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.