Politics

A Conversation About Being Black in the Newsroom

Pulitzer-winning reporter Wesley Lowery breaks down the myth of objectivity.

America is at a breaking point. How can journalists properly cover it? Citizens have flooded the streets in cities large, and small, in protest of racism, police violence and other forms of systemic oppression. But media institutions have been shaped by, and contributed to, those same systems.

The same rage that drives Black folks into the streets is carried around by Black journalists, who have lived through decades of retrograde newsroom policy and are beginning to hold the media’s gatekeepers to account for it.

That frustration was the crux of a sweeping discussion between Wesley Lowery, a journalist at CBS News, and me. This edition of Conversations, a limited live series for Slate, felt slightly more personal than others. For a young Black journalist who has been told to be wary of “pigeonholing” myself while writing about racism, having this conversation with Lowery felt cathartic in a way. Above you can watch our chat—produced by Britt Pullie and Faith Smith—and below is a transcript of the discussion.

Hey, y’all. I’m Julia Craven, and today I’m chatting with Wesley Lowery, a correspondent with CBS News and 60 in 6. I’m so happy that you could be here, and we’re going to talk about objectivity and how sometimes, that just means a little something different when white editors start talking to Black journalists about it. Thanks for being here.

Of course. Happy to be here, Julia.

Great. Last week you wrote a piece for the New York Times where you discuss this in depth. What prompted you to write that story?

Sure. I think we’re in a moment. People keep using this word, reckoning, and it is played out. We’ve heard it a million times, but we’re certainly in a moment in the weeks since George Floyd’s death, where a lot of people have been speaking out about their own experiences, particularly in the workplace. A lot of Black people have been speaking out about their experiences in the workplace and within newsrooms, specifically. One thing that comes up very often is this question of, “Why mainstream newsrooms cannot retain Black journalists,” right? It’s been 50, 60 years, since newsrooms initially began integrating and they only did that, by the way, because of a round of riots and they didn’t have anyone who could go into the cities to cover them.

And so, a few of us got jobs and now a few generations in, what we see is newsrooms that are still having real issues elevating Black journalists into newsrooms as management and retaining the Black journalists they have. And one of the reasons is because of the way this conversation about objectivity exists.

Now to be clear, the ideal of objectivity is really good, right? The idea is that on any given story, you try your hardest to be fair and get all the information, right? I think we all agree with that. We all want that. But what we know that’s not actually how objectivity is applied in too many cases.

And so, what we end up seeing is newsrooms that take the lived experiences of Black journalists and the perspectives of Black journalists, and because they are different than the majority and the white majority of the newsroom, they say, “Oh, well, that’s outside. It’s beyond the pale. That’s activist. That’s advocacy.” And so suddenly, the lived experiences are being devalued…and the journalists themselves are getting gaslit. We see this increasingly also with what I think of as the appearance of objectivity. It’s not even about, “Is your work fair?” It’s, “Did you ever do or say anything that someone could say, says you are biased? Right?

Right.

And so, did you accidentally walk past a Black Lives Matter march? And so, now theoretically, someone could say, “You’re one of the activists, not a journalist,” right? It’s not about, “Was the journalist there?” It’s not about, “Did you interview everyone and did you get the story?” It’s about theoretically, could someone say you’re not fair? And I think that way too much of our conversation ends up being about that, about tweets, about dumb stuff like that, and not enough about journalism, journalism.

Right. And so many Black journalists have gotten those, “Your tweet,” emails, where it’s just like, “Oh, you tweeted this thing. You said something factual, like Black people shouldn’t be gunned down by the police,” and it becomes an entire conversation between you and a manager. And so, why do you think that white editors and white managers, why do you think that they feel as though Black people, Black journalists rather, can’t be objective when it comes to our lived experiences?

Well, look, I think some of this is that, and then we know this, there’s polling and studies that suggest that Black Americans have many more white friends than white Americans do Black friends, right? It’s like, “We are all 15 white people with Black friends and we all know 15 white people.” And so, it’s a difference there. And so, because of that, what we know in human nature, is that we all, at times, have a skepticism of things that we don’t understand, that we’re not close to and there could be a discomfort at times being challenged by people, cultures, backgrounds that we don’t get. We all have that. That’s not a Black-white thing. Every human is most comfortable with things that are most like them and then it takes time to learn and adjust, right?

And so, sometimes, I mean, in my own experiences, I might voice something as a reporter that is a very mainstream Black belief and white people are like, “What? What are you talking about? That’s crazy.” And you’re like, “Okay,” because again, we forget that we live in different worlds. We live still in a very segregated world. We live in a world where skin color does determine a lot of, or plays a role in outcomes for a lot of Americans in a lot of different ways. And so, because of that, if you have newsrooms that are constructed around primarily one type of person, they are going to recoil, or they have the potential to recoil, from things that challenged their normative view. And what we know is, the normative view in most American newsrooms is white, middle class, upper class.

What are some of these Black truths that you’ve voiced before, where the white people around you are just like, “Oh my God. What?” I just need an example.

Well, think about it. I mean, look, we launched an entire project to count how many Black people the police were killing because all the Black people in the streets were saying, “Police are killing too many Black people.” And the white people are like, “Are they? Let’s count them.”

And what you end up seeing is, all of these efforts, right? You have to quantify all of these things about the lived Black experience and you have to actually literally track it to the person because the normative view is not to believe what the Black people in the streets are saying, right? And so, things like that or for example, a Black American might accept as fact, they might declare as fact, that the Tea Party is racist or that was just a bunch of racists. They just hated Obama.

My grandmother would probably just say that. Right? In a white newsroom, that’s like, “How could you ever accuse all of these people?” Now it doesn’t even matter how many studies come out that show that racial animus was one of the primary driving factors.

We saw this play out in public around Trump’s election where most Black reporters and commentators said, “It’s clear that racial animus was a driving factor,” and we had most of mainstream journalism bending over backwards to explain that it was really economics because it couldn’t be race. The Black people couldn’t be right. And then again, as tends to be the case, then all the studies come out that show that in fact, it was racial animus and the Black people were right the whole time.

And so, you start to see those things but you see it in smaller ways, right? In that piece I wrote for the Times, I wrote about how objective journalism and all journalism is built on a pyramid of subjective decisions. Is this a story worth covering? Is this a story we put one reporter on or three reporters on? Do we write it in a day or a month or a year? That’s how you see stories like Flint, Michigan being largely missed at the beginning and still to this day, I’m pretty sure they don’t have clean water and I don’t know that there’s a national reporter in Flint right now. And so, those are all subjective decisions that are made. What is important? What is the most important? Well, look, if you live in Flint, Michigan, and your mother or grandmother or cousins lived there and they don’t have water, that’s probably going to be the most important story to you. If you’ve never been to Flint, Michigan, you don’t know anyone who lives there, it might not be.

I’m glad you put that in your piece, that in newsrooms, we make all of these subjective decisions, because I think that one thing, people who aren’t journalists aren’t aware of is just how much decision making, how much thinking goes on behind the scenes and how that shapes coverage, and that’s part of the reason why you have to have the right people in the right places.

Certainly. The newsroom’s got so many decisions and there are big decisions and there are small decisions, right? As we know, where you put the comma really matters. What piece of context do you pull in, what you don’t? All of those things matter and what we know—and this is not to say that there are not good white editors, good white reporters. It’s not to say anyone can’t do this. But what we know is that if your newsroom is almost completely one set of people, they are going to, in aggregate, share the same blind spots and therefore, make the same mistakes or be inclined to make the same decisions.

One of the places we’ve seen this pop up over and over and over again, in the Trump era, has been around what we’re allowed to call racist and what we’re not right, right? And what I would suggest is that a room full of Black people might make one decision about what is racist while a room full of white people make a different one. And I might suggest that the white people might set a higher barrier for what that is than the Black people might have.

And so, what we’re saying here is, we know it’s a subjective decision, right? Different organizations might make a different decision about what terminology to use. Different journalists might make different decisions. But we know in aggregate, the entire industry is largely allowing white people and white men—but white people, I don’t know that the gender distinction in this case matters—white people to make these decisions on what is and is not racist. And so suddenly, we start seeing all types of weird contortions and euphemisms.

And so again, an example being, the President of the United States attacks Baltimore and says it’s rat infested. What humans would ever want to live here? Black Americans are like, “Oh, yeah. It’s racist. He’s saying we’re not human for living here and he’s vilifying the place where we live.” And meanwhile, earnest, white journalists are like, “Well, we should fact check this. … And it’s like, “Guys, that’s not what he was saying.”

Right. Right. He was being very blatantly racist when he said that.

And it’s an objective distinction, but again, who is getting to make that subjective choice? And in too many of our newsrooms, it’s a bunch of white people, without a single Black voice at the table, much less a majority of Black voices at the table.

And like you said, a lot of white people treat racist as the worst possible thing that you could ever say to a white person and it’s just like, “Or maybe I’m just pointing out that you said or did something that was incredibly racist.” I don’t know. That doesn’t compute in my mind, but I’m also Black. I don’t know. That doesn’t work in my head.

Part of it’s… Because, look, a lot of it’s a defensiveness. And to be clear, we all have defensiveness about all types of things.

Of course.

But I do think that there is this big debate, and I think, again, I think this is a place where people of different races are largely grouped on different sides of this debate, where I think most Americans of color, not just Black Americans, but Americans who might be on the receiving end of racism, comprehend that someone can do a racism without being a Klan member. They understand that racism is something that happens, right? It’s a thing that manifests. It shows up in an interaction. It shows up in the way someone is treated.

While I think a lot of white Americans believe it’s a yes/no checkbox. You are either a racist, all bad, or you are not. And so, I think a few of those things are starting to smash together where, “No, we can’t say that this thing this person said is racist because then we are saying they are racist and how do we know what’s in their heart? And how do we…?” And meanwhile, Black people are like, “But that the thing they said was racist though. What do you mean?”

I think that there’s a real—again, there’s a push and pull there. And what I would suggest is if the rooms full of decision makers looked more like the country, if they were more Black and more immigrant and more Muslim and more… That we would have a different, subjective standard for what we are allowed to call racism and what we would not. But instead, it’s a lot of rich, white people making the decisions and the thing they are scared of most is someone calling them a racist.

Which, this actually reminds me, I can’t find it right now, but it reminds me of this tweet from Jaboukie where he was just like, “White people will say, ‘Oh, my dad, he’s not that bad. He’s not harming anybody.’ And meanwhile, he’s a whole district attorney.” And I feel that’s what happens. There are very real implications to racism and saying racist things and while you might not be a Klan member, you are still a person who interacts with other humans on a daily basis. And if you’re also in a position of power, like say you’re a news editor, you’re a district attorney, you’re a cop, you’re a teacher, we have to check what you’re saying. And even though you might not have on a Klan hood, you still got to get checked for that because you hold some position of power. 

Just to go back to objectivity specifically, and the facade of it, how does that hurt the coverage of Black communities?

Well, a few things, right? The first is that if the objective decisions on news coverage are not being made by people who have skin in the game in Black communities, they are not going to give them adequate coverage. We see this time and time and time and time again, where Black communities all over the country don’t receive consistent coverage. They don’t receive humanizing coverage. All the coverage is about crime and nothing else. We don’t show up in any other time, right? Very often that coverage is not done by people who actually understand. Much of being a journalist is to be a translator, to take something that happens in the individual interaction and translate it to everyone. Well, but if you don’t understand what the people are saying in the first place, how are you going to translate it, right? There were plenty of you—if you think about any number of cultural interactions, that if you don’t actually understand what’s happening, how are you going to actually explain what’s going on later.

If you draw a random person to a Juneteenth barbecue, and you give them no background, they’re going to be confused as to what’s going on. And that’s true of any culture in any place, right? And so, I think that all matters a lot. I think beyond that, we don’t have… What we know is that in most of the country, Black communities are at the whims of powerful, white institutions, whether that be local and state governments or federal governments or federal programs or local power brokers. It does matter, if in aggregate, all of the people showing up to do that coverage, even if it’s in the deepest, darkest part of their heart, empathize with the white person in the story, not the Black person. And that matters. And so, I think that, again, it’s important for us knowing that these processes are subjective and again, that’s not to say that everyone’s not trying, everyone’s not working on this, but knowing these processes are subjective, it’s important to make sure we are building in people who are going to challenge.

I think Obama used to talk about how he wanted his cabinet to be a team of equals who all fought with each other, right? It’s that idea. When we’re talking about how to cover the Muslim ban, there should be a Muslim woman at the table yelling at us, and then meanwhile, a Black woman’s like, “Well, but is it this?” And then a white guy’s like, “Well…” And that’s what it should be. And unfortunately, most of our decision-making spaces in journalism are seven white guys, six white women and a Black guy having to make it a decision. And they’re like, “Bro, what do you think about this?” And he’s like, “Here we go.” And I think that we’ve got to think of that too, the positions we put the handful of Black people in newsrooms in, constantly.

Another thing that I really enjoyed… Well, I loved your entire piece but another thing that really stood out to me was you denoted the difference between objectivity and telling the truth. I feel like I myself, am always saying like, “It’s not about this facade of objectivity. It’s not about me not having an opinion as a human being. It’s about me doing my job with integrity and making sure that I’m honest.” I just would love for you to talk more to the audience about that because I think that’s such an important point to make.

Again, I think it’s really important to try to be fair. And I think if people look at my work, I’m not a take artist, right? I spent a lot of time trying to work and report and be fair to everyone involved in the story and to ask challenging questions, even the people who I think I might agree with. And also, it’s important to not allow the desire to feel or be balanced, to let people say untrue things in our stories.

We know that climate change is real. Now, there might be a debate over what the next best step is to combat it. That’s a debate. There will be a debate, but there’s not a debate that climate change is real, right? And so, we don’t necessarily need to bring someone in to argue that side of it.

In the space I’m in, it’s very clear that there are systemic inequities in law enforcement. It’s clear that Black people are pulled over more. They’re shot and killed more. There’s no debate about that, but balance would suggest that I let all types of people make all types of claims. That’s not really true. Well, no. There’s no objective reading of the statistics and the facts that don’t show there are systemic issues in law enforcement.

Now again, how do we combat that? That’s a thing that’s up for debate, right? How bad is it? That’s a thing that might be up for debate. How urgent the problem is it? That might be up for debate. But to allow someone to suggest that these issues do not exist would not… Again, balance might suggest I do that. The truth would not suggest that.

Right, and it’s also irresponsible. I feel like we just get into irresponsible territory when we do that. When we allow Tom Cotton to get in the New York Times and say, “Oh my God, the military needs to come in and shut down protests.” And then he’s spewing all of these inaccuracies in this piece, and it’s just like, “That’s not hearing the other side. You’re veering into what some people may perceive as being, even propaganda.” Yeah.

Definitely.

That didn’t end in a question.

Yeah, there was no question. Julia, I know you got some questions coming in. I’m going to quickly grab my computer charger so I don’t drop out on y’all. And so, while you-

Go for it because I would be very upset if you did. Go for it. And I am going to find a question to ask him whenever he gets back … One other thing I was wondering about. There is often this depiction of journalists as very stoic, emotionless, opinionless beings who just operate as these arbiters of truth. And I was just wondering if that’s ever been something that has been projected onto you because I feel like it’s been projected onto me more than I care to even think about, truly.

Well, I do think that there is this strange desire sometimes to project journalist as personality. I don’t have a life. I don’t have a personality. I’m a journalist. And I actually think our lives, our backgrounds, our interests, are the things that make us interesting and make us good journalists in the first place. And again, I think that’s a really privileged position to be in, right? You don’t get to have objective remove about the Muslim ban if you’re a Muslim, or about police killing Black people if you are a Black person, or about the immigration policy, if your family are immigrants.

White people get to go, “I could never have an opinion on any of those things.” Right. And everyone else is like, “Yo, this is our lives.” And so, I think that … Like I said, I’m not someone who fetishes that type of remove. Again, I think that our identities make us better journalists and I think that’s really important. I also think that one of the most dangerous things that can happen in journalism is to be a biased person and believe you are not. And I think so often, a lot of our colleagues are like, “I could never have any bias because I could never have any opinions.” And we’re like, “We know you. We watch you. We interact with you.”

We see how you shape your stories.

Correct. And again, I think that the most important thing for us to do as journalists is to recognize our biases so that we can challenge them so we can check ourselves, right? Have I been tough enough on the people who might be inclined to agree with? Have I been fair to the people who I think are the villains of this story or who I think were wrong? And I don’t think that’s necessarily something that we always see other folks doing. I think Black journalists have to do this all the time.

Right. And I think one thing that I’ve noticed is that sometimes it feels… Politics and social issues, when I see a lot of our peers talking about it, it seems like they view them as abstracts. And I remember a couple years ago, I got into it on Twitter, which this isn’t news, obviously, me getting into it with somebody on the internet, but I got into it with a fairly prominent, white journalist about something to do with healthcare or Medicaid or something.

And I don’t remember exactly what they said, but I remember being like, “Hey, you’re up here talking about this as if this is some wildly, abstract concept for you. But if my Nana loses her Medicaid and she has all of these chronic illnesses, she can’t afford healthcare. My grandmother could die. This is not a game for me and this is not a game for so many people. And it may be something cool for you to think about and talk about and banter with other people on Twitter about, but for so many of us, it has very real implications.” And that is one thing that I’ve seen different within the COVID-19 coverage is that it seems like a lot more people are realizing that the story can affect them.

Certainly. Although what I will say is that even in that coverage, it hasn’t necessarily meant that we sustain coverage in all the places that have been the hardest hit, because what we know with COVID-19 is that Black Americans and now Latino Americans as it moves to the Southwestern country, are the hardest hit and are disproportionately hit. And why are they so hard hit and why are they disproportionately hit? Because we know the data suggests, because of the health disparities that already existed before the pandemic was here, right? They already didn’t necessarily have access to primary care. They already had to make decisions. There’s been some studies that have suggested that Black COVID patients show up to the hospital at a later stage in their infection, partly because we are primed to not go to the hospital because they don’t have the money or the access to healthcare.

And so, I think that there is a lot of… And so again, I do think, and I saw in the COVID, it has exposed, and it has caused and prompted a level of consistent coverage that looks a little different than we might normally get on issues like this. And also, even within that, there’s still a lot of Black and brown communities around the country that if we wanted to cover this as a crisis, that’s where we would be right now. And I’m not saying no one’s there. I’m not saying none of that work’s being done. I’m saying, I think if we looked at it in the totality of all of the coverage, it would probably under-represent the extent to which the story of COVID is a story of Black and brown America.

This entire conversation leads into how… What you said earlier, how Black people are treated within our newsroom. And there was another New York Times piece about the Washington Post and how things were going there, apparently. And so, I just wanted to ask you, were you shocked by that piece? And for people watching, who by chance don’t know who Wesley is, Wes used to work at the Post.

Yeah. There was some wild stuff in that piece. Definitely some stuff I didn’t know. Some other stuff that I was aware of. That piece was about some tensions that appear to be happening in that newsroom and clearly, happening in newsrooms across the country, which is that again, as has been true forever, Black reporters and other journalists are underrepresented in these mainstream newsrooms, asked for things like fair pay, access to promotions, attention and validation to be heard when we raise our voices for ideas, and to be able to enter management. And largely, systemically, the answer from newsrooms is, “No.”

What’s different in this moment is that all these Black reporters and journalists have Twitter feeds and can say: “Hey, guess what just happened to me again?” And a lot of the white managers don’t like that. It threatens their power structure. And so, we see a lot of cases where, and again, I think that the crackdowns that come on Black journalists and Black reporters are often done in the name of objectivity, right? If you’re an activist, if you’re talking about media diversity or fair coverage of Black people, then you’re too biased to cover Black people, right? They use these two things to silence criticism of their own institution and I think that that is unfortunate.

That piece itself though, and it’s not, it was not necessarily surprising to me because what we know again, is that our newsrooms, while not formally segregated, almost all, if you’re a majority white newsroom, almost all have that Black network of Black people who all talk to each other all the time. And so, we know what so-and-so was going through. We know what happened over here with the person on the local desk. And so, unfortunately, a lot of the things that I read in that piece were not things I was hearing for the first time.

Yeah, which is really sad and that’s why so many institutions can’t retain Black talent because who wants to stay somewhere where they’re treated like that?

And beyond that, right? It’s about cultural shifts. I mean, the Post… I think it’s exciting. The Post announced following some of this initial report and they were going to hire a bunch of new positions in the Post, which I think are great. They’re all positions that I think should exist and should already have existed, probably. And also, if you run 10 Black people out, the solution is not to say, “Okay, we’re going to hire 20 Black people this time,” because if you don’t change the culture and the systems that ran the first 10 out, you’re just going to end up running out twice as many Black people this time.

And so, what I hope for the Post, because I love the Post and I have so many dear colleagues and friends there, and it’s my hometown newspaper. I’m a DC lifer. It’s always going to be my newspaper. But the thing I hope for the Post is that it really addresses some of the structural, cultural issues it has there that would lead to such an exodus of Black staff members, year after year after year after year, not just trying to shuffle in a new set of Black faces to replace the last set they ran off.

Right. And now we can get into some viewer questions. We have a Q from Maya and she’s asking, “Do you feel objectivity, as it is currently presented, is the perspective of white men?” Oh, that’s a good one.

That’s a good one. I think that too often, what is considered objective is determined by white men. Again, what I would say is, I would flatten the gender there. I think that it gets determined by white decision makers. I’ve worked for many, many more white women than I ever have Black men or Black women. And swapping the gender there would not necessarily solve the race issue. And so, that’s the reason I make that distinction, not that gender doesn’t matter in those conversations. It does, because again, newspapers make, and the media outlets, make decisions, every single day about what’s objectively true, what is something we can say plainly, and what is something that we have to cite and source?

And again, who are the decision makers in aggregate of those decisions? White journalists who are reporting to white journalists who are reporting to white journalists. And I think that that skews… Again, one, is it okay to call something racist? Get a room full of Black people together and a room full of immigrants and a room full of Muslims and a room full of white people, and you’re going to end up with five different lines. Which one of those groups makes that decision for the media? It’s always the room full of white people.

Right. Yeah, and I agree with that. And so, Bob wants to know, “Should there be more Black-owned media outlets in order to fix this issue?” I’m on the fence about that one.

Yeah. Look, I love and like to support Black media. I think it’s really important. It plays a really crucial function, especially… And when you look at the history of Black media, specifically Black newspapers, even prior to the current league, they popped up because mainstream media could not be trusted to pay attention to what’s happening in those communities, much less to provide true and accurate coverage of those communities. That said, it’s difficult, right? It’s very difficult to maintain such outlets. It can be difficult to find audience for them. It becomes a niche as opposed to something that… Or as opposed to, I’m thinking of the New York Times, which does everything.

And so, like I said, I think it’s really important to support Black-owned media outlets. I’m not sure that they alone can solve these issues, and secondarily mainstream media outlets will always exist and they will always have a big chunk of the media power. And so, as long as they have that power, it’s hyper important that there be pressure put on them to do this better.

I’m trying to figure out how to say this. My fear is that if the root is not addressed, the problems will persist regardless of whether or not there are more Black-owned media outlets, which is why I was saying earlier, I’m a bit on the fence about that one. I just don’t know if more Black outlets alone, as much as they are needed, will fix the root of the problem either. And so, Christie wants to know, “How can the average consumer or viewer contribute to the diversity of journalists?”

Look, I think a few things are true. I think the first is to make it clear when you interact with the leaders of newsrooms, that this is something that you’re judging them and gauging them on. Our editors get a lot of emails about typos in sentences. They don’t get a lot of emails about, “Hey, you just hired a new Africa Bureau Chief, and this looks like a white guy from the suburbs.”

Or, “Hey, I see you that your entire local government team here in this city that is 70 percent Black is all white people.” I think that leadership is responsive to the things they hear about. And in fact, in many things, leadership is very responsive to readers. I think that hearing from the readers is important. Beyond that, I think reading and supporting and promoting the work of the people who work in those spaces is also important because we know that Black and brown and all types of journalists of color, not just Black journalists, face real difficulties inside these newsrooms and very often feel like they’re going it alone. And so, supporting them and supporting their work is a small way to try to make sure they can keep doing that work.

And Alicia wants to know, “How concerned are you that the lack of diversity on non-race beats renders Black people invisible in healthcare, education, the military, et cetera? What’s the most important way to address that?”

No, look, I think that it’s really important and it’s been one of these questions that have come up in this conversation for generations, right? As a Black journalist, do you want to be the Black journalist who covers the race stuff or do you want to be known for other stuff? And there’s always a debate. I remember getting this question a lot when I started doing some of the work that I do. Are you worried about being pigeonholed? Are you worried about…?

And my answer has always been that… I don’t worry about it all. I want to be on my best story, the most important story, and in my space, some of the most important stories, I think some of those important stories in general, have major racial components. That said, we have to figure out a way in our newsrooms, and again, I think one way hopefully to do this is through Black managers and diversity at the top of our newsrooms, we have to figure out a way to make it clear and incumbent upon everyone that race is a major component of everyone’s beat in every job, right?

If you are covering snippets of America, much less the world, how do you do that without delving into race and ethnicity and culture? It touches everything that’s assembled. And I think that too often, that burden falls to Black people. I think then we get framed with this unfair question of, “Are you worried about doing this work?” And the question should be, “Why isn’t everyone else doing it?” And again, I don’t know how to fix that, short of people who are smart enough to know that race is everywhere, finally being in decision-making positions.

Right. And the pigeonholing is a really good point. I remember very early on in my own career where someone “advised” me, to just be careful of only doing race stories because I was going to pigeonhole myself. And my response to that was, “How am I going to pigeonhole myself when I cover everything? If I cover racism, I cover everything. How can I possibly not have range if I’m covering something that affects every beat?”

Exactly.

It’s one of those fun things that gets said to us all the time. But thank you so much for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about your new show. I’m not going to let you go without you telling us about that.

Sure. Yeah. I’m at CBS. I’m working on 60 in 6, which is an offshoot of 60 minutes on the mobile app, Quibi, which you’ve probably seen some jokes on the internet about it. Quibi is a dope, mobile app. 60 in 6 is basically 60 minutes, probably a little bit shorter. And so, doing the high end, really important, news documentary style journalism. Just last week, I caught a case from Baltimore about three young Black men who were railroaded by the system, convicted of a murder they didn’t commit, spent 36 years in prison, and I did the first long sit down with them.

My colleague, Lori Stegall, today just published a new piece on AI bots about these companion bots that people have, where they’re computer friends, more or less. It was fascinating. I don’t know anything about tech and I watched every minute of that, very fascinated. And so, you can check it out on the Quibi app. And then I’m obviously everywhere, everywhere else, but I’ll shut up because I know that you got a really cool guest for next week.

Yes. Next week we will be back and we will be talking with Errin Haines about Black women, the election, voting, and just… I’m just going to ask Errin about so much because I think she’s brilliant and I’m excited to speak with her next week. And you are also brilliant and thank you so much for your time today, Wes. I really do appreciate it.

Yeah, thank you for having me, Julia. I appreciate you.

All right. All right. Take care y’all and come back next week.