October 15, 1993. The New York Daily News. From the article, "NBC big gaffes out loud: Aidid remark causes a furor" --
"...an NBC producer called a Somali warlord 'an educated jungle bunny' during a news meeting."
I'll not reprint the producer's name but the story continued "___ said of Aidid: 'He's an educated jungle bunny and the rest of the jungle bunnies are not like this at all. They're illiterates." The executive producer admitted what he said, stating that he was "using a phrase that exists in many people's minds in the United States." The newspaper report, written by Corky Siemaszko and A.J. Benza, added that black NBC employees "exploded with indignation" after learning of the NBC Nightly News producer's remarks about Mohamed Farrah Aidid. I thought of that story when I read online that ESPN sports coverage of Knicks star, Jeremy Lin, a sensational Chinese-American athlete...
...included this graphic on the sports network. What the heck were they thinking?!?! This is just so wrong.
Today, I read a great and accurate column by Leonard Pitts Jr. It was on The National Memo website (www.nationalmemo.com).
The producer of the next local news show I worked for hadn't read my resumé or watched my demo reel either. I didn't get to do film reviews there but the overall situation was more enjoyable than my WNBC one. I did get to do weekly film reviews for one of my favorite gigs ever. I was the entertainment editor on a joint ABC News/Lifetime Television network production, a live afternoon magazine show called Lifetime Live. I loved that job. However, it took a noted TV columnist to help me get considered for the job. The producers knew me from local TV but questioned whether or not I knew anything about movies. Again, execs had not read my resumé or looked at my demo reel. I told the ABC News producer that I spent the first four years of my TV career as a weekly film critic. On WISN, the ABC TV affiliate in Milwaukee. That work got me hired in New York. Then I asked how I'm perceived by network news folks who kept saying "I know your work" but really didn't. She honestly replied, "You're seen as the funny guy who does local liveshots." I proved to her I did more than that.
This is why I relate to what Leonard Pitts Jr wrote. Those TV news producers, each from a different show, saw me being funny in assigned local liveshots and assumed that was all I did. Think about it. Why don't we see black and Latino talent on network TV reviewing movies, discussing Oscar nominations and doing regular reports on the Broadway scene? There are many minority reporters who can cover film and stage. I saw them at movie screenings for the press and at Broadway shows in New York City. Is the reason they're not tapped for TV exposure because we're not "supposed" to know about fine arts? This Jeremy Lin story has, once again, made me wonder how journalists and executives in TV news see us minorities. Pitts touches on how we minorities shackle ourselves with stereotypes -- like taking on thug identity or saying that to speak properly is "acting white." He brings up valid points. Look for his article online. It's worth reading. All in all, Jeremy Lin is forcing folks in the media to shake the chains off their brains. That's a great thing.
As for the NBC network news producer who used that racially offensive term, I did not print his name because he died last year. He left NBC weeks after that story. He wasn't fired. He got an offer from another network news program. Then he went to become a network news consultant. He was greatly revered in his profession and praised when he died. There was no mention of how he offended black NBC employees in 1993. In a way, his obits reminded me of the line from John Ford's 1962 western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."