There’s a lot of big shots in the news business who make no effort to diversify their newsrooms to the level where their employed writers represent even close to the population of their readers or viewer. Since news reporting and writing is considered objective, these executives don’t go out of their way to find objective writers of color unless they’re forced to – which is rare.
There are a few outlets that hire a few black and brown journalist. Everyday these journalist are producing general content for the readers and when there’s a story involving people of color, it’s usually the journalists of color who are assigned to capture the story from their objective lens.
But, I’m starting to notice a trend in these news organizations. They are taking black and brown reporters off of black and brown stories, especially if the story has anything to do with race.
Example 1: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.
With the country gripped by an anti-racism uprising, what’s been unfolding inside the Pittsburgh newspaper has underscored one of the fundamental challenges American media faces with its coverage: a lack of diverse voices, including of black journalists, in newsrooms.
The paper barred a hispanic male photographer, Michael Santiago, and a black female reporter, Alexis Johnson, from covering anti-racism protests in Pittsburgh because they are seen as biased for being black. Johnson adds that she was told her tweets showed bias. Management actually told her that her byline on a protest-related article could lead “the credibility of the newsroom [to] be questioned and people might question if she was biased.”
To that I say, of course she’s biased, just as any human who would be covering the story is biased. The issue is, who’s objective bias are you going to print?
Journalists also accused the newspaper of removing and censoring at least two articles they initially published that reported on protests over George Floyd’s death and police abuses. And, they penalized reporters who supported their black colleagues.
Based on just that little bit of information, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has to be one of the hardest working newsrooms in the country. Not only do they report on the news, they create their own news.
Fortunately, when complaints were brought to the union, the head of the newspaper guild had this to say in defense of Johnson…
“We feel taking a black woman off the most monumental national story about civil rights in the last 50 years is punishment. We have very few black journalists. Someone who has the contacts and the insights for this story, that is what you want.”
Example 2: ESPN
Veteran ESPN host Sage Steele was reportedly excluded from the network documentary on race and sports (“The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated”) because – despite being biracial – her political and social views were not considered by colleagues to be racially authentic.
Sage Steele told management she believes she was excluded from a special the network aired on race because she wasn’t considered by certain Black colleagues (Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves) to be an authentic voice for the Black community. They complained Ms. Steele wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the Black community.
The Washington Post reports that 25% of the ESPN CEO’s direct reports are black and 19% of their senior VPs are black. Yet, some how, the crab-in-the-barrel syndrome is still permitted to exist among the on camera black personalities scratching and clawing for their own notoriety and survival.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, blacks can exhibit racist tendencies, too, and they clearly go unchecked at ESPN by corporate executives who probably are too confused to know how to address it.
I’m glad I only have to report to myself. I couldn’t imagine a career as a writer trying to work for these mainstream newspapers and TV outlets. I’m totally built to absorb reader criticism for the topics I choose to write and the opinions I choose to share. I don’t think I’d be alright if I was told what topics to avoid and which opinions I couldn’t share.
I’m just thrilled there’s at least a few of you out there who want to read what this black writer has to say.