He’s presently the host of TV One’s NewsOne Now, an hourlong weekday morning news show that highlights issues impacting minorities, primarily blacks. Prior to obtaining his latest position, Martin hosted TV One’s Washington Watch, and was a news contributor for CNN.
Martin spoke about NewsOne Now, the late Maya Angelou, his love for golf, and provided advice to up-and-coming journalists.
Follow Roland Martin on Twitter: @RolandSMartin
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Check out his website: rolandmartin.com
Let's talk about NewsOne Now. What inspired you to offer a live morning news program that caters specifically to African-Americans?
We launched my weekly show, Washington Watch, in 2009. And I always wanted to have my own five-day-a-week show. I’ve always been committed to news serving African-Americans. I’ve launched three black newspapers. My first internship was at a black newspaper, The Houston Defender, in 1990. It was always something that I understood.
What ended up happening was Alfred Liggins, our CEO, he came to me in 2012 and said, ‘Hey, I’ve really got this idea that I want to do.’ And we talked several months, and then it was really between March and June 2013 when we finalized the deal. And it was something that he was passionate about [and] thought was needed for our audience, and I agreed.
I think it’s great to have this platform, for us to be able to do stories that others wouldn’t do. For example, with Dr. [Maya] Angelou, we dedicated an entire hour to her. Other networks were doing a segment or two and that was nice, it was fine, but we thought there was more to her than just that small amount of time, and that’s the beauty of us being able to super serve our audience.
Since you've mentioned the late Dr. Maya Angelou, did you ever get the opportunity to meet her?
I last interviewed her April 7th, when she was here [Washington, D.C.] for The National Portrait Gallery. It was just phenomenal to talk to her. I had previously met her. It was good to just get a quick interview with her, and she was great. It was totally unexpected; she praised me for my work and what I do on television. I was very surprised. The thing I loved about her was that she had this enormous laugh. She had a joy about life. And what really stood out for me was her grace and her fondness and conviction and willingness to speak truth.
Returning back to your show, how valuable do you think offering a program like NewsOne Now is to viewers?
I think it is fundamental, and it’s crucial. On other cable news networks, African-Americans are a demographic. For us, African-Americans are the demographic. When was the last time you saw a black general on cable news or broadcast news, other than Colin Powell talking about military options? Well, we have black generals. We talk about African-Americans who are flying, who do mountain climbing, who are doctors, and do all kinds of amazing things. That’s what we serve.
It’s great to be able to have our news panel of voices of folks you may have never heard elsewhere, but who have something to say and are really engaging and different. And that’s why we are here. I think it’s important for people to understand that you can play follow the leader, or you can try to be as original as you can, and that’s what we’re all about.
How has the response been thus far?
It’s been phenomenal. Every day, more and more people become aware of the show and realize what we do differently and how we do things differently. It’s just been great to be able to showcase that. And for people to say, 'Wow, if it wasn’t for NewsOne Now, I would have never heard about this particular story.’ And that’s really what it’s all about. It’s about bringing information that they otherwise may not hear about or get in-depth.
What are your thoughts on the Donald Sterling controversy?
It shows you the power of our voice and being able to use it to call somebody else out. The lead editorial in the first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, said, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us." And that’s what it’s all about. I think we saw it on that story, and I think we see it on many others.
What are your thoughts on the Jay-Z/Solange incident?
I saw it, but the problem is no one knows the context. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what was said. We don’t know what was done. It’s something that if some guy at the hotel didn’t leak the video, we would have never heard about it.
You’re an avid golfer. What sparked your interest in golf?
I’ve been playing for 27 years. My birth to golf was [physical education] when I was a freshman at Texas A&M in 1987. It really is one of the best decisions I’ve made, because I’ve been able to meet some phenomenal people through the game of golf. It’s a sport that challenges you physically and mentally. You step on that course, you’ve got to contend with the wind, the heat, the cold, sand, water ... you’ve got to deal with undulation, [and] the ground. You’ve got all those different things. It challenges you. You have to think your way through it. On a given day, something may be wrong. You can’t hit your club the distance you normally hit. You’ve got to make an adjustment ... you’ve got to take a full swing, a three-quarter swing, [or a] half-swing. It really challenges you to think yourself through and problem-solve, and that’s one of the things I love about it.
With you being a seasoned and successful journalist, what advice would you provide to up-and-coming writers?
The advice I have is very simple, which can actually apply to anybody in any field, you’ve got to have work ethic. You’ve got to be willing to put the time in. Success, it does not happen by happenstance. The work must be put in, so to become a great journalist or a great anything, you better have a strong work ethic.
[You have to] hone your craft, build your skill set, continue to read, continue to get smarter, continue to know, and not rest and think, ‘Aw, I’m pretty cool. I’m pretty safe here.’ No. It’s having the drive to push yourself, not somebody else push you. You’ve got to know how to push yourself to greatness.