ABC’s Owned TV Stations division has launched a new race and culture content team that will oversee an expansion in the group’s coverage of underrepresented communities. The new initiative launched with the docuseries “Our America: Living While Black,” and has since staffed up to expand its output with several more specials in the works.
Under the oversight of ABC Owned TV Stations’ Maxine Crooks, vice president of talent development, and Jennifer Mitchell, senior VP of content development, the race and culture content team has recruited a group of executive producers, as well as journalists at all eight of ABC’s stations, to both handle the new specials but also assist in making sure that the local outlets’ live news programming properly reflects the diversity of their audiences.
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“This beat is an important one right because it’s not just about race, it’s about informing, serving and reflecting the communities that we serve,” Mitchell said. “It’s also about inclusive storytelling of all underrepresented groups.”
Crooks noted that last year’s reckoning on race, police brutality and white supremacy, along with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped boost the idea inside the ABC stations that such a team was critically necessary. “It converged to really solidify everyone in realizing that we do have to think differently,” she said. “We do have to put our other considerations in place when we’re covering news and telling people’s stories, and being inclusive in how we tell those stories. It does matter and the people telling those stories matter.”
Executive producers Nzinga Blake, Mariel Myers and Porsha Grant will lead the drive for content, working with a group of journalists from ABC’s stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno.
“The stations really have stepped up and recognized this,” Myers said. “I think investing in things like race and culture team, people see that they can speak up, they have support.”
Airing in October across the station group, “Our America: Living While Black” was a five-part docuseries that explored the high labor mortality rate for Black women; educational disparities for Black students; income disparity and generational wealth gap for Black people; the gaps in the study of Black history; and police brutality and racism.
Besides “Our America: Living While Black,” other recent programs have included “Our America: Hidden Stories,” timed to Black History Month. That series has looked at lesser-known stories and figures in the ongoing movement for equality and justice. And for Women’s History Month, the team was behind “Our America: Women Forward.”
“But in addition to the larger scaled stories that we do, we’re also involved on the local level, participating in editorial meetings, pitching story ideas, because the goal is really just to change how we think about local news in terms of representation,” Grant said. “And giving voice to marginalized and underrepresented communities.”
Added Blake: “It’s the collaborative spirit that I’m really enjoying right now at this at this massive company, and they’re really embracing this concept of being mindful of the words that are used when you’re describing certain groups because perception is everything.”
Although the initiative is company-wide, specific race and culture journalists at each station includes Crystal Cranmore (WABC New York), Anabel Munoz (KABC Los Angeles), Will Jones (WLS Chicago), TaRhonda Thomas (WPVI Philadelphia), Cory McGinnis (KTRK Houston), Julian Glover (KGO San Francisco), Akilah Davis (WTVD Raleigh-Durham) and Linda Ha (KFSN Fresno).
Packages they’ve recently aired include KABC’s report on the layers of racial trauma experienced by Asian Americans and the Pacific Islander community; WLS’ historic look at the first Black-owned hospital in the United States; and KGO’s report on a Black couple who were lowballed in a home appraisal, while a white couple were given a much higher estimate on the same house.
“Embedding a content team across our stations which ensure intentional inclusion of balanced coverage underscores our commitment to inform and reflect the communities and audiences we serve,” said Wendy McMahon, president, ABC Owned Television Stations.
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