Don’t you just love it when the establishment media has troubles of its own? This is especially fun when they’ve gotten themselves in a bind in areas where they often do the finger-pointing.
While Fox News appears to have cornered the market on scandals of late with the departure of powerhouse, Bill O’Reilly, perhaps the media should have withheld all their laughter and gleeful. There’s an old proverb, however, about glass houses and stone-throwing. Even as CNN was busy covering the turmoil at Fox, it has been keeping mum about its own racial discrimination issues in a story that bubbled up from the muck and mire of the media swamp this week.
Although Fox is also facing a legal battle over allegations of racial discrimination, CNN’s trouble could mushroom into something far worse; the proposed class action filed against it late last year in the Georgia federal court has since drawn the attention of more than 175 current and former employees, according to a report in the Hollywood Reporter.
The complaint includes allegations of pay and advancement inequality between white and black employees as well as an environment of racial harassment. The two original plaintiffs in the suit are former CNN executive assistant, Celeslie Henley, and former Turner Broadcasting System manager, Ernest Colbert Jr. Turner is a CNN affiliate and a division of Time Warner. Among other things, the two allege that the organization is “rife with racism” and “bigoted remarks.” As reported by the New York Business Journal, the plaintiffs recounted hearing racially offensive remarks, such as “It’s hard to manage black people” and “Who would be worth more: black slaves from times past, or new slaves?”
Henley claims to have worked at CNN for seven years until she was terminated for emailing human resources about the discriminatory environment. In March, the plaintiffs filed a motion to amend, citing the growing number of individuals “…having similar complaints of intentional racial discrimination, discrimination impact and discriminatory practices employed by the Defendants.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times has been busy reporting the troubles at Fox News and simultaneously rebutting accusations of discrimination based on race, age and gender. The lawsuit against the Times, filed last year and reported by the New York Post, claims that white employees are paid more than their non-white colleagues and that the paper gives hiring preference to “younger employees without families, and who were white,” according to plaintiffs.
Whether or not any of these lawsuits have merit, it is worth considering them all as symptoms of the larger problem faced by the traditional media establishment. None of these three news giants will see their glory days again. Technology has, quite possibly, doomed their conventional business model; their expensive, brick-and-mortar assets, and huge staffs are becoming millstones around their respective necks as leaner, web-based news organizations swamp the market (pun intended).
In a world where downsizing and automation has become the overriding trend, employees may be growing ever more sensitive to tensions in the workplace; former employees – fearing for their futures in a rapidly changing industry – more susceptible to suspicions of ulterior motives behind their terminations. That is not to say that the accusations against any of these three organizations are fanciful; perhaps even these uber-liberal institutions, CNN and the Grey Lady, are just as racist and sexist as Fox.
Clearly, all three entities – as well as the rest of the old media world – are going to have to come up with much smarter ways of shedding personnel: Within ten or fifteen years, few are likely to be anything more than web-based outlets with relatively small physical footprints.
And we’ll all be the better for it.