At first 3 Chics was not going to front page this piece, but you know what, if we didn’t help get the message out, then we’d be no better than the media.
With all the hoopla about Keith Olberman’s leaving MSNBC’s Countdown, my question was not why is this happening, but who is going to fill his time slot?
There is a color problem at that cable network, and I for one, would like to see that color problem change.
Whoever gets to deliver the news about us and other people of color MATTERS.
Legendary journalist Carole Simpson talks to CNN’s Howard Kurtz about journalism, success, and racism.
You can watch the interview of Sunday, January 23 edition of Reliable Sources here “Journlist Talks Successes and Scars“ I encourage you all to watch it.
Transcript of the interview:
CNN Reliable Sources Sunday 1-23-11
Howard Kurtz & Carole Simpson
KURTZ: But behind the scenes, away from the cameras, there were clashes related to race and gender. Simpson bluntly describes these difficulties in her new memoir, “News Lady.” She joins me now, here in the studio.
Welcome, Carole Simpson.
SIMPSON: Hi, Howie.
KURTZ: Let’s get right into it. You were writing about — when you first came to Washington for NBC — and for a long time you couldn’t get on the air. Your pieces were not being used, and the word came back to you that you were what?
SIMPSON: Lazy. I had been there for nine months, and I couldn’t get any stories on the air.
I was assigned to go interview people for other people’s stories. And it’s like, what is going on? I’ve had my husband move to Washington with me and leave his job. And I was so unhappy.
KURTZ: So what did you do as a result? SIMPSON: What did I do is a result? Is go in there and say I quit. I understand that the word is circulating around the network that I’m lazy. And, you know, in television, perception is reality.
So if people hear that, and it’s on the grapevine — and the word “lazy,” the fact that I was an African-American, and you use a word like “lazy” with me, call me stupid or crazy or something. Don’t call me lazy. That was not what I was.
KURTZ: And you got back on the air as a result.
SIMPSON: I told them, “Let me go.” And one of the bosses said, “Well, let me check into this.” And the next day I was on the air.
KURTZ: A couple of years later you ran into the person who you believe was the origin of that “lazy” charge. And this really jumped out at me. I mean, this is a producer who you quoted as telling you, “You think because you’re black and a woman you can get anything you want. And, you slut, you don’t deserve it.”
SIMPSON: And you didn’t describe how he had me. I was against a fence at the rap party for the Republican Convention, and he had his arms up against me like that.
He was in my space, too close to my space. So it was like I was pinned as he’s telling me this. And I had to, like, get out from under him, sneak out from under his arms to get away. And I don’t think he would realize today that he told me that, he was so drunk.
KURTZ: You later jumped to ABC News, and within a certain period of time, you ended up leading kind of a protest delegation of minority journalists to a luncheon with Roone Arledge, a legendary ABC News president, in New York.
You’re kind of a troublemaker aren’t you?
SIMPSON: I would like to think I’m an agent of change.
We were just celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday, and I gave one of those MLK breakfast speeches that everyone does at this time of year. And I think about Dr. King, and I met him early in my career, and I felt if those people could march and could get beaten in the head for freedom rides and things like that, the least I could do is do what I could where I was to make change and to improve, you know, race relations, and to get black people treated equally and fairly. The law of the land.
KURTZ: Again from the book, you were covering the first George Bush’s presidential campaign, 1988. You were suddenly taken off that campaign as Bush was about to win the nomination, but you were made a Saturday night anchor as kind of a consolation prize, I guess. And you write that some colleagues thought you got the job because of “affirmative action and my big mouth.”
SIMPSON: That’s right.
KURTZ: So how did you feel about that whole turn of events?
SIMPSON: Well, first of all, I was very upset, because, typically, the person that covers the presidential candidate —
KURTZ: Who wins.
SIMPSON: — who wins goes into the White House as senior White House correspondent. I was looking forward to that.
I had covered George H. W. Bush for eight years. But then it was in the paper. They didn’t even tell me. I read it in John Carmody’s column. Remember his column?
KURTZ: In “The Washington Post,” yes.
SIMPSON: Yes. And it said, “Carole Simpson has been removed from the Bush campaign and Brit Hume will be the correspondent.” And I was like, no, you didn’t. No, you didn’t.
How is this possible? When it comes to the black woman being able to be first senior correspondent, White House correspondent, it wasn’t going to happen with me. So again, because they knew that I would just go — I’m on TV, I can’t say the word I want to say.
KURTZ: You use a few of those words in the book.
KURTZ: But you invoke affirmative action as a perception that some had about why you got this break or that break in your career. But, in a way, the flip side is, didn’t affirmative action also help you?
SIMPSON: It did. And I’m proud to say I’m an affirmative action baby. I’m glad there were some people that looked around a newsroom and said we need one of those, somebody that looks like that, that dresses like that.
If that had not happened, I don’t know where I would be. So “affirmative action” is such a bad term now. I mean, God forbid, affirmative action. But, you know, we need it back, because I look around at the networks today, and there are fewer African-American correspondents than there were in the ’80ss.
KURTZ: I want to get to that, but I also want to touch on this — in the book — and we’re not talking 30 years ago, we’re talking about what I would consider the modern era — you talk about producers, staffers maybe not intending offense, but making racial jokes. What kind of racial jokes?
SIMPSON: Well, how about walking into a going away party for a fellow correspondent who was going to Moscow and have the senior person in the ABC Washington bureau, as soon as I crossed the threshold in the party, ask me, where’s my cap and apron, aren’t I going to serve? And that said to me, this man sees me walk into this room and he sees a black woman. He doesn’t see Carole Simpson. And he’s asking, why aren’t I serving these hors d’oeuvres.
KURTZ: When you describe these incidents with these executives and these producers, generally you don’t name names.
SIMPSON: And you said a bad thing about me in your column on “The Daily Beast.”KURTZ: What was that?
SIMPSON: You said “A real journalist names names.” Now, come on. You know “The Washington Post” is always talking about “highly- placed administration sources” and —
KURTZ: Right. But this is not a situation where you’re protecting a source who was giving you sensitive information. You’re recounting your story, this is what happened to Carole Simpson.
KURTZ: I don’t have the ability to call up somebody else and say, well, wait a minute, did you really say that because you’re not telling me or the reader — more importantly, the reader — who it is.
SIMPSON: Well I thought about using their names. And then I thought about libel (AUDIO GAP) without describing who they are. Plus, the people that I’m talking about are not doing so well now.
KURTZ: I see. All right.
I need to get a break. You understand that as a television veteran.
When we come back, more with Carole Simpson. We’ll talk about not just the racial aspect of being a trailblazer in network news, but the gender aspect as well.
Stay with us.
KURTZ: And we are continuing our conversation with Carole Simpson, who’s come down from Boston to talk to us about her book.
As much as you write about the ups and downs you had related to racial prejudice, or attitudes towards African-Americans, you say the sexual discrimination was worse.
SIMPSON: It was. Everyone is surprised when they ask me, “Did you suffer more racial discrimination or sex discrimination?” And it was more times I heard I couldn’t do something because I was a woman than you can’t do it because you’re African-American.
KURTZ: But beyond that, you got groped and touched and other things that we won’t detail on the air.
SIMPSON: Right. It was pretty nasty.
KURTZ: Didn’t that make you angry, frustrated, infuriated?
SIMPSON: Yes, but remember in my book I said I wasn’t going to let anybody push me away from my dream to be a journalist, and I just had to grin and bear it, because there was no recourse. There were no sexual harassment policies in the company —
KURTZ: Right. This predates that era.
SIMPSON: Right. Exactly.
KURTZ: Now, talking about — you know, hasn’t there been, I would say, some substantial progress in terms of from when you started to now, in terms of African-American in senior reporting and anchoring roles? I mean, we have Oprah. We have Robin Roberts. We have Soledad O’Brien.
SIMPSON: Don’t put Oprah Roberts (sic) and don’t put Robin Roberts in my category.
SIMPSON: OK? Robin Roberts came from sports, and she’s doing what is basically an entertainment show, not a news show.
KURTZ: Well, “GMA” has plenty of news.
SIMPSON: It has in the first half hour. The last hour and a half is all books and cooking and celebrities.
SIMPSON: And Oprah Winfrey is a television personality.
KURTZ: Is a phenomenon who transcends —
SIMPSON: She was a former newswoman but, no, I wouldn’t put those in the category. So don’t say look at the success of these women because —
KURTZ: I was just using them as examples, of course.
SIMPSON: Yes, but they are not. They are not hard-news people like I was — OK? — that wanted to cover stories and wanted to anchor the news.
KURTZ: But it is not unusual to see a Lester Holt or a Soledad O’Brien on the air, on networks, cable channels, the way it was when you started. Is that progress? SIMPSON: Weekends, infrequently —
SIMPSON: — for Soledad. No, I don’t think it’s progress.
I think we’ve gone backwards. There is nobody saying oh, my, we really need to get more African-Americans on the air, we need to get more Hispanics on the air, we need to get more Asians on the air. Yet, America continues to become more and more diverse. And yet it is white men —
KURTZ: So we have an African-American president, and you feel like the news business — the television business, I should say — hasn’t gotten the message?
SIMPSON: It’s gotten worse. And that makes me very upset, because I worked very hard.
KURTZ: We’re coming up on a break, but why has it gotten worse?
SIMPSON: I think it’s gotten worse because nobody is out there talking about it.
KURTZ: It’s an issue that you believe has been swept under the rug?
SIMPSON: It is on the back burner. It is so far on the back burner, that nobody cared.
KURTZ: I’ll give you one more reason to look at Carole Simpson’s book, “News Lady” — if we could put up the cover — she also talks about her plastic surgery. How often do you find television stars talking about that?
Carole Simpson, thanks very much for joining us.
SIMPSON: It’s great, Howie.
KURTZ: Nice to see you.
So what say you folks? Do African Americans need to invest in their own media controlled franchises in order to deliver unbiased, diverse and balanced news about themselves and other people of color?
You can read Carole Simpson’s memoir NewsLady.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
NewsLady is the memoir of a trailblazing African American woman journalist whose life is about “firsts.” Carole Simpson was the first woman to broadcast radio news in Chicago, the first African American woman to anchor a local newscast in the same city, the first African American woman national network television correspondent, the first African American woman to anchor a national network newscast and the first woman or minority to moderate a presidential debate.
Hers is a story of survival in a male-dominated profession that placed the highest premium on white males. In this book she recounts how she endured and conquered sex discrimination and racial prejudice to reach the top ranks of her profession. Along the way she covered some of the most important news events over the four decades of her illustrious broadcasting career. Her inspirational story is for all trying to succeed in a corporate environment.
Your thoughts? If we don’t know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it.