By:
April 14, 2021

On March 10, the panelists of the CBS show “The Talk” were doing what they always do: talking about current events. One of the biggest stories that day was the Oprah Winfrey interview of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

The conversation eventually turned to Piers Morgan, who walked off his morning TV show in the U.K. after criticizing Meghan and saying he didn’t believe a word she said. “The Talk” co-host Sharon Osbourne, who is friends with Morgan, defended Morgan’s right to express his opinions.

Co-host Sheryl Underwood asked Osbourne what she would say to those who felt Morgan’s comments were racist. Osbourne snapped back asking what was racist about it and that’s when the conversation flew over the guardrail. Osbourne said she felt like she was being put “in the electric chair” (and later claimed she was blindsided by the topic). The exchange continued through the break with Osbourne shouting over Underwood and, at one point, telling Underwood, “Don’t try and cry, because if anyone should be crying, it should be me.”

The show went on hiatus the next day. Osbourne apologized and — following a Yashar Ali report that quoted sources saying Osbourne used racist, anti-gay and bullying language in the past — ultimately left the show.

This week, “The Talk” finally returned. And the panelists dove right into the topic.

Co-host Elaine Welteroth said, “I think when you go back and watch what happened in that episode, you will see two Black women walking the same tightrope that Black women are walking every single day in the workplace. We knew that we had to stay composed in that situation. Even in the face of someone who was a) not listening and b) who went off the rails into disrespect, when we were maintaining our respect within the context of this very complex, charged, emotional conversation.”

Underwood recalled the moment Osbourne told her not to cry.

“If I had responded,” Underwood said, “then I would have been the angry Black woman. And I think I’m talking to my friend, somebody I can trust. And I think that’s what resonated with Black women out there.”

Osbourne has said she reached out to Underwood since that last show. Underwood said on air, “I want to clear something up. There was a discussion about Sharon and I communicating with each other. I have not spoken to (her), and do not have any phone call, missed or received, that I can find in my phone (from her).”

Underwood said Osbourne did text her but she didn’t “speak about or acknowledge those text messages” because she wasn’t sure if she should because CBS is investigating the whole matter.

Don’t dismiss this story as just some gossipy infighting on some daytime talk show. It’s way more important than that. It goes beyond a TV show.

As Underwood said to start Monday’s show, “We need to process the events of that day and what’s happened since so we can get to the healing. Over the next hour we will honestly discuss what occurred and explore some of our feelings. And we’ll also show you how anyone can become more comfortable with discussing important issues and having difficult conversations.”

Minnesota coverage

Katie Wright, mother of Daunte Wright, speaks during a news conference in Minneapolis on Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Here’s some more notable coverage from Minnesota, where a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, was shot and killed by police on Sunday.

White nationalist group backs Tucker Carlson

Ever heard of Vdare? A generous definition is that it’s an alt-right website promoting opposition to immigration in America. Perhaps a more accurate way to describe it — and one that The Washington Post and The New York Times have used — is that it’s a white nationalist website.

I bring it up today because this site has had overwhelming praise for Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and his comments about white replacement in recent days.

I’m not going to link to their site, but here’s what they wrote:

“Fox News host Tucker Carlson came out swinging against his critics who called for his termination. His offense? He dared mention the Great Replacement. Tucker made it clear Monday night he had nothing to apologize for.”

Vdare posted a clip of Carlson’s comments and wrote, “This segment was one of the best things Fox News has ever aired and was filled with ideas and talking points VDARE pioneered many years ago. You should watch the whole thing.”

As far as those calling for Carlson’s firing, Vdare wrote, “The best news: Fox stands by Carlson. The longer Tucker stays on air, the more the truth can remain unsuppressed.”

How can Fox News and, in particular, Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch not be absolutely horrified that a group like Vdare has such effusive praise for Carlson because they believe his ideals align with theirs?

Zirinsky to leave as CBS News president for a new role

CBS News president Susan Zirinsky in 2019 (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint reports that CBS News president Susan Zirinsky is nearing a deal to step down so she can start a new role in a wide-ranging production partnership with parent company ViacomCBS.

Flint wrote, “A search for a successor to Ms. Zirinsky has been ongoing for several months but a candidate has yet to be named. It is expected that she will remain as head of CBS News until then, the people said.”

Zirinsky started at CBS News as a 20-year-old in the CBS Washington bureau in 1972. She spent much of her storied journalism career as an award-winning producer and was the inspiration for Holly Hunter’s character in “Broadcast News.” Zirinsky took over as CBS News president in March 2019. She was the first female president of CBS News.

Flint reports, “The new production deal would allow her to return to her roots and create content not only for CBS News and its various shows and platforms but also the new ViacomCBS service Paramount+, a person with knowledge of the pact said.”

This news comes just a week after CBS News veteran Kim Godwin was in the final stages of negotiations to become president of ABC News. (That news was first reported by NBC News’ Dylan Byers.) Godwin would become the first Black woman to lead a broadcast news division. Rashida Jones recently became the first Black woman to take over a cable news network when she was named president of MSNBC.

Poynter’s latest project

Be sure to check out Poynter’s newest series headed up by my colleagues Kristen Hare, Amaris Castillo and Angela Fu. It’s called “Some Personal News” and it looks at the layoffs and the people who left news during the pandemic.

To introduce the series, Hare wrote, “We want to tell the stories of journalists, printing plant employees, ad sales people, news researchers and anyone else whose employment by newsrooms ended because of the pandemic.”

She also wrote, “Our series title, ‘some personal news’ is a nod to the tradition of tweeting job moves, but it’s also an attempt to capture how the pandemic hurt journalism and the people who make and support it by telling their stories.”

Hare, Castillo and Fu already have begun writing about journalists who left their jobs. If you were in the business and left, you can share your story with Poynter by clicking here.

This series also is a part of a much bigger Poynter project called “Recovering the News,” which looks at what local news might look like as we try to return to something close to normalcy following the worst of the pandemic.

1619 Project books

Details about the first two books based on The New York Times’ 1619 Project have been announced. Penguin Random House reports that the publication date for “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” and “Born on the Water” will be published Nov. 16.

“A New Origin Story,” is an expansion of the “1619 Project” created by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine. “Born on the Water” — by Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson and illustrated by Nikkolas Smith — is the story of Black girl who gets a class assignment that makes her ashamed that she doesn’t know what native country her people come from.

The Times’ “1619 Project” was groundbreaking journalism launched in August 2019 commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia.

Media tidbits

Hideki Matsuyama celebrates winning the Masters golf tournament on Sunday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Sunday’s final round of The Masters golf tournament on CBS averaged about 9.5 million viewers. That was up 70% from the 2020 Masters, which was held in the fall because of COVID-19. However, it was the least-watched spring (or traditionally-held) Masters since 1993. Hideki Matsuyama won this year’s Masters by only a stroke, but he held a comfortable lead for most of the final round. It never felt like he was going to get caught, which probably had a lot to do with the low TV numbers. And, of course, there’s another reason why interest might have been down: no Tiger Woods, who is rehabilitating from a bad car accident in February.
  • Tech workers at The New York Times have formed a union and will ask the company to recognize it. The Times’ Katie Robertson writes the group is made up of 650 employees, including software engineers, designers, data analysts and product managers. Robertson wrote, “It will be represented by the NewsGuild of New York. NewsGuild membership already includes more than 1,300 newsroom workers and business staff members at The Times, as well as workers at other media outlets.”
  • Release from The Associated Press on Tuesday: The Associated Press and the Walton Family Foundation announced the creation of a new reporting team that will cover water issues in the U.S. The two-year grant from the Walton Family Foundation will fund three AP reporting positions. The journalists will be based across the U.S.
  • If you like media vs. athlete feuds, you’ll enjoy the Twitter dustup between former-athlete-turned-TV-debater Shannon Sharpe and NBA star Kevin Durant. The Big Lead’s Liam McKeone has all the juicy details and tweets.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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