The mob seeking to discredit Williams also accused him of posting some incendiary tweets online. While Williams maintains that his Twitter account was hacked, the mere idea that Politico would take the word of a small group with internet access and an ambitious agenda (as Williams so aptly stated himself), over the word of their own employee is preposterous at best. Without fully investigating the situation and the tweets in question, Politico didn’t hesitate to give in to right-wing pressure and call into question this man’s stellar journalistic career. Prior to joining Politico, Williams served as the deputy chief of The Boston Globe‘s Washington bureau, and was at the Minneapolis Star Tribune prior to that position. The real question for Politico (and other news outlets for that matter) is: would they have been so quick to suspend Williams if he were White?
People would love to believe that we somehow live in a ‘post-racial’ society, and even discussing the concept of race is wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2012, diversity in newsrooms is almost as laughable as it was decades ago. And in a sad case of irony, in the same week that Williams was suspended indefinitely, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) held their annual convention. One of the most poignant things to emerge from that gathering was a scathing census of diversity within media organizations – or lack thereof. The 5th annual diversity census concluded the following:
Raycom Media, Allbritton Communications Company, Journal Broadcast Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group employ 350 men and women in the positions of general manager, news director, assistant news director, managing editor, assignment manager, executive producer or web manager. Only 12 percent of these managers are people of color, a figure that is consistent with NABJ studies of other television newsrooms from previous years. This includes 28 African-Americans, 6 Hispanics/Latino Americans, 3 Asian Americans and 1 Native American.
“It is disheartening to see these newsrooms do not reflect the society that we walk everyday,” said NABJ President Gregory Lee Jr. following the release of this report. “NABJ will continue to push for diversity in all newsroom positions. We especially need more voices in management to dictate coverage so stations can accurately report on the stories that affect all communities.”
Whether the medium is print or broadcast, step into any newsroom and the problem of minimal multiculturalism is blatantly apparent. When you don’t have a balance of voices, you won’t see a balance in coverage and/or reporting, simple as that. While we’ve seen a few more journalists of color on our TV sets in the age of President Obama, it’s not even close to resolving this issue. As Lee highlights, diversity is a concept that must be implemented both in the forefront, and more importantly, behind the scenes where the executive decisions are made.
Joe Williams is by no means a ‘lefty liberal.’ A straight-laced reporter working for a mainstream (if not conservative leaning) news organization, he still found himself the victim of a right-wing mob out to discredit him. That sort of behavior shouldn’t surprise us however, it is expected from folks who are so threatened by a changing society. The more disturbing part is that Williams was also the victim of an industry without a backbone. It is proof once again that people will not hesitate to cater to pressure from the right, no matter who is called into question. His suspension sets a dangerous precedent; it should serve as a stark warning for the few journalists, producers, writers and executives of color that do exist in this business.
If Williams’ incident proves anything, it’s that black media ownership (and ownership by other marginalized groups) is virtually absent today. There was a time when every major city had a black newspaper, and in turn employed countless black journalists. The fact of the matter is, you’ve got to own your own in order to hire your own.
Follow Nida Khan on Twitter at @NidaKhanNY