News station, news anchor

St. Louis News Station Apologizes For Use Of ‘Colored’ On Air

NABJ President Ken Lemon and Vice-President-Broadcast Walter Smith Randolph also issued a joint statement indicating their desire for something positive to come out of the situation.

KMOV anchor Cory Stark apologized for using the word “colored” while the St. Louis station covered a story about Black homeowners on February 26. On Feb. 27, Stark faced the camera and apologized for using the term. 

“Last night at this time, I read an outdated racial term on air during a story. The word should have never come out of my mouth, and it does not reflect who I am or what First Alert 4 represents,” Stark said. “It was unacceptable, and we are meeting with community members as we strive to do better every day.”

The apology did not stop groups like the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) from criticizing the station. In a statement released on March 1, they noted that the term is at odds with the 43% Black population of St. Louis. 

“It is upsetting that such a slur would make it to air. The term is outdated, offensive and racist,” the statement read. “We are concerned that no one in the KMOV newsroom caught this error, and we question KMOV’s editorial process when it comes to cultural awareness.”

The NABJ continued, “While we understand that there have been multiple on-air apologies and KMOV management has met with local leaders, that is not enough. KMOV and Gray TV should retrain their employees on diversity, equity and inclusion issues while investing in recruiting and retaining Black employees on and off-air.”

NABJ President Ken Lemon and Vice-President-Broadcast Walter Smith Randolph issued a joint statement indicating their desire for something positive to come out of the situation. 

“We look forward to these discussions with KMOV’s management,” said Lemon and Randolph. “However, this further shows the fight for equal treatment and fair coverage is not over. We hope these discussions will be fruitful and yield documentable results.”

The general manager of First Alert 4 (formerly known as KMOV), JD Sosnoff, released a statement to the St. Louis Dispatch, which indicated that it happened due to a production error. 

“It was in an original script as ‘homeowners of color’ and was inadvertently changed and mistakenly read on air,” Sosnoff said. “We regret the error and [apologize] to our viewers.”

“Colored” carries a negative connotation among Black Americans, particularly when said by white Americans, as the term is associated closely with Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement and largely fell out of favor with Black Americans in the 1960s.

As John McWhorter wrote in an op-ed for Slate in 2016, the term “colored” was essentially replaced by a few terms, “Black” and “African-American” among them. McWhorter also dealt with Amy Roblach’s assertion that she, too, meant to use the term “people of color” when she could have just said either “Black” or “African-American” and avoided the controversy.

The news station has not yet responded to any media requests for comment, but St. Louis NAACP President John Bowman informed the St. Louis Dispatch that he called and spoke to the station and vouched for Stark’s character. 

“Trust me, I’ve had enough experience dealing with people who intentionally show discrimination or racist behaviors,” Bowman said. “But I’ve interacted with Cory Stark, and at no time have I ever felt that about him.”