CNN’s Tony Harris Leaves for Al Jazeera English

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action 

Another one bites the dust.  Tony Harris, arguably the most talented black correspondent with CNN, has left for Al Jazeera English.  The Al Jazeera network reports on news in the Middle East and serves a large audience, mostly in that region of the world. Harris spent six years with CNN before announcing his departure.

Harris is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, with experience on HBO and Entertainment Tonight.  Right before starting his first day at the new job, Harris said this:

“I’m really pleased to have joined. Having an interest in news from around the world, I was attracted by AJE’s global focus and look forward to being involved in stories from all points of the globe. It’s a very exciting time to be coming on board.”

My quick thoughts:

1) Why did they let him go?  CNN seems to have a diversity problem, given that none of their well-branded nightly news shows have an African American host.  Tony Harris would have been great to fill this void.

2) I wish Tony Harris the best: I was on the air with Harris and Michael Eric Dyson at one point, and found him to be a decent brother (yes, I don’t use the word “brother” lightly).  Not sure if I’d say the same about Don Lemon, but I’ve only interacted with Lemmon on the air one time as well.

3) As the recent events within the National Association of Black Journalists imply, black reporters like Harris tend to get the short end of the stick.  I hope that the new black media outlets that grow from the Comcast/NBC merger help to create opportunities for talented media personalities within this field.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris felt compelled to go to an international network to get the opportunities he may never have received from CNN.  But then again, they may have just offered him more money.

4) Media is incredibly powerful in shaping the minds of black children.  Therefore, we should do all that is in our power to ensure that television becomes more diversified.  Conscientious black journalists are critical to sharing a message that positively reflects on the events that transpire within our community.  Harris is one of those people.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


Filed under African Americans

10 responses to “CNN’s Tony Harris Leaves for Al Jazeera English

  1. Pingback: Will CNN Ever Give a Black Night Time News Host a Chance to Shine Too? – Dr. Boyce Watkins Blog

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  7. maryam Modupe Ajanaku

    I’m happy to see Tony Harris on the Aljazeera. He appeared more relaxed and naturally happy on Aljazeera than he ever looked on CNN. Welcome to a more watched and more balanced news station of African news. Welcome Home Harris!!! We love your professionalism. A plus definitely for Aljazeera!

  8. The quality of journalism and the production values at Al Jazeera, far exceeds that of CNN by, as the saying goes, ‘a long chalk’. Furthermore, CNN programming is a mishmash that compares unfavourably to the CNN of years ago, e.g., at the time of Operation Desert Storm. I write as a professional. In past years before i left the ‘business’. I was a producer/director with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-CBC television in Ottawa and Toronto, where over time I worked on several highly regarded programmes including the famous “This Hour Has Seven Days” ((of which CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” is a direct copy; CBS learned from us on this)) with the CTV-TV network in Ottawa, and a producer with NET/PBS in Los Angeles where I was one of the producers of the network public affairs programme “The Advocates”. For most of that period spanning more than a decade, I was the only Black producer or director/story editor with any of these networks. Many people worldwide are under the illusion that Canada is a multicultural paradise. Perhaps I should have written delusion.

    Meantime let me give a shoutout to Prof. Boyce Watkins. We never met ((I was before his time)) but I started work on my Masters Degree at Syracuse U., but did not complete it. As the saying goes, ‘Life happens


  9. brotherap

    CNN, with its so called new and improved model since the takeover and manipulation from power of Ted Turner, appears to be back on track as it relates to hiring people of color. It appears that the more melanin one has in particularly his skin or the more masculine that one with melanin comes across the more likely that he is to have a shortened or, if you will, insecure future with CNN. Either that or they just don’t seem to like brothers with the last name Harris, i.e. (Leon or Tony). Thus, since the paradigm of power has shifted over the years from the shots being called from ATL to shots called from NYC we are back to that old quasi Jim Crow image of news networks lack of true diversity. Although as usual, it appears to be too subtle for white folk to discern. We do have the gorgeous mulattoes, and octoroon’s, and usually I presume they figure that’s enough, at least to the eyes of white folks. Although, it is the internationally articulate, extremely elegant, dark as a berry, Aisha Sesay that excites me the advertising agencies don’t care about ol’ me, ol’ brotherap, anymore than they did in the 1950s and 60s when they boycotted Nat King Cole for holding hands with a white woman on his musical show causing its cancellation. What I do know regarding life is that he void left by a 600 LB gorilla, believe it or not, is just as noticeable.

  10. susan

    Tony Harris spoke so badly, this morning, (10/7/11) to the women who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize….saying, “Let’s not make too much of this….” to Ms. Rosebell, one of the three recipients. Either he is very intimidated by women or a very stupid man. I suspect he may be both.

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