First it was Shirley Sherrod, now Juan Williams; both victims of our sound-bite media culture. (more…)
The public radio giant’s firing of one of its top analysts deals a terrible blow to free speech and diversity at a broadcasting network that prides itself on objectivity and open-mindedness.
NPR should not have fired Juan Williams. As a financial supporter of a public broadcasting station, I see the firing as contradicting the open-mindedness and civil discussions and programming I enjoy listening to on NPR and viewing on PBS. It goes against what I believe as a journalist, particularly one who is paid for expressing opinions.
NPR fired Williams, also a paid contributor to FOX, for saying on the O’Reilly Factor that Muslims make him nervous when he’s taking an airplane. I personally disagree with Williams’ opinion and concede it could be problematic for NPR if he does a report on Muslims. But it’s an opinion that is clearly held by many Americans. The knee-jerk reaction of firing Williams, a news analyst, was a missed opportunity for a teaching moment about the evolving role of journalism and to show that NPR is truly liberal — that is, open-minded. A reprimand, maybe, but fired? Isn’t Williams paid to give his opinion? It sends a distorted message about free speech. It’s a disservice to our nation at time when NPR should be helping to lead the civil, serious dialogue that we’re desperately lacking if we are to avoid permanently boxing ourselves into separate narrow-minded stupors.
The national unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent. Firing someone can be mentally and financially devastating. Knee-jerk calls to fire people typically come from folks who have jobs or don’t have a clue (or have forgotten) what being fired feels like. I was blindsided by a firing in 2006 and it threw my family and me into a tailspin. The lame excuse given for my firing had more to do with my supervisor’s low self-esteem, and a company that lacks class, than my job performance. Many firings have nothing to do with job performance, but simply the boss wanting to dump an annoying employee. According to published reports, this seems to be the case with Williams.
Labeled a right-wing black conservative by some, mainly because of his work on FOX, Williams, who has been with NPR more than ten years, reportedly has irked many of his more recent white liberal co-workers. Possible evidence of this is that NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller said that Williams should’ve kept his Muslim comment “between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist.” She later apologized, but what was that personal slap about?
“I think they were looking for a reason to get rid of me,” Williams told Good Morning America. “They were uncomfortable with the idea that I was talking to the likes of Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity.”
Fortunately for Williams Fox has reportedly hired him full-time and given him $2 million over three years. FOX viewers (all TV news viewers) absolutely need to see and hear from diverse journalists like Williams to help them understand differing viewpoints. There is nothing wrong with being black and conservative, especially considering polls consistently show that African Americans are socially conservative because of their primarily Christian influence. The black community is not monolithic.
Considering NPR’s difficulties maintaining diversity in its staff and programming, you would think they would be more sensitive to dumping one of their few black journalists — especially a journalist who has done quality, award-winning work for several years. Unfortunately, that’s one of the annoying blind spots of white liberals that blacks are all too familiar with, but decline to talk much about. Doing so can get you fired.
As a columnist/blogger, author, TV talk show contributor, and radio show host, I make sure to expose myself to different viewpoints. Along with PBS, I watch FOX, MSNBC, and CNN, C-SPAN and other stations. I read liberal and conservative publications and commentators. Exposing myself to differing views helps me to become clearer and more confident in my own opinions. By the time I express my thoughts, I’m sure of what I believe because I’ve challenged myself from within.
Perhaps the mishandling of Williams’ firing can help NPR to do the same.
Photo by Pete Wright from Wikipedia.
This week’s installment of Pop & Circumstance is heavy on the reality TV, since the summertime seems to carry an inordinate number of these programs. It makes sense. Reality shows are cheap to produce, and not as many people are watching during the summer months anyway, so the networks can get away with a little more mediocrity. Ah, but the mediocrity is often so addictive.
So maybe it’s a moral failing in me, but one episode and I’m already hooked on the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Pray for me, y’all. It’s an incredibly demeaning show — I know. The catfights between African American women, the incessant bling, the reinforcement of the stereotype that the only way black folks can become successful is through sports or music careers … I know all this. But it’s so delicious.
Thursday night season two premiered and out of the gate there was drama. But this time it wasn’t the bickering of the housewives that caused a stir. It was newly divorced cast member Sheree Whitfield’s fight with her “Independence Party” planner Anthony that lit up the screen. After failing to follow through on a few grand plans that would place Sheree at the center of attention for her event — because after all, it’s all about Sheree –the housewife “went Cleveland” on Anthony in a screaming match that forced colleagues of the party planner to hold him back while cameras rolled on the disintegration of his business. When all was said and done, Sheree asked, “What happened to customer service?” Classic.
The rest of the housewives, including new cast member singer/songwriter Kandi Burruss, seem to have matured a bit, finding some reconciliation from the drama that aired last November. But if Bravo’s teaser for future episodes is any indication, the peace is short-lived. I will say that the missing moral anchor of DeShawn Snow is palpable. She was the wife of retired NBA player Eric Snow who reportedly pursued a Master of Divinity and was not asked back for the new season because she was “too human for a circus show.” I miss those beats the camera used to take on Snow’s blank face each time Kim or NeNe would say something outrageous. It’s probably for the best though. She was too classy for this show. But apparently, I’m not. I’ll keep watching.
What do you think of the new season of Real Housewives of Atlanta? Will you watch?
Black Women Want Roses, Too
I haven’t watched an episode of ABC’s The Bachelor since season one when Trista Rehn was rejected by Alex Michel, and then went on to star in her own reality romance spin-off The Bachelorette. Back then the rose ceremonies were intense. I used to huddle around a small television set with my college girlfriends holding our breath as if peace in the Middle East was on the line while the roses were doled out . So when the most recent season of The Bachelorette ended on Monday, with 29-year-old interior designer Jillian Harris choosing Ed Swiderski, I missed it. But I did read Rachel Skirritt’s review of the show over at TheRoot.com and that got me thinking. Why do I no longer care about The Bachelor/Bachelorette phenomenon?
Skirritt, who has also fallen out of love with reality romance, noted that in 18 combined seasons of the shows, there has never been a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color. She writes, “Why is it that if an African American wants to humiliate him or herself on national TV in search of a mate, the only options are I Love New York or For the Love of Ray J? Are we not suitable for major networks?” Arguing that since Black women are the most unlikely to marry in our culture (the latest studies say that nearly 45 percent of black women have never been married versus 23 percent of their white counterparts), she posits that a season dedicated to this often woefully single demographic would score big numbers in Nielsen ratings. It might also lead to greater success in the relationships since due to the statistical challenges of finding the one, black women presumably have more urgency to get hitched.
While I agree that all races should have an equal opportunity to sign up for a chance to compete for love, and likely lose anyway (since less than 1 percent of past couples have actually married), I’m not sure a Black Bachelorette is the solution. There’s enough competition for romance among African American women without turning it into prime-time entertainment. And if the discussions I have with my single girlfriends are at all telling, there are some deep wounds unique to black women concerning the scarcity of men that might only be aggravated by a television show.
What do you think? Do black women need to get a rose too?
A Bigger and Better Bachelor?
Big girls want love too, or at least that’s the message Fox is trying to get across with its new reality show . The show,which features full-figured contestants vying for love, premiered last week to mixed reviews. Hosted by plus-size model Emme, the show aims to prove that love comes in all shapes and sizes. Much like ABC’s The Bachelor, the premise centers on the drama between approximately 20 voluptuous women as they compete for the affection of one successful bachelor. According to , this season’s bachelor is Luke Conley, a real estate investor who claims to be a Christian. While getting cozy on a sofa after private spa treatments, Conley tells one woman, “I am who I am because of my relationship with the Lord. I pray every day, and I read the Bible … to me, God is a third person in the room.” He then proceeds to make out with said woman. Maybe God stepped out for a bathroom break.
We’re not sure how “Christian” it is, but executive producer Mike Fleiss hopes the show will be inspirational to viewers by showcasing people who have truly struggled on the dating scene. “ABC’s The Bachelor is about beautiful people living a beautiful life and hopefully finding a beautiful love,” he says. “This show is like a sporting event. You’re rooting for someone to find love.”
Decide for yourself if it’s worth watching. You can catch the next episode on Fox this Tuesday night at 9PM ET/PT.
First Look: ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’
Tyler Perry notoriously refuses to play by Hollywood rules. It’s often been reported how he personally fronts the money for his films, allowing him primary creative control, and how he generally refuses to screen his movies for critics as is custom for most major studios. So the early trailers of his new film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, are all likely we have until the movie hits theaters on September 11th.
The film stars Taraji P. Henson as April, a heavy-drinking nightclub singer, who is forced to reevaluate her life when placed in charge of her delinquent 16-year-old niece and two nephews. Faced with the choice of continuing her troubled ways with a married boyfriend, or exploring new possibilities with Sandino, a handsome Mexican immigrant living in her basement apartment, April is challenged to open her heart and move on from the past. As is characteristic of all Perry films, I Can Do Bad All By Myself shows the struggle of letting go of past hurts while learning to accept and pursue a new life with family, faith, and true love. The film also stars Perry (as Madea), and features musical performances from Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, and Marvin Winans.
Check out this trailer and let us know what you think.