Insight News

Feb 07th

Faulkner’s newsroom breakthrough

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KSTP-TV need not break an arm patting itself on the back for having recently promoted Harris Faulkner to the position of 6 and 10 pm Channel 5 Eyewitness News co-anchor.
KSTP-TV need not break an arm patting itself on the back for having recently promoted Harris Faulkner to the position of 6 and 10 pm Channel 5 Eyewitness News co-anchor.

Sure, it gives the appearance of KSTP/KSTC Vice President and General Manager Ed Piette being readily willing to make the historic move of installing the first African American in this position at a Twin Cities network affiliate. Especially with Piette avowing, “Harris’ credentials speak for themselves. She’s a hard working, award-winning journalist who has more than earned this opportunity.” Nonetheless, circumstance identifiably forced Piette’s hand, prompting him to do, after the fact, what he should’ve done the minute Faulkner predecessor Julie Nelson jumped ship for the top slot at KARE.

Faulkner should have immediately been awarded the job back in the summer when Nelson left. Not because Faulkner is Black, but because she’s a superior journalist. She’d already won the 2001 “Best Anchor” regional Emmy Award as a leading member of the Eyewitness News team. Before that, industry publication Pitchweekly named her “Best Television Female Anchor” for five straight years (as the main anchor at WDAF in Kansas City). But Piette dragged his heels. When she was in contention, I interviewed him for this month’s Mpls/St. Paul magazine. He hemmed and hawed, “Harris...knows you don’t win every time out. It’s not a decision that’s going to be easily arrived at. We know what we have in terms of [her] journalistic capabilities and on-air qualities. But, it always comes down to a matter of whether the market place is gonna accept her. Or anybody else.” There was a whole lot of explanation about how such business is conducted: focus groups, objective criteria, so on and so forth. Then, she won a second Emmy. Add to the equation that her contract is up for renewal in March. If Piette didn’t want to look like a horse’s asterisk, by snubbing his top performer and then quite forseeably losing her to a station willing to give her what she deserved, he finally would have to do what he should’ve done at the start.

The station has a glaring history of refusing to recognize and reward minority anchors. Carolyn Brookter, now Target Corporation’s public relations director, languished for years, underutilized as a substitute anchor and field reporter. Similarly shortchanged, Lauren Green stayed in the news business, leaving KSTP’s sidelines to land as a nightly anchor at Chicago’s CBS affiliate, before going on to FOX-TV Sports (NYC). KSTP news director Scott Libin (who arrived after Brookter and Green had gone) bristled at my assertion that the loss of Brookter and Green was due to apparent bias on the part of former general manager Harold Crump. Libin harshly retorted, “Just because [Crump] speaks with a southern accent doesn’t mean he’s racist!” This without my having said a word to Libin about Crump’s accent or, in fact, anything else accept Crump’s perceptible discriminatory employment practices. Libin’s taking vehement, knee-jerk umbrage indicates an inability to forthrightly acknowledge that which is as clear as the color of one’s skin. It falls in line with Twin Cities-style passive aggression by which evident racism often is shielded by turning the tables to construe that straightforward assertion is reckless persecution. In this day and age of Faulkner’s ascension, KSTP yet flinches in the light of frank confrontation regarding the role race historically has played in the station’s decision making.

Piette avoided repeating history and in all fairness, is something of a credit to his position, having authorized Libin’s original recruitment of both Faulkner and morning anchor Angela Davis. Still, if I seem to damn Piette and Libin with feint praise, said appearance does not deceive. The obvious dictates that KSTP’s improved era of diversity (which includes Ea

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