In the eighties, a group of Black American journalists went to Nigeria to train reporters and escape the racism they’d encountered in their newsrooms. The trip did not go as planned.
In early 1981, Barbara Lamont, a reporter at CBS News Radio, stood outside the office of her boss, the news division president, with a request. Lamont, who was forty, had worked at CBS for six years. Before that, she’d been at WNEW-TV and a round-the-clock news radio station called 1010-WINS, both in New York. She’d also written a book, City People: Dispatches from the Urban Battlefront, largely about her time covering Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and other predominantly Black neighborhoods. Lamont was worldly: born in Bermuda, she’d moved around a lot as a kid—to Montreal, Paris, London—then settled in Brooklyn in her teens, and attended Sarah Lawrence, just north of the city. She’d started her journalism career not long after the release of the Kerner Report—which had, among its observations about race in America, noted that the press failed to reflect the country’s demographic makeup. At the time, less than 5 percent of people working in news-editorial jobs were Black and less than 1 percent of editors and supervisors were Black; most of those who were counted came from the Black press. The Kerner Report urged newsrooms to integrate, but progress was painfully slow. Lamont had been part of the first wave of new hires. “I can’t say we were unhappy, though,” she recalled. “Just marking time, being passed over or ignored, making a decent wage and content just to be playing on the broader stage which was television in the eighties.” At WNEW, she’d hosted a show called Black News, which ran at one o’clock on Saturday afternoons. Networks often relegated Black journalists and other people of color to weekend slots, which became known in the industry as “ghetto hours.” …click here to read full article