BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Journalists from across the country joined Nexstar and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Thursday for an important dialogue on newsroom diversity.
In the nine months since George Floyd’s death, the nation has seen an incredible groundswell of diversity and inclusion. In covering this tragedy, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the ensuing antiracism protests over the past year, newsrooms have undergone internal transformations and facilitated difficult conversations on race.
In this virtual event, we reflected on the challenges facing the industry, as experienced by three Black television news trailblazers: Carole Simpson, former anchor of ABC World News Tonight; Bob Jordan, former anchor at WGN-TV Chicago; and Monica Pearson, former anchor at WSB-TV Atlanta. WFLA-TV anchor and reporter Rod Carter moderated the discussion.
Simpson, Jordan, and Pearson revealed the biggest hurdles they have overcome in their careers, described the changing landscape of race in society, and offered advice to journalists—all of whom have benefitted from their groundbreaking achievements.
Learn more about these broadcast legends below:
Carole Simpson is best known as anchor of the weekend editions of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” a position she held for 15 years. In 1992, she became the first woman and first minority to moderate a presidential debate. Simpson was also the first African American woman to broadcast news in her hometown of Chicago, the first to anchor a local newscast, the first to become a national network correspondent, and the first to anchor a major network newscast.
As a national correspondent for NBC News and later ABC News, Simpson won three Emmys, a Peabody, a DuPont Columbia Journalism award, a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists, and 14 honorary degrees. She has received more than 100 tributes for her television news reports, her financial contributions to young women and minority journalists, and for her profession.
Her career in broadcast journalism spanned 40 years, which she recounts in her 2011 memoir, “NewsLady.” Simpson most recently served as Distinguished Journalist in Residence and journalism professor in the School of Communication at Emerson College in Boston. Since her retirement, Simpson has started producing video blogs, which can be found on her new website, “W.O.W.” for Wise Old Woman, and on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter. Simpson resides in Boston and on Martha’s Vineyard. She has a daughter, Dr. Mallika Marshall; a son, Adam Marshall; and four grandchildren.
Robert H. Jordan, Jr., is a retired weekend anchor for WGN-TV’s “News at Nine.” Jordan’s journalism career has spanned over 48 years and has showcased his exceptional writing and verbal communication skills.
Jordan recently published his first book, entitled, “Murder in The News: An Inside Look at How Television Covers Crime.”
During the fall quarter of 2014, Jordan was the first Journalist-in-Residence at the University of Chicago.
Jordan earned his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University, a master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies from Loyola University in Chicago.
Jordan, who served in the United States Army as a surgical assistant, began his broadcast adventure in 1970 at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, where he anchored an early morning variety show and was responsible for on-camera news breaks. In 1973, he began work at WGN-TV in Chicago as a general assignment reporter and an anchor for the “One O’clock News.”
In 1978, Jordan left WGN for a network position at CBS News. There, he covered stories for the nightly news with Walter Cronkite until 1980 when he returned to his WGN home.
Twenty-five years ago, Jordan opened his own video production company, Jordan & Jordan Communications, Inc. He has produced many independent projects, including biographies for affluent families across the country. In 2000, Jordan began devoting all of his energies to the biography projects. His production company Video Family Biographies worked exclusively with high-net-worth families in preserving the family legacy by chronicling generational stories for this “special” niche. In 2009, Jordan expanded his production company to include Video For Foundations as a dedicated arm of his company. In 2015, Jordan added two additional biography companies to his existing businesses, Sports Legacy Biographies and Heirlooms on Video, a specialty firm that helps collectors of Fine Art and memorabilia tell the fascinating stories behind their collections.
An active participant in the community, Jordan serves on the Board of Directors of several local organizations, including, The Safer Foundation, The Night Ministry, The John G. Shedd Aquarium, and the Loyola Family Business Center. He also sits on the Salvation Army advisory board.
A native of Atlanta, Jordan and his wife Sharon, a retired middle school librarian, have one daughter, Karen, who is a weekend news anchor for WLS-TV, Channel 7, in Chicago. Karen’s husband Christian Farr is a reporter for NBC-5, TV in Chicago. The Farrs have two children: a girl, Vivian, and a boy, John Robert Farr.
Monica Kaufman Pearson is the first woman and first minority to anchor the daily evening news in Atlanta Georgia, where she worked for 37 years at the leading station, WSB-TV. She has won 33 Southern Regional and local Emmy Awards for reporting, anchoring and her “Closeups” celebrity interview shows.
When she retired in 2012, she was honored on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by the bipartisan delegation of the State of Georgia for her years of service on and off the air to improve the lives of the citizens of Georgia.
Monica calls retirement, “re-wirement” and now does voice over work for KISS 104.1; serves as one of three co-host of the Emmy nominated Georgia Public Broadcasting TV show, “A Seat at the Table;” is a spokesperson for businesses and institutions on radio and television; and serves as a speaker and emcee for events.
She is in several Halls of Fame: The National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, the University of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In 2019 she was inducted into the Trumpet Foundation International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, located outside the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
Monica is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and her master’s from the University of Georgia, where she graduated, Magna Cum Laude at the age of 66. She has been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority since 1966.
She is married to John E. Pearson Sr.; has a daughter, Claire Patrice Deveaux; and a stepson, John E. Pearson II.