WBBM-TV Issues Statement on 4-Year-Old Boy Clip

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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.

 

Comments

WBBM

Thank you Bob for your clear comments.  It's very clear that Mr. Kiernan has no clue what diversity really means.  It means, as you have very correctly stated, that diversity comes in upper level management positions and in areas of controlling content which airs on WBBM Television.  Mr. Kiernan believes that the positions he has named make a diverse group behind the camera.  And those positions do not. 

It is pretty laughable but not surprising that news planning manager position is one of elevation to him.  He is very mistaken.  That position, with no disrespect to the person in that role, is on the bottom end of the management depth chart.  The assignment editor position quite frankly is the worst gig in the newsroom, the most thankless role and is, as well, a limited role.

But this is CBS.  That is the mentality of the company as a whole.  No matter what city or station, CBS has consistently had a poor record of hiring minorities and Mr. Kiernan's statement is supportive of that conclusion. 

This is typical of CBS and please keep up the pressure on this station to remove anyone responsible for this awful mistake.  Even Mr. Kiernan should be at risk for this on-air lack of judgment in their newsroom.  

CBS News used to be the pinnacle of respect and quality.  That is no more as the reality TV mentality has integrated its poor element in WBBM's news coverage.  What's sad is we should not be surprised that this actually happened on a television station with the legendary call letters known as WBBM.

WBBM-TV Issues Statement on 4-Year-Old Boy Clip

Kudos to Bob and MI for reporting, analysis, and follow up.  I am most impressed with your persistent reporting on this issue.

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