Monday, July 04, 2005

Anchors Without Degrees...

Last week, I found myself buying an Esquire magazine at the infamous Wal-Mart in the Crenshaw Shopping Center. I say infamous because that Wal-Mart is the subject of a truly offensive commercial which depicts the neighborhood around the Wal-Mart as being impoverished ("We have hope!" the Wal-Mart paid shill cries into the camera). The last time I checked, the houses in the neighborhood across from that Wal-Mart (Leimert Park) were averaging over $500,000 a piece. And those are the cheap homes. The homes directly above that Wal-Mart (Baldwin Hills) go for one million plus. So much for accuracy in advertising. Anyway, I digress.

I'm getting the Esquire because I'm in line to pay my Internet bill. I thumb through the pages and begin reading an article on NBC anchor Brian Williams. The article is nice enough, until I get to one part. Brian didn't earn his degree. Now normally, that wouldn't mean anything to me. But the old database in my brain remembered a controversy Brian started a while back.

"NABJ Dismayed About Brian Williams' 'Perspective' On Diversity; Seeks Meeting With NBC Executives
WASHINGTON – The National Association of Black Journalists is disappointed and dismayed about comments attributed to Brian Williams, the new beacon for NBC News, regarding newsroom diversity and aims to meet with NBC executives to discuss the matter, NABJ Vice President-Broadcast Barbara Ciara said Wednesday.

Williams, who last week succeeded Tom Brokaw as primary anchor of NBC’s evening newscast, was asked in last month’s issue of United Airlines’ Hemisphere magazine: "There are few women and people of color in top jobs at news organizations. How do we address this lack of diversity?”

Williams replied: "We have bigger problems. There are no black members of the U.S. Senate. We should keep some perspective on this. Nevertheless, I am constantly interested to hear of examples in our coverage where viewers think we got it wrong in one way or another because of a skewed viewpoint.”

Now, I'm a member of the NABJ (although I need to pay this year's due asap) and I know what it is like to be the only black in a newsroom. So to hear diversity to be so flippantly disregarded is disturbing. But it's even MORE disturbing to hear that it's coming from someone who didn't get their degree in the first place. For many African Americans, there's a thought that you have to be OVERLY qualified to get the same job, and that means J-school, or Masters programs. So it's a kick in the teeth when someone without a degree has the audacity to say that diversity in the newsroom isn't important.

Then, as I tend to do, decided to do some more research. And guess what I found. ABC's Peter Jennings doesn't have one. And CNN's Aaron Brown doesn't have one either.

Don't get me wrong. Not having a degree is not a disqualifer for success. Hell, Bill Gates and Paul Allen don't have one either. And there are plenty of millionaires without having finished or even attending college. But in an industry where people decide what is news and what is not news (read: Natalie Holloway and the Summer of Missing White Women), it is important to have African American, Latino, women, and others in the newsroom giving opinions. And since "merit" and "most qualified" are terms which have been used as hammers against minorities in their efforts to integrate overly white institutions, I think it is only fair that we take a close look at whether the white guy without the degree is more qualified than the black one with. Or perhaps, what we're saying is that America considers the two to be equal? If so, that is truly illuminating.


Sticky Keys said...

I think it is only fair that we take a close look at whether the white guy without the degree is more qualified than the black one with. Or perhaps, what we're saying is that America considers the two to be equal?

BINGO! That's what I was thinking during your entire post. I love your blog and your expansions on race in general. I'm going to link you from mine!

Lawrence said...

Thanks a bunch, and I'll do the same!

Rashid @ Old Gold Soul said...

Damn, I learned something new today.

Lawrence said...

Amazing, huh!

joy said...

It's true what you've said about Wal Mart and it's location but you seem to have forgotten a little area right behind the mall. It's called the "jungle" or the "jungles" as my students at Audubon like to call it.

Lawrence said...

You're right. The Jungle is behind Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills Mall, but the way Wal-Mart portrays the whole neighborhood, you'd think everybody is groping for $7 jobs. The funny thing about the Jungle is that it really doesn't have to be that bad. With a little bit of development, and some culling of a lot of the apartment buildings, that area could be a nice bridge between the Dons and Baldwin Hills.