Why Gayle King’s Monumental Success Story Isn’t A Win For Black Women In Media
Let’s get this straight right; I’m absolutely not a fan of the way CBS handled the R. Kelly controversy, in fact those cringe-worthy evenings that were spent watching the line of questioning directed at weary and devalued Black victims, who were being exploited for ratings gold, definitely convinced me of the terminal state of journalism.
R. Kelly needed to be held accountable for his actions, but what followed after his grueling session with King, was a massacre that ruined what was supposed to be the restoration of justice for the ones who suffered his unfathomable cruelty.
Those jarring segments proved to be the utterly devastating “fuck you” that tragically stemmed from the poignant debut of a painstakingly curated documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, that contained the culmination of efforts by Black women warriors, who were empowered enough to utilize their resources for the benefit of exposing the ravenous rage of a criminal misogynist.
R. Kelly spent decades imprisoning underage girls in his hellish lair with the approval of male artists who were only interested in lucrative collaborations.
Once the secret that was never a secret finally saw the light of day, it became a trending item, and the gathered steam played right into the incapable hands of a major network that would’ve never cared about exploring the plight of abused Black women and Black girls if not for the bonus of a highly-visible Black woman anchor, who seemed up for the challenge of bringing the ranting beast to his knees.
Once that feat was accomplished with notable fanfare for Gayle King’s uncanny composure during a heightened episode that saw an R. Kelly losing his shit on national television, it only made sense for the blood-thirsty network to capitalize on the viable currency of Black pain.
This was achieved by adding appendages from the scandalous telecast in the form of gut-wrenching segments during CBS Evening News, that showcased a well-positioned Black woman solidifying her career trajectory at the expense of her gullible subjects.
And now the payoff is the newly-minted contract that guarantees $11 million annually, which is apparently double what she was making as well as the elevated status as the official mascot of CBS News.
Her meteoric rise can’t be classified as an overnight success when you consider the years of hard work and dedication, and while some may point out her affiliation with longtime bestie, Oprah Winfrey, and how that advantageous positioning impacted her accessibility to the crème de la crème of the media world, there’s no doubt that King has definitely earned the good fortune that comes with having a good head on your shoulders.
That being said, we can’t escape the presence of the gigantic elephant in the room when it comes to the realization that it took the priciness of Black pain to get Gayle King the exclusive invitation into the famed hall of greatness by the traitorous motives of Whiteness.
In the sprawling profile, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, we are treated to the humble beginnings of a roving reporter with a fascinating backstory that magnificently led to the present courts of adulation and career contentment that her fellow White counterparts, many decades her junior, are able to seamlessly amass without pushback from fussy executives.
The very beginning of the piece energetically curated by Marisa Gutherie, movingly captures the exact moment when King’s luck began to shift for the better.
Before her life-altering interview with the Black man who brutalized Black females for pleasure, she was unsure about her future at CBS. The ongoing negotiations were still being hashed out. So of course it took Susan Zirinsky, the new president of CBS News, to curiously examine the footage of King expertly taming a wild animal in full view of stunned viewers, before things began to move in the right direction.
Here’s the thing, this isn’t an attempt to collect a debt from a woman who owes us nothing.
Gayle King did what she had to do, and Lord knows that when you are a Black woman in a sea of White faces that can be mediocre as fuck, and still get the daytime anchor seats at CNN, the only option is to fight like hell for the recognition that’s usually not granted under normal circumstances.
King became the national hero who thwarted the tantrums of the dragon in her midst, and based on her accumulated years of service, it’s only fair that at the age of sixty-four, she rightfully claims her hard-fought ascension to the top.
The major buzzkill with this noteworthy moment has to be the glaring truth of how this Black woman’s monumental success won’t in any way reflect the persistent optimism of the generations many miles behind her.
As much as we tout the historic strides that have been made by the entertainment industry in the name of “diversity,” that mandates the normalized adherence to inclusivity, the media-at-large still vehemently refuses to comply with this current trend.
Not too long ago, CBS released the profiles of campaign reporters for the 2020 elections, and the lack of diversity inspired an uproar on social media platforms as naysayers publicly expressed disapproval at the gross oversight.
And just a few days ago, NBC proudly unleashed the list of White women journalists of MSNBC who are “reshaping the television landscape” while we also got a glimpse of the high-profile moderators, who will be tackling the terrain of the first democratic primary debates.
The familiar names will undoubtedly spark a level of trust and comfort with loyal viewers, but for those of us who are tired of callous exclusion from the national stage — these staged announcements serves as the nagging reminder of how Black women never seem to matter.
And that brings us back to Gayle King’s resounding achievement, and how The Hollywood Reporter, and other White-owned publications work extraordinarily hard to compile a picturesque view that contains all the elements of political correctness.
Somehow we are supposed to believe that the praise bestowed on the success of a Black woman after decades of input and output, has to rely on the tangible proof of how the industry cautiously rewards upstanding women of color, who have to wait until Black pain becomes the endorsed commodity before claiming career-making roles.
Incidentally enough, industry pubs like The Hollywood Reporter are also guilty of showcasing newsrooms that are devoid of reporters of color, particularly Black women.
And that fact makes it unbearable to read articles that are drowning in themes of how a lone Black woman has made the exceptional leap into the high society of news reportage on a major network — that still keeps its door shut when it comes to younger and highly-talented Black women, who are equally deserving of the opportunities that are assigned to White counterparts.
King’s epic contract renewal is quite an accomplishment, and while we should celebrate this milestone, we also have to mourn the diminished value of Black women talents, who aren’t being feted by these exclusively packaged networks, that are manned by bigoted moguls who will never budge in their refusal to take the high risk of banking on the viability of Black women who are more than up for the challenge.
This is also the main reason why early coverage for the 2020 election cycle is damningly replicating the shit show from 2016.
The voices of Black women are once again being snuffed out at a critical time in our history, that demands high visibility of the very best of that bunch to help shape the specific narrative that will train the mindset of presidential hopefuls, who desperately need the cold shower of “wokeness,” when carving out pending items of their already crowded itineraries.
As a Black woman journalist, who unapologetically covers topics in ways that surely gives employers permission to flag my work as problematic, I am comfortable with the duty of respecting Gayle King for what she represents to to an industry that I categorize as an ailing establishment.
It’s not possible for me to view her as a symbol of the future because there are far too many incredible talents who resemble my template, and are yet to be embraced by the delectable atmospheres of notable newsrooms, and if you’re not convinced, just check out the photo album of the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Black women don’t want to find fame with the biblical pain of our precious community. And we don’t want to be pampered with the chosen mascot who is propped as the evidence of how diversity isn’t just a buzzword.
We want to be everywhere. We want to be given the keys to the kingdom where Whiteness dwells with the authority of stealing and distorting the narrative that can only be enlightened by those who were born to do so.
We are the story. So, by God let us tell it!