Monday, May 7, 2012

Breaking the Barriers in News Journalism

Take a minute and meet two men who paved the way for the current flood of Blacks who regularly appear in the news as broadcasters, commentators, analysts, contributors, and pundits.  There are many new faces and while they may be interesting, we must remember that someone paved the way for them. When faced with selecting who might be credited with "breaking through the barriers" and making a way for others, I chose Max Robinson and Bernard Shaw.

Max Robinson began his television career in 1959, when he was hired for a news job at WTOV-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia. He had to read the news while hidden behind a slide of the station's logo. One night, Robinson had the slide removed, and was fired the next day.
In 1969, Robinson joined the Eyewitness News team at WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV) in Washington, D.C. He was teamed with anchor Gordon Peterson, becoming the first African-American anchor on a local television news program

In 1978, when television executive Roone Arledge was looking to revamp ABC News' nightly news broadcast into World News Tonight, he remembered Max Robinson from a 60 Minutes interview, and hired him to be a part of his new three-anchor format: Frank Reynolds in Washington, Peter Jennings in London, and Robinson in Chicago. Max Robinson became the first black man to anchor a nightly network news broadcast.
Robinson spoke out about racial prejudice at his workplace to a Smith College audience in 1981. In 1983 he left the network after being demoted, and lasted only two years at Chicago's WMAQ before leaving to free-lance, essentially disappearing from broad public view.
Along the way, there were episodes of drinking, erratic behavior and failure to show up at important times. In an interview with the Washington Post last May, Robinson explained his problems by saying, "I think one of my basic flaws has been a lack of self-esteem, not really feeling good about myself, always feeling like I had to do more. I never could do enough or be good enough. And that was the real problem."

In his short life, former ABC television anchorman Max Robinson admitted having many problems: alcohol abuse, racial struggles, career disaster and three failed marriages. In his death at 49, Robinson had his family reveal that he had AIDS so that others in the black community would be alerted to the dangers of the disease and the need for treatment and education. 

Bernard Shaw is a fascinating and inspirational person, well worth the time to invest in learning about this broadcast legend. Here are some highlights of his career in broadcasting:
Television news anchor Bernard Shaw's dispassionate manner, steady gaze, rich baritone voice, and crisply precise delivery virtually blend into the fabric of the news. In his twenty years as Cable News Network's (CNN) principal Washington anchor, he has taken a serious approach to journalism and has been widely regarded for his belief that the messenger should not get in the way of the message.

Before joining CNN, Shaw worked for two of the three national television networks, CBS and ABC. In a career spanning three decades, he has covered some of modern history's most dramatic events: Watergate, the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, the Nicaraguan Revolution, China's Tiananmen Square student massacre, and American involvement in the Persian Gulf War. Widely regarded as the nation's most powerful black television journalist, Shaw, retired from CNN in 2001 in order to pursue his interest in writing.

In future post on Sweet Nothings and the Emerald Quill, we'll meet some of African Americans personalities who grace your screen on today's news programming.

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