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Why Are Black Women Still Fighting For Support in Broadcast Journalism?

Why Are Black Women Still Fighting For Support in Broadcast Journalism?

To be the next great Robin Roberts, Symone Sanders-Townsend, or Taylor Rooks it seems like there are some staple hurdles you have to jump over… especially being a Black woman. Starting off with actually making it into the media field, “Nationally, Hispanic, black and Asian women make up less than 5 percent of newsroom personnel at traditional print and online news publications, according to 2016 data from the American Society of News Editors.”

Courtney Wallen by Spectrum News

Multimedia journalist at Spectrum News Courtney Wallen, says “The first day I logged in as an intern three years ago…there was one Black female reporter, there was one Black male producer. We had a sports reporter who was Black…and other than that…everybody else was white in a room of 35 people.” Getting into the workforce is just a minuscule part of the battle for Black women. Let’s just say “Congrats you’ve made it into the door!” Now, you face an entire workplace of culturally ignorant microaggressions and blatant discrimination. So how do you, as a White counterpart, avoid adding on to this heavier-than-necessary burden? 



Microaggressions or implicit bias are other huge detours for Black women. Something as simple as not confusing one Black girl for another, as if we don’t come in a million varying shapes, sizes, and shades is a great place to start. Those comments come in the funniest phrases, “but not funny haha, funny weird.” Associate Writing Producer at MSNBC Elaijah Gibbs-Jones gives her rendition of the comment Black women never want to hear: “My hair has been called fun {at a different job}.” Then to make matters worse, there’s a lack of affirmation and representation of our culture, our bodies, and our hair. 

Gabriella Bulgeralli

“Somehow all the work to be that representation falls on our shoulders.” Senior producer of the NPR podcast Louder than A Riot, Gabriella Bulgarelli, talks about the feeling of being the only one. “You know, if women (in general) or Black woman, in particular, came up in reporting, I was often asked to speak for them or make editorial judgments, assessing, you know, from that perspective of shared identity, even if I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable.… But it felt very strange to be one of the only Black women in the space able to critique the reporting on that perspective…but there weren’t other Black women around….but it is also taxing to have that weight consistently fall on your shoulders.”

As if working twice as hard to be seen as half as good weren’t enough, you, my lovely Black girl, may also be influenced to tell certain stories solely because you are a Black woman. Speaking to Chicago-born News Anchor Kennedy Cook, she shares her experience bearing that weight. “Well, for Black History Month, they put the only two black women reporters on the little Black history month segment. And at first, it was like, Okay, this is exciting. But then, not only do we have to do a segment, we still have to turn stories, and then they just started sending all of the Black reporters, the Black stories, and I love me as a black story. I love talking to my people…but it’s just gotten to a point where it’s like, only the Black reporters can report on the black issues like I just don’t know…”   

So, just to prepare all my future #Blackgirlsinmedia you may not see a ton of people who look like you… but that’s nothing new to most in the workplace. In 2022, there is still a fair share of “firsts” when it comes to Black women taking over. So no… a few Black women making it in is just not enough. What did Jay Z say “We measure success by how many people are successful next to you”


Facing Judgement

In the workplace, Black women often experience a lack of internal representation created by a landscape of implicit bias and microaggressions that make it difficult to feel affirmed in the workplace. All because they fall into an overlapping category of discrimination… based on race and sex. Radio host and Sports Commentator Kelsey Nicole Nelson speak on being judged before she even gets a chance to speak.  “..You’re judged a lot, especially as a Black woman. I am a southern Black woman… my family comes from the Deep South, and I eat good food. So you know, you’re more shapely, too, as well, you know, you have the kind of sexualization as well as a Black woman. So it’s like, you know, even being more conscious of what you wear, how it fits you, like, there’s so many different things kind of running through your head…” 

Kesley Nicole Nelson

Much like Kelsey Nicole Nelson, Courtney Wallen made it into the industry. Still, she faces unnecessary judgment simply because of the body she bares and the hair she wears. “The first day I walked in, I heard you know, ‘You have to straighten your hair,’ …And the hair has always been a topic that I’ve wrestled with it just because I’m like my own journey with accepting my curls and loving how I am. …. And that was a really big stressor for me when it came to looking for jobs because I was applying for jobs in Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and North Dakota, and I was like, how are these people gonna take me?” It begins as little Black girls when we’re taught to wear our hair a certain way to be professional. We’re taught to cover the curves so as not to be promiscuous. ” 


Angry Black Woman 

How much of my Blackness will be accepted if I move to a predominantly white area? This is a question that the women I spoke with ponder as certain aspects of their personalities are plagued by stereotypes. Stereotypes like being labeled the ”Mad, Black Woman.”

Gabriella spoke about her struggles with this trope. “When a Black woman brings forth her opinion or wants to stand up for her work, or wants to be a leader for her team. Oftentimes, she is put in this position of, oh, ‘You’re doing too much,’ or ‘You’re too angry.’ ‘Why are you upset?’ And so I constantly struggle with trying to lead my team and defend my work. And feeling like people must think I’m angry. Feeling like I always have to apologize for my opinion…” 

See Also

Kennedy Cook by CBS Denver

Kennedy Cook shares a similar sentiment when it comes to voicing her opinion. “Even in my position, now, I feel like sometimes when I like to say something with like, assertion, my co-workers will give me like, ‘Whoa! It’s not that deep.’ I’m like, Well, I didn’t say it was that deep/ You said that. But I’m just saying, that’s how I feel about the situation.” Assertion is just one notch on a long list of obstacles Black women in the media field deal with. 



This isn’t to say things are all bad. Affirmation and encouragement to be your authentic self can be a game changer for a young, Black journalist. Courtney Wallen has experienced it. “So when I did find my newsroom, and I was brought on full time, I was relieved that I was working for a news director, who really did not care how I wore my hair….And then the first time I really wore my curls out like a wash n’ go, my boss was like, oh my god, like what are you doing? Hiding your beautiful hair? Like, be who you are. If you’re comfortable wearing your hair out…Wear your hair out!

Kelsey Nicole Nelson has seen it too, with an increase in women in sportscasting…”But you know, you look at a sport like the WNBA. Obviously, they have mostly women commentators, which is amazing. I think they have been pretty diverse as well in terms of the talent that they’ve been bringing in.”

Kennedy Cook looks forward to more news organizations investing more in Black people – and in Black women in particular. “I really think that Black women have TV and network news around our fingers. I think we really are the future of media and news,” she says. Black women have fought long and hard for a seat at any table and journalism is no different. Even after fighting through hundreds of years of blatant oppression, implicit bias is still a relevant issue that these women face. Newsrooms are still lacking in diversity, but change is often gradual. Where there were previously none, there are now some which is a start. 

But even with the increase, the progress is with all deliberate speed and is not where it needs to be. Is this a race where the finish line just keeps moving further back? There’s clearly an issue here, a lack of representation, a lack of affirmation where there is representation, and way too much discrimination for it to be 2022. But the women going through it know this already … so who’s going to fix it? Where do they start? Is it hiring more Black women? Or is it fixing the workplace culture so they actually have a safe place to be hired?

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