When Black News Channel (BNC) — a multi-platform news and information network featuring programming for African Americans — launches in November, the faces of the channel will have “major market experience” and represent diverse backgrounds.
While the on-camera talent will be mostly African American, BNC’s Vice President of News and Programming, Gary Wordlaw, said the anchors won’t all be black.
“I’m not just going to hire black folks to be on-air,” Wordlaw told members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) this week during a conference call/webinar.
Since news began to spread about BNC’s planned Nov. 15 launch, Wordlaw said he’s been inundated with calls and emails from agents and talent managers across the country.
“They have been sending me every African American, Hispanic and Japanese person that’s ever been associated with their agencies,” he said with a bit of sarcasm.
BNC’s news operation will be headquartered in Tallahassee, FL, with bureaus in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Houston, Jacksonville, Orlando, Detroit, and Atlanta. Offices in other cities with sizable black populations, such as New Orleans, are also being considered.
As Urban Hollywood 411 previously reported, the channel has already signed ABC News Chief National Correspondent Byron Pitts as a contributor, and inked deals with veteran Washington anchor-reporter Del Walters and conservative author and media personality Larry Elder.
Wordlaw insisted the coverage won’t be slanted.
“I would not work for this company if I was being asked to slant the news politically,” he stated. “My job is to program this with compelling programming that will appeal to the African-American audience and to have news that’s down the middle.”
BNC’s backers have said the channel will be available on cable and satellite TV to at least 33 million households at launch.
In all, the channel plans to hire about 100 anchors, reporters, show producers, writers, digital producers, video editors, and creative services professionals. In addition to accepting applications through its website, there will be heavy recruitment efforts at NABJ’s national convention this summer in Miami.
“I’m going to give the NABJ family an opportunity to have first dibs on a lot of the positions, including prime anchor jobs in the afternoon, morning anchors, sports, weather, all those kinds of jobs,” Wordlaw said.
The news manager added that the channel is specifically recruiting “experienced” anchors and reporters, instead of beginners.
“I’m looking for people to work in the bureaus who have medium market to major market experience. I’m looking for sports people who have major market experience,” he explained.
What BNC won’t be heavily recruiting is multimedia journalists or MMJs, who specialize in shooting and editing their own stories.
“The MMJ thing has gone too far,” Wordlaw said. “It’s time to give reporters the opportunity to report, photographers the opportunity to take pictures, editors the opportunity to edit, producers the opportunity to produce. I’m going back old school.”
BNC’s programming will feature long-form storytelling, shows geared toward women and sports coverage focusing on teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with HBCU students helping with the coverage.
It should be noted, similar efforts focusing news on the black community have faded away. For example, BET and TV One both dramatically scaled back their news coverage. Those failings prompted someone on the NABJ call to ask about BNC’s “sustainability.”
“We are well-funded,” Wordlaw said. “The reason that a lot of these programs fail is that they run out of funding. I’m not concerned about that for the first five years. If we’re not making a profit in five years, then we probably should go off the air.”