KING, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in Seattle, is airing a series of half-hour specials on racial inequality and social justice titled, Facing Race. The 13 half-hour specials are airing immediately after Sunday Night Football, a highly viewed and coveted time slot for NBC affiliates.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, KING, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in Seattle, began airing and streaming a series of half-hour specials on racial inequality and social justice titled Facing Race.
The half-hour specials, 13 in total, are airing immediately after Sunday Night Football, a highly-viewed and coveted time slot for NBC affiliates.
“It’s a huge audience,” said Christin Ayers, KING’s bureau chief in Tacoma and the executive producer for Facing Race.
“Our general manager, Jim Rose, and our news director, Pete Saiers, have been very committed to getting this in front of as many eyes as possible. It is a big commitment. I have really been impressed with that.”
Facing Race is inspired in part by a KING series that aired in the 1960s and ’70s called Face to Face, hosted by Roberta Byrd Barr and produced by Jean Walkinshaw.
Face to Face was the region’s first television program with an African American host and has been described as the first television show in the Pacific Northwest “to consistently explore issues of concern to minorities.”
Walkinshaw, one of the first female documentary producers in the Northwest, said that the stories told in the program highlighted “people of all different backgrounds, all different races, showing a different segment of society from what one usually saw.”
Looking back at those stories shows some progress made, but also calls attention to the progress that hasn’t yet happened — emphasizing the importance and need for a program like Facing Race.
Ayers said the way that Face to Face broached the subject of civil rights in a unique way, below the surface, inspired KING to look at today’s issues of social justice and systemic racism in that tradition.
“The idea to have Facing Race came out of all of the movements that have been happening since George Floyd’s killing. Seeing the outcry, the public outrage and the Black Lives Matter protests that started in Minneapolis and included a pretty robust response from protesters in Seattle, got all of us, including management, talking about what sorts of stories we could be doing to try and meet the moment. We started talking about what opportunities there were for stories that sort of go beyond the surface.”
Ayers said the series started with a simple question, when did you realize your race mattered?
“White people we asked did not have an answer, really had no awareness throughout most of their adult life that their whiteness mattered in any significant way or should be talked about or addressed. People of color, on the other hand, had these very painful memories from their childhood of realizing when their race mattered and there were often racist confrontations that they had.
“And so that sort of showed the disparity in where we are coming from and why it is so hard for us to understand each other a lot of times when we are trying to have conversations about race. And so we wanted to start the conversation by really getting down to what is it about our differences that we struggle to talk about and how can we do that in this very straightforward way? A lot of very well documented studies show the disparity that a person will face depending on their skin color. And that is where we started. We are a news organization. You start with the facts and then you try to teach.”
Each half-hour episode of Facing Race has a theme. The first episode, said Ayers, “is sort of a Racism 101. What is racism? Is it just when you hear this one word or is it systemic racism and what does that look like? That is the episode where we really laid out privilege and systemic racism and when did you realize your race matters.”
In Episode 1, Seattle author, Ijeoma Oluo, who wrote the bestseller, So You Want to Talk About Race, talks about why she believes this moment is unlike any other in history and what she hopes will happen next.
Thirteen 30-minute news specials airing in prime real estate on a TV station is quite the commitment. Some might ask why a local TV news operation would do a series on social issues like racism. Isn’t that more for 60 Minutes or PBS shows like Front Line or American Experience?
“As news organizations we do have an obligation and a responsibility to our communities to be aware of the issues that are happening around us and to respond to the questions that we are getting from the community. There is increased awareness of systemic racism. A lot of people looked at these videos of George Floyd being killed. They believed that this was not an isolated incident and that black-skinned African Americans do face systemic racism from police. When people are clamoring for answers based on what is happening in current events, you meet them where they are and try to educate.”
Ayers said it was important that the series came from a fact-based standpoint of a journalistic organization. But in addition, she tapped some of the leading experts on race, authors whose books are on the New York Times best sellers list.
“While this is a local news organization, we made sure to bring in some of the top voices on these issues and will continue to do that.”
Parents of color are talking to their Black and brown children about how to act while in school, at the store and especially when they interact with police.
Ayers said the series has prompted a lot of conversation in the community.
“We had a gentleman reach out to us who is white, and has a daughter who is biracial. He sent us an e-mail saying I have realized that I have been a passive racist my whole entire life while raising a daughter who is half black. I never taught her about her skin color, I basically raised her as if she were white without addressing the unique needs that a child of color has. He was challenging himself to step back and evaluate what kind of parent he had been. And so it has really been stories like that and reactions like that that have really kind of knocked me off of my feet and helped me realize that we are really kicking down a barrier to have important conversations about race that people are dying to have. I am just going to keep pushing and trying to make sure we truly do make a difference. It feels good to be a part of this.”
Law enforcement share their experience on the other side of the protest line.
Click here to see more material including videos about the series, Facing Race, on KING’s website.
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