Tag Archives: news

Women’s History Month 2013: Melissa Harris-Perry

27 Mar

harris-perryToday we honor and celebrate another wonderful voice for equality. Many thanks to my friend and regular TSM commenter Christine for recommending Melissa Harris-Perry. Melissa is multi-racial, having  a black father and white mother.  She is originally from here in the Northwest, Seattle. The family moved to Virgina when she was young, with both parents involved in education.

Harris-Perry is an author, scholar, and professor as well as host of a successful, thought-provoking program on MSNBC. She received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University and her PhD in political science from Duke. Due to her interest in the influence of the black church on political movements, she also received an honoris causa doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School and was a Master of Divinity student at Union Theological Seminary.

While at Wake Forest, she encountered her mentor, the wonderful Maya Angelou.

As her student I watched as she influenced public discourse, taught students, and shared ideas in a way that seemed to truly matter for people’s lives.

Harris-Perry taught political science at the University of Chicago, then moved to Princeton where she was an associate professor of politics and African-American studies. She is currently a professor of political science at Tulane, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.

She is the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought on the methods African Americans use to develop political ideas through ordinary conversations in places like barbershops, churches, and popular culture–sounds like good social work to me. Her book won the 2005 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

After years as serving as a commentator, she was offered her own MSNBC weekend show a year ago. She looks at the program as a way to expand her education career, focusing on issues of politics and equality.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a teacher. Phil Griffin and MSNBC are giving me the chance to have a much bigger classroom.

She is also an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage equality. Her work in this area won her an Ally for Equality award from the Human Rights campaign last month.

As a biracial woman with a passion for education and a fascination with religion, Harris-Perry has a firm understanding of the intersections of oppression. She has made it her mission to share that understanding with others with a firm commitment to social justice. Thank you Melissa Harris-Perry for being such a strong advocate and ally!

Women’s History Month 2013: Rachel Maddow

18 Mar

RachelMaddowToday we honor and celebrate Dr. Rachel Maddow, a woman who is trying to bring real discussion back into television journalism. Maddow was born in California in 1973. While a freshman at Stanford University, she was outed in a campus paper interview before she was able to tell her parents. I always love papers that out people just for the sake of outing them–my what code of ethics does that follow?  Fortunately, they were supportive, and she has been out and proud ever since. After receiving her degree in public policy from Stanford, she was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, becoming the first openly LGBT Rhodes scholar. She received her Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University with her thesis entitled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.

These early events clearly hinted at her outspoken nature and her dedication to open discourse. She won a contest to become a radio announcer shortly after returning to the U.S., launching her broadcast career. She worked in radio for local Massachusetts stations and then joined Air America. Unabashedly liberal, she has observed the rightward drift of this country’s politics with the quip

I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.

While still on Air America, she began regular guest spots on MSNBC’s nightly programs. Soon she was offered her own show, a TV version of her radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show. This made her the first openly LGBT host of a major prime-time news show in the U.S. She also routinely has her network’s most highly rated show–in what still remains a “white hetero male dominated” industry.

Her program is a wonderful mixture of straight news, opinion, and interviews–all offered through a social justice lens. In fact, I’m not sure there are other national programs that stand in such solidarity with those that are marginalized and oppressed by those in power and charged with the task of representing all Americans.  I love that Maddow holds these hypocrites’ feet to the fire. She has no tolerance for liars or people who put talking points above reality. Her no-holds-barred approach to discussing critical events is very refreshing. The media need more people who stand up and say “that’s not right!” Hooray for Rachel Maddow for showing that caring about the truth can still matter to the viewing public.

Women’s History Month 2013: Soledad O’Brien

6 Mar

soledad-OBrien-Today we honor and celebrate a woman whose recent push to restore journalistic integrity to cable news may have cost her her job. María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien was born on Long Island in 1966. Her parents — an Afro-Cuban mother and Australian father — met in the Washington, DC area a decade earlier. They lived in Maryland, which did not allow mixed-race marriages, so they wed in DC and soon moved to New York. Soledad is one of six children (all of whom received degrees from Harvard).

She began her television career as an associate producer and news writer in Boston. She joined NBC in 1991 and worked a variety of on-camera and production jobs over the next decade. She settled into regular roles on MSNBC and as co-host of Weekend Today. She contributed reports to NBC Nightly News, honing her desire to move away from soft news.

Soledad joined CNN in 2003 as co-anchor of their morning news program. Smart, likeable, and possessing good journalistic instincts, she helped that show rise above standard morning fare, even as the rest of CNN began to devolve into FOX-light in a desperate ratings grab. Confused network executives moved her out of the morning show in 2007 and she spent the next few years contributing reports to other CNN programs and doing In America documentaries. When CNN scrambled to re-re-redesign their morning show in 2012, they brought Soledad back to host the two-hour news program Starting Point.

A stark contrast to most CNN programming and other morning “news” offerings, the show featured engaging conversations and showed her strengths as a real journalist. Numerous guests complained about their treatment (including the odious John Sununu), a sign that she was actually doing her job rather than letting them spew talking points. Sadly, that success — even combined with good ratings — seems to have been too much for CNN to take–JEERS to CNN. Ms. O’Brien was the only reason I watched CNN. The new network President, Jeff Zucker (who spent the previous decade destroying NBC) wants his soft news, so Soledad is out.

Her new documentary, Latino In America, will be out soon. After that, Soledad O’Brien will find her next role in broadcast journalism — not, as she put it, “cooking salmon and doing fashion shows.” Wherever she lands, her colleagues will be lucky to have her talent and mature confidence in doing journalism right.  I hope NPR is able to secure her journalistic prowess.

Nepotist Newscaster Needlessly Nasty to Nancy

15 Nov

The face of experience and the face of, well, Luke Russert

Demonstrating unmitigated gall, NBC reporter Luke Russert managed to be both insulting and condescending at Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) press conference yesterday. After Pelosi indicated her intention to run for another two years as the House Minority Leader in the new Congress, Russert asked

Colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long term. What’s your response?

Simultaneously hiding behind anonymous “colleagues” and displaying shocking ageism, Russert prompted a quick reply from the insightful former Speaker.

You’ve always asked that question, but not to Mitch McConnell.

It’s a fair point. The Senate minority leader is 70, barely two years younger than Pelosi. Harry Reid is 72; John Boehner is hardly a spring chicken at 62. Pelosi is not only the first woman to serve as U.S. House Speaker — one of the most important and powerful positions in the Federal government — she is routinely considered by scholars as one of the finest Speakers in history. If house Democrats need to groom new leaders, giving up that experience and authority in a still acrimoniously divided chamber hardly seems sensible. Perhaps her #2, Steny Hoyer should consider stepping aside; his Blue Dog leanings are hardly appropriate for an increasingly diverse and progressive caucus. (He’s also one year Pelosi’s senior, but Russert doesn’t seem to care about that…)

Unlike all those men in positions of power, Nancy Pelosi actually took the time to consider her options and discuss them with the press. That shows real class — and leadership. Those are qualities we really need. Perhaps the reporter who got a big break right out of college because of who his father was should consider his words more carefully.

%d bloggers like this: