Recently fired Local 10 anchor Charles Perez took his side of the story to the Daily Beast today, in a wide-ranging column explaining why he'll continue his suit against WPLG, claiming they fired him because he was gay, attacking the state of the news business, positioning himself as a gay rights hero, and saying the station pressured him not to get married or have children with his male partner.
One of my colleagues, a higher-up at the station, told me: "The weekends will be better for you, anyway, Charles. You and Keith [my partner] want to have kids. It's a lot less high-profile there."
It was a suggestion that never would have been made to one of my straight colleagues, male or female. The only thing I could take from it was that my profile as a gay man, especially if I were to have kids and, God forbid, get married, would render me less promotable and less advertiser-friendly.
In fact, over the previous five months, I'd been told, "Don't get married, Charles. We don't need that." I'd also been told not to have children. In essence: "You're the main anchor and you're gay, but let's not push it."
If that allegation is true, it illustrates an interesting sacrifice that gay and lesbian professionals, especially those in the public eye, could be pressured to make. Miami might be perfectly accepting of a gay news anchor. In fact, before Perez was fired, the top two prime-time newscasts were co-anchored by openly gay men, but are we -- or any other market -- ready for the openly gay anchor who's married with children? Viewers might love it when straight female and male anchors banter about cute things their kids do, but are people ready to hear the same filler from the gays?
The news business has become a place of fear, where principle and the news have become the casualties and ratings and dollars the prizes. A perfect example: In the runup to the war in Iraq, Mohamed El-Baradei, the top man looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, stood in front of a dozen microphones in Paris and announced that there weren't any. It was a front-page story in Paris, London, Moscow, and Tokyo. It was buried in the New York Times. I, however, read it.
I went to one of my bosses at Miami's Fox affiliate, WSVN, and said, "We have to run this. This is big!" He said, "Charles, that's not what our advertisers want to see." We never ran it.
Today, the major news outlets are held hostage by what they "think" their advertisers -- and by extension their audiences -- want to see. Sacrificed is the news we may need to know. As a result, they contribute to building a less-educated electorate that only wants more of the Twinkies it has been fed.
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You mean there's actual news WSVN could be reporting instead of its breathless American Idol coverage and the like? Who knew.