After walking into Hotel Duval last Thursday, I was mesmerized by the ambiance and style of the hotel. I felt as if I wasn’t in Tallahassee.
From the valet parking to everyone walking in looking important, it really felt like we were in a different atmosphere.
As I was lifted to the eighth floor to the roof top, I wondered what kind of panel this would be with five black CBS journalists in the same room for the first time in history to speak to students. Russ Mitchell, “CBS Early Show” and “Evening News Saturday Edition” anchor;
Bill Whitaker, “CBS News” Correspondent; Byron Pitts, chief national correspondent and contributing correspondent for “60 Minutes”; Randall Pinkston, “CBS News” correspondent; and Harold Dow, correspondent for “48 Hours Mystery”, paid their own way to come speak to us about their journey, our responsibility to be the voice to spread truth and how tough we have to be to deliver it.
It was a night of many emotions from the beginning when Harold Dow started off with his documentary about the story of Medgar Evers and Barack Obama. After the short documentary went off, there was a standing ovation and tears on the cheeks of many.
While the somber, yet rejoicing, mood was still in the air, Randall Pinkston stood up to speak, but had to step away from the microphone when tears filled his eyes because he grew up in Jackson, Miss. during the Medgar Evers era. These five men didn’t come to Tallahassee to tell us about how good CBS is; they came as humans giving the story behind the scenes.
They came to let us know up front that the mainstream news industry isn’t looking for anchors, reporters and producers that favor the darker brother.
The overall message was that there are going to be road blocks, haters and many people to tell you no, but that doesn’t mean that you stop striving to achieve what you want. As time was running out, Byron Pitts stood up to speak, and what a powerful message it was.
Pitts told his story; he didn’t know how to read until he was 12 years old and had a speech impediment until he was 20 years old.
His mother was told that he was retarded and that he should be institutionalized, but yet he’s on “60 Minutes.” Pitts told how one of his bosses told him he wasn’t good enough, and he was going to fire him. Respectfully, Pitts replied to his boss, “Not one time when I’m on my knees at night have I ever called your name.”
Pitts got a standing ovation many times during the evening, as did the entire panel. Another historical moment at, none other than, Florida A&M University, and I witnessed it.
This experience wouldn’t have been possible without FAMU grad Kim Godwin, senior producer of the “CBS Nightly News” with Katie Couric. And for that Ms. Godwin, I thank you.
Marlon Williams is a senior public relations student from Tallahassee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.