Born in Houston, Texas on November 14, 1968, Roland S. Martin is an award-winning journalist who divides his time among hosting a radio talk show, writing books and a nationally-syndicated column, as a commentator on the TV One Network and as a regular contributor to such CNN programs as The Situation Room, Anderson Cooper 360 and Lou Dobbs Tonight.
An insightful and provocative analyst, Mr. Martin has appeared not only on CNN and TV One, but on MSNBC, FOX, Court TV, BET, BBC, NPR and the Tom Joyner Morning Show. A veteran of the black press, Roland was formerly the managing editor of the Houston Defender and the Dallas Weekly, and the executive editor/general manager of the Chicago Defender.
The winner of more than 20 professional awards for journalistic excellence, Mr. Martin has landed a regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors. He is married to the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin, and the couple resides in both Chicago and Dallas.
Here, Roland talks about his plans for election night coverage when he will be dividing his air time between TV One and CNN.
- The TV One Election Night Coverage Interview
RM: Not a problem.
KW: Congratulations on your meteoric rise.
RM: Oh, I appreciate that.
KW: How does that feel?
RM: It's called 17 years worth of work. It's all good.
KW: I see you're based in both Chicago and in Dallas. That reminds me of how Tom Joyner once did a daily commute between both cities for his radio show.
RM: Yeah, I believe that was when he was doing morning drive in Dallas and afternoon drive in Chicago.
KW: I see you everywhere. Are you keeping up a busy schedule like that?
RM: He's called the hardest working man in radio, and some refer to me as the hardest-working multi-media journalist. I'm based in Chicago, I have speaking engagements all across the country, and I go to New York City two to three days a week.
KW: Has your life changed a lot since you've become a TV personality?
RM: Of course. The travel has been consistent. I've been recognized by a lot more folks for what I do, and my number of speaking engagements has gone up dramatically. But you know what the deal is? I'm still me. That's the most important thing to me. When people see me, I'm going to be real, and do exactly what I do. I'm not going to try to be different. I'm just going to be me.
KW: What do you expect the TV One election night coverage to be like?
RM: Election night, we'll be going until at least 2 AM, because you have to factor in the West Coast. We're seeing an explosive number of people voting early. With a heavy turnout, I would not be surprised to see judges extending the voting hours and keeping the polls open late, especially if you have machine breakdowns and precincts running out of ballots. We saw some of that in 2004 and in the 2006 midterm elections. So, I think it's going to be another long night.
KW: How will you manage to be on CNN, too?
RM: I'll be at CNN on the set offering analysis, but we have it set up for me to break away and provide some analysis on TV One as well, where Arthur Fennell and Joe Madison will be anchoring. I really like how TV One has established its coverage by having different players- Tom Joyner, Michael Eric Dyson and Jacque Reid ' there in Chicago, because, if Obama wins, it's going to be the biggest party on the planet. You can expect upwards of a million people to be in and around Grant Park.
KW: How do you think black people elsewhere will react to an Obama win?
RM: When Joe Louis won the heavyweight crown, black folks would flood the streets of Harlem and other communities in celebration. And I think you'll see that kind of jubilation if Obama wins the presidency after all that black people have endured in this country. That is huge. That is major. And I think that African-Americans will actually be able for the first time in our lives to turn to our children and say, 'Yes, indeed, you can grow up to be the President of the United States.' But beyond that, I think it's also important what it will mean for the standard of beauty in America to be viewed through the prism of Michelle Obama. This is often not talked about. However, Michelle Obama is going to attract the kind of attention as First Lady that Jackie Kennedy enjoyed. She won't emulate Jackie Kennedy, but bring her own style and flair. Imagine what it will mean if Michelle begins to wear the clothes and outfits of black designers.
KW: Is Obama going to be awaiting the election returns in Chicago?
RM: Yes, more than likely, he'll vote that morning, get the obligatory photo-op of him going to vote in his local precinct. Then he'll probably be doing a ton of radio appearances on stations in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. And he'll be in Chicago that night since, frankly, there's nothing more to do on Election Day.
KW: Do you think there might be some tally irregularities on Election Day?
RM: There's always the possibility of that, but one never knows. We'll see how it shakes out.
KW: Have you considered having black conservative Shelby Steele as a guest on election night, since he wrote a book subtitled 'Why Obama Won't Win.'
RM: I don't have creative control over who's booked. He'll probably be booked for one of the days soon after the election.
KW: Have you remained impartial as a journalist, or have you endorsed a candidate?
RM: As part of my CNN special on age, race and gender, I spoke about how I voted for Bush's father for president in 1988, for Ann Richards and later George W. Bush for governor of Texas. And I announced that in this election I was voting for Barack Obama. I wanted to show that I've voted for old white guys, women, white women, young white men, and so forth. I've always maintained that I'm a columnist and a commentator, so obviously my role is different from that of a correspondent like John King, because we have a different skill set.
KW: Do you ever find it hard competing for air time with other commentators?
RM: That doesn't concern me because the bottom line is, when they're coming to me, they're coming to me. People bring different perspectives to the table. You just go in and make your points, and that works for me.
KW: Do you feel more pressure to speak in sound bites on TV than in print or on radio?
RM: Nope, the same thing happens in radio and writing. It all has to be compelling. People who write in long, flowery language are boring as hell in newspapers. And it's the same in radio. You can't drone on and not be exciting and interesting there either. They're different media, but the bottom line's the same. It's all a matter of mastering the different elements of each part of the industry.
KW: I see that you were once associated with one of the papers I write for, the Houston Defender. Are you still in touch with the paper's publisher, Sonny Jiles?
RM: Yes, of course, that's the first place I interned. And later I was managing editor. So yeah, I know Sonny very well. I just saw her in Houston a couple of weeks ago.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
RM: Always! Look, I have a very simple philosophy: If I wake up breathing, I'm happy. I don't sit here and get stressed out about all kinds of drama. Hey, I absolutely love what I do. This is what God had destined for me, and it's been what I have been doing since I was 13 years-old. So, yes I'm happy. Absolutely!
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
RM: I'm typically reading six or seven books at one time. The last book I read was The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. It's about media coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. I'm also reading Twice as Good, Marcus Mabry's biography of Condoleezza Rice.
KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
RM: The hell if I know.
KW: Music maven Heather Covington was wondering: What's music are you listening to nowadays?
RM: Oh please, I have 4,000 plus songs on my iPod. I'll literally go from jamming Kirk Franklin to putting on John Mellencamp to playing Rascal Flatts to Erykah Badu to Mary J. Blige. Then I might put on some Pavarotti. And of course, I'll put on my favorites Kirk Whalum and Maxwell. I've got everything from Zydeco to Salsa to Country to R&B to Jazz. The only thing you're not going to find on my iPod is polka music.
KW: I think that covers just about everything. Thanks again for the interview, Roland.
RM: We're good. I appreciate it.
First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House as
Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin
Includes a DVD of the author's interviews with the Obamas
Paperback: 372 pages
Noted African American journalist Roland Martin takes readers back down President Barack Obama's campaign trail in this chronological journal of events that dates back to when then Senator Obama had yet to announce his candidacy and follows him on his journey to the presidency. Martin's charismatic writing style is presented through his in-depth analysis of the presidential campaign and Obama's struggles and successes. Martin gives readers insight on how each important event played out in front of the nation and also shares interviews from his broadcasts, including an interview he conducted with President Obama after his win in Iowa in January 2008. Other Notable interviews include Dr. Cornel West, Rep John Lewis, Spike Lee, Maxine Waters and Michael Eric Dyson.
the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith
Paperback: 201 pages
"If you're on the doorstep of your faith, struggling, in
doubt or in pain, Listening to the Spirit Within will offer keys
to the blessings God has for you. Roland Martin's wonderful
spiritual guide demystifies the scriptures and makes them
relevant to the challenges of our daily lives. You'll read this
gift more than once." 'Roy Johnson, AOL Black Voices
Speak, Brother! A
Black Man's View of America
Paperback: 168 pages
About the Book
Read another AALBC.com Interview with Roland Martin (April 2010)