thanks Bella. Learn something new daily.

  19. Penni Brown says:

    It’s very cool to see a fellow Western High alum featured on your blog. “Western girls are only the best.”

  20. I love Farai. She’s awesome. I ran into her once at Trader Joes in Silver Lake. I’m not so into NPR though, it’s kind of boring and a little bit not as left as I would like. I think most of the voices are old and outdated and well…it could do better, BUT I really like Farai.

    I hope she gets another book out.

    Jane

  21. I listen to News and Notes every day and am a huge fan of Farai’s. She is an alum of the same high school I graduated from (Woo-hoo Western High School!) and she spoke at my Senior Day – I remember being so impressed with her and have followed her career ever since. She makes this fellow B’More girl proud!

  22. Ha ha! i love Farai on NPR! Call me basic, but I love to hear a black voice on NPR.

  23. Diane Rehm is the shizzle as well as Terry Gross. My faves are “Car Talk” and “What, What Don’t Tell Me!” I do not listen to NPR like I used (I am still mad that Ray Suarez left “Talk of the Nation” for PBS’ NewsHour!) I used to be a huge NPR junkie, but I found other suitable programming.. Anyhoo yay for Farai.. She is an excellent host for N&N.

  24. Hi Afrobella. I have a suggestion for a future AotM. Have you done Queen Latifah yet? I’m a big fan of hers. She’s successful, multi-talented and an inspiration to bigger women everywhere. As a matter of fact, I believe many people (including myself) overlook her size altogether, which is rare in our society. Just a suggestion, but I hope you’ll give it some thought.

  25. Marissa Osbourne says:

    I love the show, you rock!

  26. How about meditation with your spirit guide? That’s pretty intense.

  27. Very nice information! Did not think this post would be so interesting.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Today yours truly was on NPR’s News and Notes for like, five minutes. Click here to listen — I come in towards the end of the exchange. I was super nervous and very excited, can you tell?? I wish circumstances allowed me to be on for the entire roundtable, I had a LOT to contribute to the earlier discussion of Nas’ alleged album title, which his record label denies. Perhaps there will be another time. Fingers crossed. Much thanks and respect to Afrobella of the Month Farai Chideya for the opportunity! I was also featured in an interview on Geoffrey Philp’s Blog Spot. Geoffrey is a well respected Jamaican writer who has won numerous writing awards and nominations for his work. He lives in Miami, and his blog really captures the pulse of the local literary scene. [...]

  2. [...] “Chitlins are off the menu. They were keeping my weight up. Chitlins have been canceled off of my list, and I know my fans and friends are screaming ‘Hallelujah!’ I want to be around for a long time, so let’s drop the chitlins,” she said to News and Notes host and former Afrobella of the Month Farai Chideya. [...]

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