Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Today Show Misidentifies Jay-Z

Here is a prime example of why journalism will always be met with a slanted eye from the skeptic public.

Every newsroom of every major media outlet is severely lacking in diversity, and normally the editors are majority Anglo.

And if there is some color making the decisions, they seem to be drastically out of touch with the people who look like them and overly eager to continue to try to identify with the folks who do not look like them. (See Milton Coleman for more on this.)

And now The Today Show, NBC's prized morning news show, has shown the glaring deficiency of diveristy that obviously exists in their newsroom.

NBC's Lee Cowan did a piece on Barack Obama being on the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Cowan then talks about Obama's musical tastes, saying that the Democratic Presidential nominee "describes his iPod as a mix of everything from Stevie Wonder to Jay-Z."

As Cowan said Stevie Wonder's name, video footage rolled of Stevie performing, doing that recognizable movement with his head and neck while singing.

Then Cowan says the name "Jay-Z," and then an image of rapper Joe Budden mysteriously appears on the screen before Cowan continues on with the story. Yeah, I'm scratching my head on this one, too.

You mean to tell me that NO ONE in the entire NBC newsroom knows what Jay-Z looks like? Even worse, Matt Lauer has interviewed Jay-Z on The Today Show before! Did Lee Cowan not see the edited piece until it rolled? That's unlikely but possible.

But for a network that has so much coverage of celebrities, there is literally not one single plausible excuse for this mix up.

Do you think the same mistake would have been made if they mentioned, say, two Jewish celebrities? And if they did we already know a correction and apology would have been issued immediately. That's not anti-Semitism, that's reality.

Looking at the picture above there is obviously a clear difference between how the two rappers look.

This is similar to how Sarah from The Real World Hollywood came out of nowhere and venomously said her roommate Nick looks like Charles Barkley.

I bet the minority college graduate -- who is trying to advance in the business but is assigned to sorting mail downstairs -- could have helped the ignorant person who put this piece together get it right.

And still, despite all of that, there was no correction or apology or clarification issued after the piece was finished.

The ironic part is that the focus of the story is on the first African-American to lead a major party's Presidential ticket. Imagine if they had rolled footage of Roy Innis instead of Obama.

Sad thing is there will be no outrage over this. This may have been an honest mistake but they most likely came about making the mistake because of archaic hiring practices that keep the decision makers very ivory while the bottom feeders stay decidedly ebony. It's not a coincidence.

Here are some anonymous comments from a minority journalist's e-mail list that I subscribe to:

"Are you f-ing kidding me!?! WOW!"

" Sad. Just sad. I know Joe Budden is happy for the publicity though. He has been M.I.A. for a while."

"When was Joe Budden in Rolling Stone? A full page photo? I got issues with that ;-), but seriously, this is not a good thing, but it just shows once again, mistakes happen. This one, however, could have easily been avoided."

"You know I "listened" to that package, but I don't remember looking up from my desk to watch. Unfortunately, that's what most people are doing now-a-days, too. Even though TV news is a visually based format, most people are so busy now that they only "hear" the stories we put together. I AM surprised no one caught that before it aired though! WOW!"
All of this lends too much credence to the popular saying that white folks think all black folks look alike. The video of Lee Cowan's piece follows.

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