Callie Crossley to Host Panel on Race, Media at Boston Public Library
By Claire Tran
Earlier in her journalism career, Callie Crossley made what she thought was a commonsense decision while covering a story about nutrition: to interview a black family.
But she was stunned by the reactions of her colleagues, who were white. One expressed surprise that her interviewees were black. Another asked Crossley if she was related to the family.
For Crossley, now host of WGBH’s “Under the Radar with Callie Crossley,” this underscored the need for news organizations to accurately reflect the diversity of their communities.
“When I’m doing a story, I am not going to the same group of folks as often my colleagues are,” she said. “Why would every one of those voices be white? That makes no sense to me.”
Such issues will be highlighted on April 12 when Crossley hosts “In True Color: A Panel Discussion of Race, Media and Responsible Coverage” organized by the Asian American Journalists Association New England Chapter in partnership with the Boston Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists New England.
The event comes in the wake of an incident at WEEI, in which radio host Christian Fauria used a racist Asian accent to imitate high-profile sports agent Don Yee. Multiple companies, such as Citizens Bank, pulled advertisements from the station. Fauria, who apologized, was suspended for five days and employees participated in mandatory sensitivity training.
Hosted at Boston Public Library, the panel will feature Princell Hair, NBC Sports Boston Senior Vice President and General Manager; Richard Chacón, WBUR Executive Director of News Content; Shirley Leung, Boston Globe Columnist; and Mark Hannon, WEEI/Entercom Boston Senior Vice President and Market Manager.
Crossley says she will foster a discussion about fair representation and how to prevent racially insensitive incidents in media.
“If we’re about truth and we’re about making sure people get correct information, then all the voices should be at the table,” she said. “There’s one truth, but there are many perspectives on the truth.”
For Crossley, who produced the award-winning 1987 documentary series “Eyes on the Prize,” the pursuit of diversity has long been an uphill battle.
Early in her career, she often felt pigeonholed into covering certain stories. She was frequently tapped as the main reporter on race issues, yet too often she wasn’t assigned to stories that she felt needed the perspective of a journalist of color.
Although she has had success in the industry, she’s well aware of the impact of race on her career.
“Had I not been a black person, I would have gone faster and farther,” said Crossley. “I’ve done pretty well, but I can look back at various turns and know if I had the exact same opportunities as some folks that I work with, it would have been a different thing.”
She recalls a time when a co-worker complained that because he was not a person of color, he was not getting certain job offers. Crossley responded by noting that she was the only reporter of color at the company.
“Let’s look around the newsroom. There were 14 reporters at this particular station. There’s only one of me,” said Crossley. “You had 13 chances and I had one. Case closed.”
Crossley, who often guest lectures at colleges, advises young reporters to call out their own news organizations for using racial stereotypes or lacking diversity in coverage. She says the onus of journalists is to prioritize facts.
“It’s not about how many clicks you get or even about how many awards you get,” said Crossley. “It’s really about telling the stories of your communities correctly and accurately.”