WBBM-TV Issues Statement on 4-Year-Old Boy Clip
August 24, 2011
On Aug. 12, Bob Butler reported on the Maynard Institute website about WBBM-TV in Chicago airing a story on a shooting. It included video of a 4-year-old boy saying he wanted his own gun. The station edited out the rest of the boy’s statement that he wanted the gun because he wants to be a police officer. Butler also reported that “there is no diversity in WBBM’s management.”
In response, Jeff Kiernan, vice president and news director for WBBM-TV in Chicago, sent this statement to the Institute:
“CBS 2 has taken full responsibility for the errors made in a story that aired on our early morning newscast on June 30. The mistake was serious and subject to fair criticism. We recognized that fact immediately — prior to any such external criticism — and pulled the segment from air. That much is clear.
“However, we do object to subsequent reports in which we believe we have been falsely portrayed. Specifically, we take the strongest possible issue with being characterized as a news organization that doesn’t have African Americans in management and important decision-making roles.
“In fact, the news department at WBBM-TV includes a significant number of experienced African American managers and journalists, members of a diverse team whose integrity and commitment to the truth has never been questioned.
“Among these are our News Planning Manager, a core member of our team who plays a significant role in making editorial decisions; the Producer of the most-watched newscast on our station; and an Assignment Editor who makes daily and hourly editorial decisions. Additionally, many of our on-air anchors and reporters are African American, and each is very much involved in determining the stories we cover and how we report the news daily.
“Again, we have publicly acknowledged our responsibility for this lapse in standards without making any excuses, and are committed to making sure it is not repeated. This in no way diminishes our ongoing commitment to diversity in our workplace and to honest and fair news coverage of the community we serve.
“To portray CBS 2 News in any other light is unfair and misleading. We thought it necessary to set that record straight.”
Bob Butler responds:
The National Association of Black Journalists’ Diversity Census counts upper management — general managers and news directors — because they make hiring and firing decisions.
The positions of assistant news director, managing editor, assignment manager and executive producer are included because these are the people who, along with the general manager and news director, set the station’s news agenda and decide which stories are covered and in what form they are broadcast.
The planning manager plans future coverage and is not generally involved in day-to-day coverage decisions. The producer of the most watched newscast is not an executive producer.
NABJ’s census determined that WBBM’s general manager, news director, assistant news director, managing editor and three executive producers are white. Three are women.
I have learned that no African Americans are on the morning show, where the mistake was made.
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