One-on-one interview with Multimedia Executive and Houston Talk Show Todd Smith: "I definitely want to make a difference in my community."

(Earlier this year, Todd Smith of RegalMedia Group, LLC launched Regal Roundtable, a weekly Houston talk show offering commentary from a male’s perspective. I recently went one-on-one with about the importance of this show, the state of Black media and countering negative images of the Black men.)

Brother Jesse: Can you please give our blog readers a little background about yourself?

Todd Smith: I grew up in the city of Houston. I graduated from Eisenhower High School. After high school, I enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science. I initially had plans to be a lawyer and I attended law school at Texas Southern University for over a year. Being a lawyer was not in God’s plan for me, so after 2003, I spent several years bouncing from job to job; not really finding fulfillment or purpose in what I was doing. One of my high school basketball coaches recommended that I read Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. In the book, he talked about everyone having God-given talents, but we are supposed to use those talents for Him and to inspire others. From that point on, I decided to use my writing and speaking talents to inspire men, especially Black men, to live up to their God-given potential. I earned a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from Texas Southern University, where I became inspired to start Regal Magazine. I also spent three years, after completing grad school, as a journalism professor at Texas Southern University and one year as a communications professor at Lone Star College.

Brother Jesse: What inspired you to launch Regal Media coupled with Regal Magazine?

Todd Smith: I guess the seeds of Regal Magazine and Regal Media Group began when I was a child. I grew up in a remarkable and inspirational family. None of my grandparents graduated from high school, but they took on more work so their kids wouldn't have to drop out of school early in an effort to help the family make ends meet. My grandmothers always wanted my parents, aunts and uncles to graduate high school, but my parents took it a step further and both graduated from Southern University. My father was very pro-education and he would make me check out books from the library and give him a report on what I read. I would always read about Black history, politics, sports or music. That knowledge of our history, politics, sports and entertainment became the basis of Regal Magazine.

However, while in grad school at TSU, I covered the Essence Music Festival (when it was in Houston) for the Houston Forward Times and I realized that there were not many publications for the educated Black male. We had Essence and Sister 2 Sister for Black women, but nothing of substance for Black men. At the same time, my graduate professor, Dr. Louis Browne, kept telling us how cheap it was to start an online publication; those teaching, coupled with covering the Essence Music Festival, led me to start Regal Magazine, which has turned into the corporation Regal Media Group, LLC.

What also inspired me was the fact that because I had an educated father, I was accustomed to being surrounded by educated Black men. But having family members who were less fortunate and growing up around Acres Homes, I knew that many of my “brothers” were not accustomed to that. I grew up around Black astronauts because Bernard Harris was my father’s fraternity brother (Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.). Powerful Black men became the norm for me, and I hope through Regal Magazine younger Black males will realize that is the norm too, and they can achieve anything that they want to in life.

Brother Jesse: Your talk show, Regal Roundtable, is said to be geared toward countering negative representations of men, and Black men in particular. Also addressing many issues. What is your show presenting that can uniquely impact the way the world views Black men?

Todd Smith: Regal Roundtable represents the reality of all men, and Black men specifically. We are not one-dimensional. We do not just talk about beautiful women. We do not just talk about sports. We do not just talk about rap music. We talk about all of those things and much more, such as politics, social issues, business and finance and health as well. I like to describe the show as “sophisticated barbershop conversation.” If you walk into any barbershop in America, the conversation one day might be politics. The next day it might be crime in the community. The next day it might be religion and the following day it might be sports. My show encompasses that reality, but in a more structured environment. I think that Black men are the most misunderstood demographic in the country. But if you really know Black men, then you know we are some of the most profound and deep-thinking people on the planet, and Regal Roundtable will show that because although the panelists are predominately Black, the fact that we talk about universal issues will show that the educated Black man is the norm and not the exception; and we have more in common with men of other races than we have differences.

Brother Jesse: What do you want viewers to walk away saying and thinking after viewing the episodes of Regal Roundtable?

Todd Smith: I want viewers to walk away with a different perspective. I believe our most popular episodes will be our Battle of the Sexes episodes where we discuss relationship issues with women panelists. Often, when relationship issues are discussed, they are discussed from a female perspective. Men usually do not have the platform to discuss our point-of-view. Through Regal Roundtable, women will better understand men and their perspective and vice versa. On the shows dealing with social issues, people of various races will be able to have unfiltered dialogue on the issues of the day and will also be able to better understand each other. One of my favorite episodes was an episode that featured activist Quannel X and country singer Mike Stites discussing the Trayvon Martin murder. Although people stereotype our leaders, that show gave Quannel X more than just a sound bite to express his thoughts and a lot of what he said mirrored what Stites, who happens to be White, said. Shows like that really show that if we listen to other people we will realize we have much more in common than we think. And if we realize our common goals, we can possibly turn those goals into a reality and make our community better.

Brother Jesse: Why do you think the Black male is consistently poorly represented in the media? What responsibility do we have in this?

Todd Smith: I think that the Black male is constantly misrepresented in the media because of economics and the fact that controversy sales. In the news media, they say “if it bleeds it leads.” That is the reason why we constantly see images of Black men and Hispanic men, committing crimes and living up to the stereotypes that are placed on men of color. Unfortunately, positivity does not sell as much. Furthermore, when publications that present the Black male in a positive light come about like Regal Magazine or Ebony Man (EM) Magazine back in the day, advertisers seem to avoid sponsoring these publications because many times the people making the advertising decisions do not respect how positive we really are. EM had a readership of over 400,000 subscribers, but John Johnson still caught hell finding advertisers because many thought Black men were all in jail, uneducated or deadbeat dads. But also, we have to take the blame as well, myself included.

 When a positive, conscious rapper comes out with a CD, it does not sell as much as gangsta rap. When a positive movie comes out about the Black community, we don’t support it as much. But when a movie like “American Gangster” comes out, it makes over $100 million at the box office. The media is a business and it is run by simple economics like any other business. It is run by supply and demand. Until we start financially supporting the positive, we will keep getting the negative, because it is making money. I still catch hell, getting Black-owned businesses to advertise with Regal Magazine, but some of those same business owners are preaching about how we need to support each other’s businesses in the Black community. It is time we put our money where our mouth is and start financially supporting positive Black images in the media. Simple rhetoric gets us nowhere, because at the end of the day if Black media can’t keep the lights on, they can’t keep representing us in a strong light.

Brother Jesse: Do you think having a Black President has in some way altered the world's perspective on Black men? Why or why not?

Todd Smith: I think President Obama has altered the way we see ourselves, but it has brought out racial resentment from the people who had racist attitudes or stereotypes about the Black male. You would think that it would have a positive impact on how we are seen, but if the president is still disrespected by so many in America, then regular Black men will feel that same disrespect as well. Nevertheless, when I started Regal, it wasn’t necessarily to change the way other people thought of us. It was to change the way we thought of ourselves and the president is a constant reminder to young Black males that the sky is the limit, despite the fact that we still face many struggles today.

Brother Jesse: Some reports show that Black-owned media is in a serious drought across the country and steadily losing it's impact. Do you agree and how do you think Black-owned media can be further strengthened?

Todd Smith: I agree but I think Black media can be strengthened by not neglecting our community, but not limiting our audience to our community. BET is owned by Viacom. Essence is owned by Time, Inc, and many corner stores in Black communities are owned by people that do not look like us. Business is about economics and if other people can see the value in our dollars, then why can we not see the value in their dollars as well? That is the main reason Regal Roundtable is not necessarily limited to the Black man. We put emphasis on the Black man, because I believe that God gave me a platform and I definitely want to make a difference in my community. However, you can make a difference in your community and not limit yourself either. I also found out, through Regal Magazine, that a lot of the issues confronting Black men confront men of other races too, so why not appeal to those other demographics. I often say that if Steven Spielberg can direct “The Color People,” which was aimed at the Black audience, why can’t I direct “Lincoln?”

Brother Jesse: In what ways is Regal Media impacting the community such as mentorship?

Todd Smith: Recently, a grandmother reached out to me, through my magazine, in search of a father figure for her grandson. She randomly found my website, and I was able to put her into contact with a mentor that I know in South New Jersey. Ironically, she knew the mentor from years ago because they were from the same church. The mentor, Sabin Rich, has now become a father figure to the young man and is helping him prepare for college and other endeavors. Here is a link to the story I did on them: http://www.regalmag.com/black-males-america-step-become-father-figures-a-901.html

Brother Jesse: Thank you!

(Upcoming episodes of Regal Roundtable will be airing on March 9 and 16 at 6:30am CST. To learn more about Regal Roundtable, visit @ www.regal-media-group.com)

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