By Te-Erika Patterson
Nationally syndicated news columnist and author Roland S. Martin can now add CNN correspondent to his lengthy list of accomplishments after signing a healthy contract with the world’s most respected news source.
Martin, who has appeared sporadically as a contributing correspondent to CNN since July 2002, has now secured a more prominent position. He will continue to appear as a guest commentator on a number of shows while the network develops other program concepts that will showcase his signature commentating style.
A political firestorm with an unwavering stance about current issues of the day that ignites debates across the country, Martin has secured a handsome contract with CNN that he said, “Is certainly enough to get my shoes shined on a regular basis.”
A Houston native and 1991 graduate of Jack S. Yates High School, Martin is a self-described multi-faceted journalist. He has served as Managing Editor of The Houston Defender and Executive Editor with The Chicago Defender, presented poignant opinions as a commentator for TV One Cable Network, shaped the editorial content for BlackAmericaWeb.com and currently hosts The Roland S. Martin show on WVON/1690AM in Chicago. Martin insisted that it is a necessity for today’s journalist to be well-versed in all avenues of mass communication.
Martin attributed some of his success to his high school communications program, which exposed him to the brilliance of mass media.
“That’s what I wanted to do from day one,” Martin affirmed. “When I went to Yates High School, we had our own television station, radio station and newspaper. So I’ve never wanted to do one medium. In fact, I’ve always wanted to do all of them.”
At 38 years old, Martin may not be the youngest CNN correspondent but he is certainly one of very few African Americans who have developed a strong presence on the network. His powerful viewpoint concerning politics, race and religion have earned him a place among the top journalists and commentators in the industry.
From humble beginnings as an intern at the Defender and later returning to the paper as managing editor before moving on to other cities to promote his message, Martin has spent the majority of his career as a member of the Black Press.
“I am someone who is committed to the craft of media,” Martin said. “I also understand the power of media. I’ve always said that it’s the most powerful institution in the world and it is important to have our voices, our perspective and being able to see the world through our lenses to give people a better insight of what’s going on.”
Martin’s keen insight into the world of politics and media are a direct result of his family’s love for debate and politics. His parents, Reginald and Emelda Martin, raised their five children to be confident, which to their amazement translated into an aggressive leadership style that blossomed once the children reached their teenage years.
“My husband lived and breathed the news,” recalled Martin’s mother Emelda.
“Roland said to his father one night, ‘What makes you think that one of us would not have gone into news and communications when that’s all we had at home?’”
It was Martin’s agent Marc Watts, a former political correspondent for CNN, who was one of the first to recognize the gift in Roland Martin. “He’s just a fantastic story teller,” Watts said. “He has a gift for asking probing, insightful questions and finding a way of making people comfortable with communicating with him and telling him stories that generate news. That’s what Roland’s gift is. That’s what they teach us in journalism school. Roland has perfected that and now he is going to get to showcase that on CNN.”
Watts, who is the founder of Signature Media Group, a talent agency that represents highly recognized journalists across the country, said five years ago no one believed that Martin, then a highly respected newspaper journalist, could ever break out of that mold.
But Watts disagreed.
“He is so intellectual and he has such a refreshing message that we felt we could capitalize on that if his message in the electronic medium were heard. He has a powerful pen and he was always a gifted writer. I recognized that Roland had a speaking style and a wit and a charisma that could be transformed on television. Nobody believed me. Even my fellow colleagues in the agent world asked ‘Why would you represent Roland Martin? He’s a newspaper guy.’ And I said, ‘You just watch Roland Martin in five years you won’t believe what’s he’s going to turn in to.’
“The television news landscape is so disproportionate of African-American males,” Watts continued. “Roland Martin going to CNN doesn’t solve the problem but it certainly makes it look better.”
Martin now resides in Chicago with his wife Jacquie and will make the weekly commute to New York to tape his shows.