Allegations of Sexism and Racism At CBS

One of the most interesting aspects of Mort Meisner’s new memoir Enough to Be Dangerous is looking back at how sexism and racism thrived in the news industry in the 1980s.

It’s also one of the saddest.

First, because treating women and people of color as second class citizens was acceptable behavior. This always bothered Mort and he would not tolerate it in his newsroom.

But second, the latest news of allegations of sexism and racism at CBS shows that things hadn’t changed everywhere as much as we’d hoped they had. However, the quick response to it has.

The Dawn of a New Day?

For many of us, we felt a collective weight lifted from our shoulders in the last seven days. This past week instilled new hope and put at least a little of that proverbial skip back into our steps.

And in the midst of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements back in 2018, it looked like CBS was ready to start cleaning up its act when they invited employees to report “sexual harassment, retaliation or the unfair treatment of women.”

But looks can be deceiving.

A year earlier, Margaret Cronan had walked away from a prestigious and high-paying position she loved at a CBS station in Philadelphia because she could no longer stomach the rampant sexism and racism. Especially coming from the President Peter Dunn and a top lieutenant who went to great lengths to bully female managers and block efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.

She stepped up to the plate to offer what she’d experienced. And when others offered allegations of serious misconduct, she was relieved that they would finally be exposed.

But it took until January 24th, 2021, to see justice served.

Some Positive Changes at CBS

CBS can’t be accused of being completely in the dark ages.

Sure, Charlie Rose was fired three years ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct. CBS also gave other bigwigs the boot for abusive behavior. Furthermore, they now offer programs that prominently feature Black characters and have brought Black men and women into the folds as managers, news directors, and even executives.

Yet, despite the allegations, Dunn continued to run a chain of 28 CBS-owned TV stations that employ 2,800 workers. He ran a tight ship; with final say over which local anchors and reporters appeared on CBS. And you can bet that women and people of color were the vast minority.

One station of particular interest in these allegations has been KYW in Philadelphia. The station made a major move when they brought on Ukee Washington as lead evening anchor. He’d been with KYW for over 30 years and was Black. And his expertise and professionalism are what inspired Cronan to return to TV news.

Yet in a 2016 meeting, when Dunn asked about Washington’s transition to lead anchor, he said, “He’s not doing that ‘jive talking’ anymore? Sometimes, he’s just not speaking my language.”

Cronan was shocked.

As they set out to retool their morning lineup, Cronan remembers Dunn asking of a potential host if he was “too gay for Philadelphia.”

How could this possibly be happening in 2016? Why were these two men permitted to keep their job?

Allegations of Sexism and Racism At CBS Put Nail in the Coffin

Finally, after a revealing article from the Los Angeles Times exposed both Dunn and senior vice president David Friend and the long line of allegations against them, they were required to take administrative leave.

It was much too long a time coming though.

During her time as news director, Cronan witnessed racism and experience verbal assaults – even being called a fucking idiot.

Cronan finally left her job as news director at KYW in 2017. “I no longer could tolerate a culture in which I was expected to defend corporate decisions that I found offensive,” Cronan told The Times.

And she wasn’t the only one.

Unfortunately for them, KYW has lost several prominent Black journalists. In 2015, Steve Patterson hit the bricks and headed over to the more receptive NBC News. In 2016, the stations’ only Black male reporter Justin Finch, also left to head over to NBC.

And Rahel Solomon is now at CNBC after leaving as KYW’s morning co-anchor. Dunn wouldn’t extend her contract. During a two-hour-plus phone call to discuss the matter, one of the objections he raised was that, “I hate her face.”

It’s vile, disgusting, appalling, and so incredibly shameful that this was allowed to happen for as long as it did. And despite the fact that these two key figures were finally relieved of their duties, Mort Meisner was heartbroken by it all.

Still, he can’t help but to feel that his continued fight against sexism and racism is making a difference. So he’ll continue to fight the good fight into 2021… and beyond.

Insisting on Higher Standards

That these allegations of sexism and racism at these specific stations is definitely disappointing. But we HAVE made progress since Mort’s days in the 1980s newsrooms.

To get a glimpse the ways Mort fought sexism and racism and refused to accept them as “business as usual,” grab a copy of Enough to Be Dangerous.

It’s an inspirational read during a time when things are finally looking up.

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Enough to Be Dangerous – Mort Continues to Address Racism in Broadcasting

In his new memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort Meisner chronicles the blatant racism that permeated the television broadcasting industry.

As we discussed in previous blog posts, racist behavior during those years was widely accepted as business as usual. Mort never saw it that way. He was troubled by such gross improprieties and fought tirelessly to be an agent of change – going up against racism in broadcasting.

These days, he continues to rally for that cause as an agent who represents stellar talent – regardless of their race.

Good News in the Sports Radio Sector

Given that the sports industry celebrates many talented black athletes, it makes sense that sports radio would include a robust roster of black broadcasters. That hasn’t been the case in Detroit though.

So when producer and on-air contributor Mike Sullivan at 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT-FM) announced he would be leaving the station, it was the perfect opportunity to bring on Rico Beard. Represented by Mort, Rico is an immensely talented and highly experienced broadcaster and the epitome of professionalism. And it just so happens that he’s also black.

Because of his vast experience, it was obvious to Entercom, a leading media and entertainment company and the top leader in sports radio, that Rico Beard would be the perfect fit. He was clearly the most qualified candidate and the station would benefit from his experience.

Thus, Entercom has announced that Rico will join Mike Valenti on 97.1 for the number-one sports radio afternoon drive talk show in the country.  “The Mike Valenti Show with Rico” will air weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., beginning August 3, and he is certain to add some new flavor with his highly opinionated views.

Mike is thrilled to have him on board. “I’ve wanted to work with Rico for several years now and it is simply fantastic the occasion has arrived,” he says. “Adding Rico to our show represents a massive opportunity to not only stay at number one, but to evolve and become even stronger.”

Who Is Rico Beard?

Rico is a native Detroiter with more than two decades of experience covering local professional and collegiate sports. He was co-host of “The Ryan and Rico Show” for Detroit Sports 105.1, and held on-air roles for local television stations, including FOX affiliates WXYM-TV in Lansing and WJBK-TV in Detroit, where Mort worked with him.

Rico has covered an impressive array of events, including nine Final Fours, three Stanley Cups, two NBA Finals, five college football bowl games, and two World Series.

In addition, he is a Michigan State University alumnus, Heisman Trophy voter, and has also served as a college professor and instructor.

“I am extremely blessed and honored in becoming a host on ‘The Mike Valenti Show’ on 97.1 The Ticket,” said Beard. “I was flattered when Mike Valenti himself asked me to join his show. My job will be to bring in a new voice and opinions to a show that is already one of the best shows, not only in Detroit, but in the sports talk radio industry throughout the U.S.”

Chipping Away at Racism in Broadcasting

It’s a step in the right direction to see that the industry has made some headway when addressing racism in broadcasting. At one time, a highly qualified black man like Rico Beard wouldn’t have even been considered.

It’s clear, though, that the industry still has a ways to go.

Fortunately, people like Mort are making a difference. Both now, and as evidenced by the many stories in his memoir, Enough to Be Dangerous – which will be released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on October 1, 2020 from Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.

Click here to pre-order your autographed copy today. And be sure to subscribe to our blog to get more stories and stay up do date with the latest information regarding the launch party and other exciting events.

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