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Title Slate: The Eleventh Hour - #189, Writing Black, Rec: 5/4/89
Funding for the program by announcer and overlay The Eleventh Hour graphic.
The Eleventh Hour graphic and show opener.
Host Robert Lipsyte welcomes viewers to the program and introduces himself.
Host Lipsyte talks about the theme of tonight's program, "Writing Black". He names five recent news stories where the person accused of inflicting the damage was a different color from the person attacked. Plus, Lipsyte states, in all the stories, the media, activists, politicians, lawyers, & reporters escalated the story from a police case into a racial issue.
Large group of people walking together down the middle of city street, such as a protest
Close up crowd mostly African Americans walking down steps toward camera
People filing out of building coming down steps, man directing white woman coming out of building - he points to the left
Host Lipsyte announces the guests coming up, but first introduces Bob Teague from Channel 4.
Bob Teague 3:49
I think it's because there is a self defeating notion out there promulgated by some blacks and by some whites, who seem to feel that blacks and Hispanics exist in a state of pure innocence, unless corrupted by racism. In other words, there are racial racketeers out there who propagate that idea and we've got to stop listening to them.
Robert Lipsyte 4:09
Who were the racial racketeer?
Bob Teague 4:10
Well, those the people again, who defined themselves by seeing racism and everything that blacks are never to blame. Hispanics are never to blame. The Tawana Brawley case is a case in point and even the jogger in Central Park. People are saying well, even though these kids did something terrible, they're the victims of poverty and racism. I see it's time to stop that kind of expectations and reporting. I'm saying I came from an era of the 1950s. When I was trained, there was no talk about covering racially implicated stories, any different from any other story. The obligation of a journalist is not to slant the news, but the separate truth from fiction to report the news as clearly and as fairly as he can in perspective, and above all, leave opinions out of it.
Robert Lipsyte 4:57
Now you would train in a time where one There were far fewer black reporters were working in mainstream white media and to black stories were not really being reported in mainstream white media.
Bob Teague 5:09
Yes, that's true. The fight back then when I was younger, was to get more coverage in the ghetto stories. We won that fight, I think. But I'm saying now there is this this awful, paranoid notion that blacks can do no wrong. Blacks were afraid to criticize blacks take the case of Commissioner Ward, police commissioner Ward, for example. He went to a meeting of the Association of Black journalists, pardon me, and said, the most crime in the city is being committed by blacks and Hispanics. Well, the Association of Black journalists had a fit, practically chased the man out of the out of the auditorium. So I'm saying this kind of notion that there ought to be some kind of different standard for reporting stories about involving blacks or Hispanics, I think is really self defeating. That's not what America is about. We all ought to use the same standards, as I reject the notion also that there should be different standards, low standards for blacks and Hispanics taking civil service tests for jobs and promotions, lower standards for blacks and Hispanics who want to go to college. I don't think we ought to go that way. We only cut our own thoughts that way. It's a very self defeating attitude.
Robert Lipsyte 6:14
Well, how do you feel about the thought that black journalists have particular community responsibilities?
Bob Teague 6:20
Again? Are you a journalist? Or are you a black person? I'm saying if you want when I feel that What are you, I am first the journalist and then I'm a black writer. When I feel the need to express my opinions, I write a book like the flip side of soul. And by the way, in that book, I expressed some opinions that many underclass blacks and Hispanics find quite objectionable, because I am saying, it is time to stop blaming white people for all the mean and ugly things in our lives. It is time to accept some responsibility for our plight, and more responsibility for trying to do something about it. And the first thing is, for example, is stop listening to racial racketeers.
Robert Lipsyte 6:57
Let's talk about those racial racketeers. I mean, that's kind of a powerful symbol. Who are they name some?
Bob Teague 7:02
I don't want to do that. I just wanted to, you know who they are, by how I've defined them. They always blame white people, no matter what a black or Hispanic person does.
Robert Lipsyte 7:11
Well in the Tawana Brawley case, would you call al sharpton a racial racketeer?
Bob Teague 7:14
I'm saying anyone who will not look at the objective facts and call things about the right names as a racial racketeer.
Robert Lipsyte 7:22
And what is the responsibility of journalists to point to these racial racketeers and say they are manipulating the news?
Bob Teague 7:31
What you do is you try to balance out your reports with what responsible people say, as opposed to these rabble rousers. And also, I'm saying to ignore them. In many cases, when they are gone, they're gone so far around the bend. They don't deserve to be covered. I think I don't care what their color color is. If people go so far away from the proven demonstrable truth, that they are really just trying to gain publicity for themselves or or promote their own agenda. I don't think they ought to be considered spokesman, particularly when you see how small their constituencies are. How many people do you see following racial racketeers these day? I am saying that most blacks and Hispanics agree with what I'm talking about. They are intimidated, however, by these racial racketeers whom the media is giving so much called
Robert Lipsyte 8:17
Why Why does the media gives so much coverage to them? Because we're talking about we're talking about white reporters and producers as well as blacks,
Bob Teague 8:24
sure well, because they make good television, bad journalism, but good television, television is amoral in the sense it likes excitement, color, controversy, and rabble rousers. Black and White will give you good television. But I'm saying we ought to go for a higher standard than that.
Robert Lipsyte 8:41
And and how, how do you do that? I mean, what what are the lines that you draw? I mean, going back to this 50 cents
Bob Teague 8:49
Again you apply the same standards to a story involving white and black people as you do to any other story. Separate truth and fiction, some perspective, get away from myth, and try to document what you're after, and so on. But But you don't just go with the easiest thing in from somebody who was a colorful character. You don't do that on any story. The fact that a story is made up of facts.
Robert Lipsyte 9:15
Now you've been a respected journalist in this town for years, 35 years, maybe more. Don't you have some responsibility in your newsroom? To raise people's consciousness to get them to do certain kinds of stories to alert them to the
Bob Teague 9:29
Oh, in terms of not ignoring certain stories? Yes, but not to tell them how it ought to be covered. covered every story the same way I say I don't think I could have lasted all these years as a journalist, if I was trying to cover this kind of story that way, and that kind of story a different way. Oh, no. Either. You have integrity and a sense of responsibility about your craft. Are you don't you consider yourself colorblind, in terms of journalism, yes, again, but I have a lot of opinions. I express them in forums like this and in books, but that's where they belong. Because books Do not come with the category of journalism. That's combination of politics and philosophy. We're
Robert Lipsyte 10:04
almost out of time. Do you think that a lot of your colleagues, your black colleagues in journalism are in a sense in league with racial racketeers?
Bob Teague 10:14
I think many of them are Yes, they've been trained in a different time and a different climate where there's a general I think, decline of standards in this country about many professions about many activities, more things are tolerated, that we wouldn't dream of. In my day, for example, people were shamed to go on welfare, having kids out of wedlock would not be tolerated, and and you respected adults, you obeyed adults, you didn't just blame everything on racism. That was a very different kind of standard and which has deteriorated in this society in general. And that's a part of the problem. I think. Bob even heard, racial racketeers say the drug epidemic is some kind of white conspiracy aimed primarily at the ghetto. Isn't that ridiculous?
Robert Lipsyte 10:54
Bob Teague of NBC thanks so very much for being with us.
Interview with Bob Teague concludes, Host Lipsyte thanks him and introduces next segment of the program..
Les Payne, Newday Columnist angrily talking with unseen reporter about protecting the rights of Black woman. Overlay his face, Brawley Advisors on Anna Phillips of WCBS-TV - "Aunt Jemima Anna"
Brawley Advisors on Les Payne of Newsday: "A Tool of the White Media" overlay Les Payne's face.
Back in the studio with Host Lipsyte and Les Payne, Assistant Managing Editor and Columnist Newday, and Anna Sims-Phillips, WCBS TV News.
Les Payne 12:04
I suppose. I hope so. But I think that Mayor Koch did with a bit more vigor. Then the charge that was heaped upon me last week.
Robert Lipsyte 12:13
And how do you feel when you're called Aunt Jemima? Anna?
Anna Sims-Phillips 12:18
Well, it's heart wrenching, i mean, hurts to be when when you're reporting a story in. And the, the burly advisors turn story around and suddenly make you a part of the story. Nothing shocked me more than when the cameras turned around from the subject to Mike and I. And then we were diverting attention from story that we were trying to cover. So it's kind of hard dealing with that
Robert Lipsyte 12:43
It seems very complicated. To be a reporter, and most of your career really has been overseas, you want your Pulitzer for the heroin trail. I'm not, you've never even been identified necessarily as a race relations reporter, but certainly to have this thing turned around.
Les Payne 13:02
Well, I write a column once a week. And it is that column in which where I express my opinion, that I picked up the attack from Mayor Koch. And from South Africa and from the head of the PBA and from various other people throughout the day on live and call in radio, as well as the advisors.
Robert Lipsyte 13:21
Is there a two tiered level of responsibility for a black journalist? Bob Teague has said that he's first a journalist than a black writer.
Les Payne 13:31
Well I think Mr Teague has his his lens cap still on. I think that for him to say that he's a journalist first or second. I mean, I think that's ludicrous. I don't think we have to get into that. I think that we are sure that there's no question but that we have a dual responsibility in the sense that we live in a racist society, which has two societies, and then we're not hitting toward two societies, but they are in fact, two societies. And so what happens is that we find ourselves as black journalists, often I know I do, as a columnist, even as a reporter, to a lesser degree, I find myself addressing problems and questions that would not have not otherwise been addressed. And therefore you come in for special attention. And when, as a columnist, for instance, I address certain racial questions. I'm operating from a different set of assumptions, I reach a different conclusion, I happen to think those conclusions are true and sound. But what is startling and jarring to the ears of a lot of New Yorkers, and certainly, a great number of people here with power is that they've not heard this before. And the reason why they haven't heard it before is because people like Bob Teague hadn't told them, people who've been in this business for 35 years haven't told them blacks. And the other reason I haven't heard is because there are so few black journalists in this business and certainly very few colonists. And I think it's interesting that the only two at the time, or we'll call it myself were called racist by Mayor Koch . So I think it's a question of power. And I think that that complexity about this particular case, whether it's brawling, whether it's the rape case now in New York City or whether it's getts, I think it is overlaid on a sense of a widely disproportion, chairman of power in the Now, let's power in economic system power the political system and power in the media. And that is what we're addressing.
Robert Lipsyte 15:06
Every one of those cases we've even talked about some more. They became racial stories, even more than police stories, which is basically what they were.
Les Payne 15:16
Right? I think that, unfortunately, in the Getts case, each is different. Each has its own set of complexities. But I think in the Getts case, the the media unfortunate did not treat it as a as a crime story, which we should have for reason that I think has to do with the basic assumption of editors and who are making those choices as well as reporters. I think that what we really see in all of them in terms of a commonality is that on the one hand, you have a very powerful system here, starting with a mayor who controls a $20 billion budget, you have radio that's on all day, you have four daily newspapers that are printing every day. And you have, on the other hand, you have people blacks, when they are victims, as well as when they are perpetrators, who are not in a real sense in a continuance and spoken for and understood. And so I think that is why almost in all of these cases, when blacks wanted to have their voices heard they have to take to the streets and make a lot of noise. Points don't have to do that. In this particular rape case. Trump has taken out a $75,000 ad full page ad floated in around the mayor's out definitively Cardinal is now visiting the sick. Those four radios called in stations, I don't have to name them. I think these are the real racist, racketeers that Teague was talking about, you know the bob grants very far but these people who open their sewers at dawn, and don't close them until well into the night, lathering up the citizenry on matters racial, those are the reracked racial rackateers, the white, the white race, particularly ones that I named as well as the mayor on many of his missions.
Robert Lipsyte 16:44
In the Tawana Brawley case, which was so quickly seized upon was believed, perhaps for racist reasons, and were seized by you on that the case from the beginning. And what was interesting. As for whatever reason, you sat next to you as a producer sat next to Mike Taibbi, the white reporter during the interview, we're going to look at an interview that you've brought along, I believe this was with Perry McKinnon. It was a critical interview because it was a turning point in the press the media's coverage of the case in which he has an insider talked about things he had seen and heard within the broil the advisors.
Robert Lipsyte 17:46
Now, you're you're sitting next to Mike Taibbi. It was rare.
Anna Sims-Phillips 17:52
Actually it's not rare. It's actually
Robert Lipsyte 17:54
It's very rare. Maybe it's not rare for you, but it's very rare in television, generally of the producer and the correspondent, sitting together. And I was wondering, in terms, the thought, of course, is a black person sitting next to a white person in this kind of story. Was that sort of some sort of message?
Anna Sims-Phillips 18:14
No, it wasn't a message. Actually. My teaming up with with Mike Tiabbi on TV was something that had happened from the beginning of our association from the first stories that we've done. So although it it was first noticed in Brawley story, if you go back to every one of the stories we've done together, I appear on TV, it was something that happened. Mike is somewhat of a technocrat, I consider that I'm emotional and bring a special experience to the story. And I would jump in on the interview. So sometimes we split the work down the middle. And when we come together, the interviews the both of us that are so good that we put them on tha air
Robert Lipsyte 18:51
This stories early enough in in your relationship, right? Yeah, the it certainly seemed like it started there. And and actually implication was either positive or or negative that you were somehow an interpreter. Yeah. And then you were necessary.
Anna Sims-Phillips 19:10
No, not at all. It's a technique that we employed, at least a year before the Brawley story. It just came forth that way. Perry McKinnon reached out to me when he did reach out to channel two on both TV and I sat and interviewed him pre interviewed him before we put them on the air.
Robert Lipsyte 19:28
Do you think there was willful misinterpretation of the Brawley story from the beginning?
Anna Sims-Phillips 19:32
Oh, yeah, I think so. I think that in the very beginnings of the story. institutional racism kicked right in.
Robert Lipsyte 19:40
I mean, there was I was I was at a network at the time, a black producer went out on the story came back and said, I don't believe her. Someone else was put on the story. Right away. Were you early on to?
Les Payne 19:52
Yeah, I I should say I mean, I was the editor who was handling our investigation of that particular case. We had four reporters full time. gets stored for about a year along with other papers and and his crew, etc. So I was involved earlier on. Yeah.
Robert Lipsyte 20:05
Were they all black with a white and black reporters?
Les Payne 20:08
No we had now that I look at I hadn't thought about it a whole lot, but we have, we have four reporters, Mike Carpan, who's black, Joe Demma, who's white. Lang Rivera, who's his Latino, and Rita Geordano. Who's Italian.
Robert Lipsyte 20:23
Do you think that part of the problem that we were talking about the fact that as soon as a story with so called racist or racial implications evolves, we lose that sense of accuracy becomes sort of almost Willy and sociological rather than accurate? Do you think that the problem other than the ratio practice Do you think the problem lies in the reporters who are going out and not asking the right questions, the editors who are not sending out the right reporters? What's hapening
Les Payne 20:55
this particular story? Each of them are different, of course, but this particular story is very difficult story because the person would make the charges was protected and we could not get to her. I mean, Tawana Brawley after she had through her relatives and finally her advisors, made her charges and pointed fingers was not accessible. And therefore, a lot of this, you know, depended on her and after the grand jury report came out with an overwhelming marshaling of forensic medical and scientific proof that these things did not happen to the question that remains What did in fact happen to and why was she those four days? And that's the question that I was trying to answer this just this past report,
Anna Sims-Phillips 21:32
and also as an investigative producer, this case, even with the mere facts that she gave, and they were six elements involved, in fact, defied every standard of investigation that that has ever been applied to it
Robert Lipsyte 21:46
I know you're you're both talking as investigative professionals who did a good job on the story. But particularly in in the the tabloids, there was that immediate assumption that it was true, which was in a kind of a way a racist assumption? Yeah. That's what white guys do to black women?
Les Payne 22:06
Well, I will take news out of the tabloid category, although technically we are. I mean, that was not our assumption. assumption was that he was a story that's complex as Crime Story. charges have been made. And that's what we have to follow. I think that some of the assumptions certainly did in fact exist. But I think we really moving on because
Robert Lipsyte 22:22
the thing that that kind of confused the story, certainly for me and a lot of other readers was the people that suddenly became spokespeople. Certainly, Sharpton, the Reverend Sharpton, the lawyers, Maddox and Mason took it into another turning you brought, we'll we'll talk about that you took you brought us another piece of CBS good work that we would like to look at
Robert Lipsyte 23:28
Wow, that's a pretty powerful thing was the story ultimately about max Mason?
Les Payne 23:33
I think we have three concentric things going on one we had those advisors who were in fact, finally her lawyers to to Mason Maddox were her lawyers. Their role essentially was to defend their client, which is role of any lawyer whether Slotnick or whoever, and I think the to that degree, they perhaps you know, did it did did a did a pretty good job of it. I think the other ring and role that they were playing in league with Sharpton was that they were her advisors, and therefore they were activists. And as activists, they were trying to get to community and mobilize around this particular case, he tried around Howard Beach, and he tried around getts case, and so they were getting them to mobilize around this particular case. And I think that the other ring is one that we have, and that is as journalists to find the truth, our job roles responsibility in this society is to gather the facts and to publish them fearlessly and without favor. And that's what our role is and those roles and sometimes competed that's why they ended up calling me a tool is because I mean, my role is not to defend her my role is not to organize community. My role was to get the facts in the publisher.
Robert Lipsyte 24:29
Yeah. And your role
Anna Sims-Phillips 24:30
was was it was a story that that lends itself to an investigative nature and my job was to seek out the facts and report them as concise
Robert Lipsyte 24:42
cases the difference very clear between the facts and the truth. The truth is not what we're getting at. The facts are that the Reverend Sharpton is leading a parade down the street and it's, it looks really good on television and it exceeds sight.
Les Payne 24:56
In fact, I mean, I think that's, you know, there is an old zen Buddhist saying I use a lot and that is that in pointing to The Moon, one must not mistake the finger for the moon. And I think that what happened in this particular case is that he was able to divert interest to him when he wasn't really the story at all. I mean, the story always was What happened to her? Why did she emerge with kkk on her and in that particular condition with dog feces, etc. I think that was a story.
Robert Lipsyte 25:17
But the mainstream press exception exceptions, of course, I've seemed quite willing to follow the finger instead of looking at the moon,
Les Payne 25:23
right? We followed both. I mean, on the one hand, you have to pay attention to them as you're trying to mobilize the community, because you're putting people in the street on this case. On the other hand, you should never lose track. You know, the real case we did both of them. I think that insofar as mobilization I think that they had a bad case,
Robert Lipsyte 25:38
do you think that Sharpton is a racial racketeer?
Les Payne 25:45
Maybe Anna should respond to that.
Anna Sims-Phillips 25:46
I don't know I always called Mr. Reverend Sharpton, Reverend Sharpton and I still call him Reverend Sharpton
Robert Lipsyte 25:53
because you call you know, other commentators racial racketeers?
Les Payne 25:58
Well, I'm not I won't get into name call it with with with with with with Reverend Sharpton. I think then I certainly would not like to use a word that that that Teague use in that particular case, but I think it's pretty clear. On the other case, that you have very powerful people who have a responsibility, who is he responsible to? You see, he's responsible only to himself sharpton. But in the case of these people, these folks are using airtime. And these folks they use in a public airwaves, I cite them and I named them because they have public responsibility. They're using the public airwaves, they're using taxpayers dollars and I think that we can make those assessment of them but any freelance person out there? I think that you know, it's a different thing.
Robert Lipsyte 26:35
Almost out of time. Anna, the response from the black community to your work. How does that affect what you do?
Anna Sims-Phillips 26:42
Well, it's it's it's an emotional and emotional level, it hurt. I was labeled as a traitor, Reverend Sharpton use techniques that would change the actual story and turn it around and make me the story suddenly, but it didn't make me want to stop pursuing the story. I continued on the same path. And there will be countless times to Taibbi and I will say, well look, just work to story. There will be times when he'd want to attack them or I'd want to say something back. And we'd get steered back to the straight, narrow and report the story which is what we had originally set out to do, which is find out what happened to Tawana Brawley. That was the mandate. And although there were times when we felt like deviating from that mandate, we stayed straight and narrow. Ultimately prevailed
Robert Lipsyte 27:30
Les Payne thank you very much for being with us.
Interview concludes. Host Lipsyte announces a conference on this subject at Queens College. He announces the show and introduces himself. Show end.
Show credits over The Eleventh Hour graphics.
Funding for the program by announcer overlay The Eleventh Hour graphic still
Description: The Eleventh Hour - Show #189 Title: Writing Black Guests: Bob Teague, Reporter News 4 New York Description: There is a growing sentiment among Blacks and Hispanics that stories involving their communities are underreported or reported inaccurately by the white-dominated media. But on the other hand some reporters (including blacks and Hispanics) from mainstream media say that there is lack of cooperation from minority groups who feel that coverage often portrays them inaccurately. When local CBS News reporter Anna Sims-Phillips was covering the story of Tawana Brawley, she was often the subject of vicious attacks, because she is Black and many activists involved with the case felt she was selling out. Critics of the press have charged that shallow reporting has served to inflame passions in an already racially polarized city. How difficult is it for reporters from the mainstream media to cover stories about race-related issues? In this edition, Robert Lipsyte examins the issue of race and the media with Sims-Phillips, Earl Caldwell, columnist for The Daily News; and Les Payne of Newsday. Original Broadcast Date: 5-4-89
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