After Bradley and Syler, Where Are CBS News' Leading Black Journalists?
When we last saw each other, Early Show co-host Rene Syler and I talked about her upcoming book and void left by the death of 60 Minutes legend Ed Bradley, minutes before she would regale a capacity crowd at the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists Griot Drum Awards dinner in St. Petersburg.
Who knew, three weeks later, that she would be leaving a void of her own, out of a job after four years on the network's morning show?
Syler says she was told the show is moving in a new direction; her last day is Dec. 22. But her departure and Bradley's painful Nov. 9 death have eliminated two of the highest-profile black journalists at CBS News.
And there aren't many people poised to take their place.
Already, speculation has surfaced about who might take Bradley's spot on 60 Minutes, still TV's most prestigious newsmagazine. National correspondent Byron Pitts -- himself a past Griot Drum Awards speaker, thank you very much -- is the name most often floated as a possible replacement.
But beyond Pitts, an ace reporter who has covered everything from the execution of Timothy McVeigh to firefights in Iraq, there's a mighty shallow bench among non-white journalists at CBS News.
Indeed, Pitts and CBS Evening News Sunday anchor Russ Mitchell -- a perpetual backup who co-host the Saturday Early Show, the Saturday Evening News edition and, occasionally the weekday Evening News -- are now the only high-profile black journalists at the network.
Judging ethnicity and race by appearance is always problematic. But a quick look at CBS News' online list of correspondents, anchors, contributors and top producers reveals what appears to be just seven black people out of more than 100 positions -- from jazz legend Billy Taylor, who occasionally contributes to CBS Sunday Morning, to longtime correspondents Harold Dow and Randall Pinkston.
It's hard to judge what's worse: that two of the highest-profile CBS News shows will now have no regular black contributors, or that the network had so few black journalists on staff to begin with.
There are those who will grouse at the numbers game required by this analysis. They will say journalists should be judged by their work alone and that CBS shouldn't be blamed for Bradley's unexpected death and the decision to replace an anchor in which they lost confidence.
But the point of diversity awareness and affirmative action is to prod companies into making sure their workforce is diverse at all levels -- so a wide range of people have an equal shot at the best jobs when they do become available.
Now, if CBS hopes to maintain the slim level of diversity it had, the network has a handful of choices before it must look outside the building to fill two of its best jobs. If they hire a person of color, they will be accused of filling a quota, and if they don't, they will be criticized for exascerbating an already awful lack of on air diversity.
And that may be the biggest tragedy of all.
Still More Michael Richards Madness: Hysteria Breeds Race Hoaxes
Following our national obsession on race-tinged topics such as Michael Richards' n-word outburst and the return of O.J. Simpson, news surfaced of two hoaxes falsely accusing Richards and 60 Minutes' opinionator Andy Rooney of racist behavior.
AP reported that Rooney is trying to sue somebody who has circulated a false report that he aired a commentary with anti-minority sentiment in it. And the Baltimore Sun offers my Headline of the Year -- WJZ Red-Faced Over Blackface Story -- in reporting how a local TV station announced that Richards dressed up in blackface and doused Whoopie Goldberg with Aunt Jemima syrup after failing to realize the "news" item was actually featured on an "Onion"-style satire Web site.
Just proves there is no issue so controversial that some knucklehead can't figure out how to make it worse.
Was Danny DeVito Drunk on Fresh Air, Too?
The Always Sunny in Philadelphia star made headlines for going on the View half in the bag after a night hanging with George Clooney, but check out his appearance last week on National Public Radio's Fresh Air.
Seems DeVito is trying to forget his role in a predictably awful holiday comedy by doing all his interviews in an altered state. Listen and judge for yourself.