Enough to Be Dangerous – Racism Allegations Rock High Levels of the Television News Industry

This week, an article in the Huffington Post claimed that a senior ABC News executive made insensitive and sometimes racially tinged comments about several journalists of color at the Walt Disney-owned unit.

Mort Meisner was beyond saddened by this allegation. He knows the executive in question and it seems out of character for her. Even so, as much as these allegations surprise him, he’s witnessed so much racism in the television news industry, it wouldn’t shock him at all if they are completely true.

And that’s particularly discouraging – given the many times he went to battle to right the wrongs of racism in the industry.

Enough to Be Dangerous Exposes Blatant Racism

When Mort decided to write his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, he was at no loss for stories and vignettes that highlighted how rampant racism was in the industry. And because it was a different time, how accepted it was. He never accepted it though.

“Wrong is wrong,” he says.

Growing up in Detroit, he embraced diversity from a very young age. Even his abusive father was a strong proponent for Civil Rights and regardless of the other horror he put Mort through, he did teach him those values. Then when Mort began working as a music promoter right out of high school and through college, he was immersed in an industry that embraced racial differences in a way many other industries had not at that time.

All of that changed when he moved into the world of television news – a domain ruled largely by white men. The blatant racism was jarring and sickening. And he wasn’t going to take it.

Blazing a New Trail

In our previous blog post, we discussed the “garbage men” in the industry. “Garbage men” was the term that high-level (typically white male) executives used when referring to black male reporters. These reporters, who were few and far between, were typically given the easy “throw-away” stories, because the executives deemed these were all they could handle.

Disgusted by this behavior and widely accepted protocol, Mort decided he needed to change the industry from within. As relayed in many places throughout his memoir, he championed for the rights of black journalists and newscasters in every newsroom where he worked for the next several decades.

When he recognized talent in a black reporter, he would go the distance to foster and encourage that talent. It didn’t matter that he was in an industry where it was okay to refer to an African American weatherman as a “black Q-Tip.” Or to make casual statements about the likelihood of skilled black athletes becoming heroin or crack addicts when it was something that would NEVER be said of white athletes.

Mort knew that wrong was wrong—no matter how you cut it. And in the end, his efforts paid off to some extent. Today, more than a handful of black male anchors thank Mort for seeing something in them and not being afraid to go to bat for them to help them rise in the industry.

Today, working as a news talent agent, he continues to promote and place African American talent on a regular basis.

How Much Has Changed?

Of course, Mort is still incredibly disheartened by the recent allegations.

As Whoopi Goldberg says about the situation – “Everything I know about her doesn’t say she has this in her. But I will say that one of the things that everyone should always make sure we say, and I say it all the time — lets find out. If it’s true, she’s gone. If it’s not, let’s find out what’s going on.”

Even just twenty years ago, nobody would have dared to make those sorts of allegations in the news industry – in spite of the fact that racial slurs were commonplace. And even if they had, you can be sure no action would have been taken.

So while progress has been slow, things have moved in a better direction at least. And Mort’s efforts have not been in vain.

Find out More in Just Dangerous Enough

Sink into the story behind Mort’s powerful climb to the top of the TV news industry and get inspired by his advocating for justice, equality, and integrity every step of the way.

Enough to Be Dangerous will officially be released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on October 1, 2020 from Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for updates on how you can pre-order your autographed copy, as well as all the info about a book launch party and other exciting events. We look forward to seeing you!

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Enough to Be Dangerous – Fighting Racial Injustice in the News Industry

Mort Meisner has spent a lifetime deeply troubled by racial injustice.

Recent events have left him heart-broken and devastated – yet moved and encouraged by the massive surge of protesters FINALLY standing up for black lives.

Mort is no stranger to this. He spent decades fighting racial injustice in the news industry. And while he made some headway, the Goliath that was blatant racism in some newsrooms, boardrooms, and out on the streets was impossible to slay.

He now shares those unsettling stories in his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, scheduled for release on October 1st of this year.

The Rise of Black Women

If you’ve been living on this blue and green rock for any formidable amount of time (at least 40 years), you can clearly remember a time when the news anchor desks were populated predominantly by white men.

You may also recall the first time you started seeing more women in those positions.

Then there was the strange phenomenon that existed for decades where the desks showcased an older white man with a young black female co-anchor. As Mort recalls in his memoir:

I worked in five different newsrooms. And whether I was in Detroit, Chicago or St. Louis, it was virtually always the same. Black women were making inroads at the anchor desk – usually to sit next to an established white male. Beverly Payne and Doris Biscoe in Detroit were good examples. Similar talent placements were occurring in cities and newsrooms throughout the country. But black male anchors continued to be strangely absent. In fact, black males in TV news were virtually lacking altogether.

What exactly was going on?

The Garbage Men

Away from the anchor desk and in private meetings held by predominately white male management who were seemingly less threatened by female black reporters, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the words “garbage men” being tossed around casually. Even jokingly. And these “garbage men” were in virtually every large city TV newsroom.

You can bet they weren’t talking about sanitation workers though. From Enough to Be Dangerous:

Who were they? The young to middle-aged black males who were talented reporters, but were there merely to fill a quota during changing times in the industry and the country. The whole scene disgusted me. I thought to myself, if someone is good enough to be here, then they should be able to be assigned to cover any story. Thats not how it worked though.

They would ponder which stories they felt black reporters could handle.” It was insulting and degrading. As a white male young pup in the industry at that time, I could listen, watch, and then try to impact change when I had the opportunity.

And impact change, he did.

Mort the Mentor

Having grown up in Detroit and working in the music industry before settling into and breathing life back into dying stations, he couldn’t tolerate the racial inequity.

He was always willing to give any black male reporter who showed talent and promise the chance he deserved. Then he went above and beyond the call of duty to mentor these talented and hopeful reporters.

Not surprisingly, under Mort’s tutelage, many of them went on to hold anchor positions at highly esteemed stations throughout the nation.

The Need for a More Just World

Though he’s proud of his accomplishments, Mort saw fighting racial injustice in the news industry as an absolute necessity.

And he relays those stories in Enough to Be Dangerous with passion, hope, and some sadness, noting how far we’ve come since that time… as well as how far we haven’t.

Enough to Be Dangerous will be released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook in October of 2020 from Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.

In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on how you can pre-order your autographed copy. We promise you’ll be inspired by Mort’s tireless advocating for justice and equality.

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