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Ch.4′s Fills a Need; Hardwick “Daily Show” Bit Flops

During the makeover — or dismantling — of Channel 4 News in the last two years, the CBS affiliate lost three minority anchors and reporters.

That isn’t a good thing because — as I’ve written for almost three decades — on-air diversity has never been a strong suit of Western New York stations.

I don’t know if it was a priority of Channel 4 executives to hire a minority, but it should have been. And it is encouraging that Channel 4’s newest reporter, Brittni Smallwood, is a minority. The Channel 4 release announcing her hiring understandably didn’t mention race but it also included a photograph of the 2008 college graduate who received a master’s degree from Syracuse University in 2009 and most recently worked at a Elmira television station. She starts at the station in May.

Brittni Smallwood

Until now, the reporters and anchors hired by Channel 4 that I used to refer to as the Kiddie Corps– have been exclusively been young and white – Nalina Shapiro, Anthony Congi, Bryan Shaw and Rachel Kingston.

This isn’t ideal since the station lost Mylous Hairston, Jericka Duncan and Tricia Cruz – all minorities — in the last two years.

Station executives often say it isn’t easy getting minoritiy reporters and anchors to come to Buffalo and it can be even harder some times to keep them if they don’t have Western New York ties because of the lure of bigger markets. Duncan’s move to Philadelphia and former Channel 2 meteorologist Chesley McNeil’s move to Atlanta validate that point.

Any WNYer who goes out of town usually will find much more diversity on the air than he or she sees at home.

The only minority on Channel 7 is Kendra Eaglin, who – like Hairston before her – is a weekend anchor.

The only minorities left on Channel 4′s on-air staff before Smallwood’s hiring were Al Vaughters and Victoria Hong.

Channel 2’s minorities include Claudine Ewing, Patrick Moussignac and Heather Ly.

That’s pretty much it for diversity on WNY television.

The verdict in the O.J. Simpson case, the coverage of the City Grill shooting and the recent controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin case in Florida illustrate why it is important that newsrooms have significant minority representation — on the air and behind the scenes — so their different backgrounds and experiences are heard. Those three cases are among those that have taught us repeatedly that whites and minorities often see news events and news coverage differently and that it is a good idea to try and have a news staff that reflects the makeup of the community.

The hiring of Smallwood is a positive first step at Channel 4 in restoring the diversity it once had before the makeover began.

I’m a semi-regular viewer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and was eagerly awaiting the appearance of Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick on the show in a filmed bit Tuesday that fantasized what it would be like if the New York State Republican presidential primary mattered.

The piece by “Daily Show” regular Jason Jones was about as disappointing as all the Republican candidates for president. Hardwick wasn’t even identified as a Western New Yorker or a politician.

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Worst of all, the feature wasn’t all that funny. The highlight – if there was one – came when CNN’s Soledad O’Brien primarily asked Hardwick questions in a panel discussion about which candidate’s views on social issues most appealed to the group.

It was nice to see a local politician fulfill his dream by being part of the critically-acclaimed show, but the idea for the bit was far better than the execution. If you missed the program, it is repeated today on Comedy Central at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.  Or just watch the Hardwick bit  embedded here.   

pergament@msn.com

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1 response to "Ch.4′s Fills a Need; Hardwick “Daily Show” Bit Flops"

  1. Val James says:

    I have to ask do you have the qualifications to run a tv station or have you? If given the opportunity would you take the position and what do you think the results would be?

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