2000-11-25 / Columnists

From The G-Man The Colorless Media

From The G-Man
The Colorless Media

Hey people! I have been following news events, and the media forums that they are presented in, for many years now, and I am always amazed at the fact that so many people of color do not have a chance to cover the major stories or offer commentary on them.

Political news shows like "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation" have continuously ignored minority anal-ysts and often choose to stay with their white counterpart. This is a common practice throughout the news industry, on many different levels, and I have found out why this has been allowed to happen. A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar hosted by the Freedom Forum Free Press/Fair Press Project. The guest speaker was Av Weston, who is considered to be one of the prominent figures within the news industry for the last four decades.

He began his career in broadcast journalism in 1949 at CBS News. Later, he served as the executive producer of the "ABC Evening News". In 1987, he left ABC to become senior vice president and executive producer for King World, where he redirected the editorial and production content of the syndicated newsmagazine "Inside Edition". Three years later, he transferred to Time Telepictures Television as the senior vice president and executive producer. Needless to say, this guy knows the news industry like the back of his hand.

Mr. Weston has managed to piss off many major news organizations, producers, station managers and media insiders by writing a handbook entitled "Best Practices for Television Journalists". The book describes how the news industry has become a business, and the central focus has become the commercialization of news and reporting sensational news stories instead of real ones. Also, he offers insights as to how those who aspire to become reporters, or broadcast journalists, can maintain their sense of integrity and fairness in an industry gone haywire.

Weston states, "Checking facts, finding good sources and thorough follow ups has become a lost art in the television news industry. It has become a business, and the goal of most networks is to be the first to cover a breaking story, at any cost. It doesn’t matter if the story is devoid of truth. Just get the story out there. It’s all a numbers game, and it involves the networks, advertisers and the station managers. It’s about generating a profit."

As he continued to speak, I realized that I had a lot in common with him, as far as having a need to expose the truth and various forms of injustice. I was in awe of both his brilliance on the subject matter and his courage to

speak out against an industry that made him hugely successful. He knew there would be hell to pay for his actions, but his principles drove him to act.

When the question and answer session came up, they passed the microphone to me. Very bad move. The G-man and an open mike are not a good mix! The fact that I was one of two African-Americans in the room did not stop me from asking him about the "media whitewash" that permeated the industry. I stated, "With all due respect to Tim Russert, Sam Donaldson, Bob Shieffert and John McLaughlin, are we to believe that there are no political experts, African, Asian or Latino, with political doctorates from Yale and Harvard, that are capable of discussing the issues? Whites are constantly featured on their shows, and I want to know why this happens." A hush fell over the room, but Weston and the moderator managed to let a small grin leak out of the sides of their mouth. Weston stated, "If the producer of the show has to choose between a white Yale grad and a Black graduate from Howard, nine times out of ten, they will go with the Yale guy. They do not, and will not, select minority analysts if they can get away with it. It’s not clear who makes these rules, but there are definitely links that extend to higher levels of management. Furthermore, the ones that do manage to get a spot, whether hosting the weekly five o’clock edition or weekend edition of the news, they rarely achieve the status of station manager or executive producer, no matter how long they’ve been there. It is something that affects every level of the news industry, from television to print, and it must be addressed before it’s too late."

I gained a lot of insight and info from the seminar, and I finally understand why I’ve been having such a difficult time advancing in my media career when meeting with the networks and print media. Regardless, I do not intend to stop trying, and I encourage all the young, aspiring minority journalist out there to pursue their dreams. Hell, they told me I couldn’t pull it off when I started at The Wave, and look at me now. "Who let the dogs out?"

See you next week!


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