For years, Emmy-Award-winning journalist Ed Gordon earned a reputation for landing high-profile interviews. In 1996, he sat down with O.J. Simpson following the former football giant’s acquittal of double murder charges. He interviewed President Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment trial. And in 2002, he talked to R&B singer R. Kelly, who was just beginning to face charges of having sex with underage girls.
As anchor of BET News and host of BET Tonight, Gordon became the face of intelligent broadcast news among African Americans. When BET’s parent company, Viacom, changed the network’s news programming last year, Gordon found a home on NPR with his program News & Notes with Ed Gordon.
Outspoken and hard-hitting, Gordon, 45, sat down with BLACK ENTERPRISE to talk about the role of mass media, the state of black men in America, and the shortcomings of the hip-hop generation.
What is your opinion of the state of black men in America?
We have to take a hard look in the mirror. It’s far beyond the white man holding us down. We are not holding up our end of the bargain. If you are with a woman and you have a child, you need to be in that child’s life. If you’re having problems with your self-worth because society says you’re worthless, you can’t allow that to beat you down to the point where you’re no longer a part of your society or your community. We don’t like to say it out loud, but black men are slowly becoming extinct in America. You can go to a church on Sunday and see only three or four black men in the choir, three or four black men in the audience, and that’s it. Something’s wrong. I think now is the time for us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say, “Enough is enough!”
Did you have conflicts working at BET News, considering the network had been criticized for the negative images it portrayed in rap videos?
I was critical of some of the programming and behind the scenes had many a fight and even opted out of some things that I felt were not appropriate. But truth be told, a lot of people still watch that kind of programming. I was proud that young people who watched some of that questionable programming were able to see news when they might not watch news anywhere else. While I didn’t agree all of the time, I was proud to be able to provide that vehicle.
What do you think of the present state of hip-hop?
Hip-hop music has influenced this nation in a way that no cultural movement in black America has-in terms of sheer numbers. African Americans have always been at the forefront of shaping and changing things culturally. On a whole, there are some social deficits in the hip-hop generation. There is a need to be more socially relevant. However, there are people out there like Mos Def and Common who do make socially relevant songs.
What political issue are you most passionate