Verdicts, News Breaks, and Racism

There are many people where I work that are counting down the days to an important event – the start of the college football season. Here where the ACC and the SEC are the only conferences that really matter, there is the look forward to the Labor Day Weekend and the path to a new national champion.

And all through the fall months, there will be Monday chatter about the exciting events of the previous Saturday, and big talk on Friday over who will beat whom this weekend. Even the chat before meetings will be populated with this kind of talk, and it is all part of the socialization process in the work place. And, for the record, not all of us want to participate in the discussions. We might not even care about the outcomes from the weekend contests. Some of us consider this to be a distraction.

But today, much of the talk will be about current situations, and primarily the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Has the system failed? Was justice served?What was the jury thinking?

Even if you watch little TV, you probably know more about this case than you might want to. But you won’t know as much as the jury, and you weren’t in the room to review the facts and make an important decision.

The bigger story this weekend, in my opinion, is the incredible report from KTVU news station in San Francisco, where the noon news anchor actually read out loud some obviously fake names, revealing them to be the names of the four pilots responsible for the plane that crashed last weekend. The Asiana Flight is still under investigation, and in a rush to break a story, the news team brought an insulting, race-mocking report to the public.

Most HR pros have some accountability for managing their workplace behaviors regarding respect for employees. But what procedures are in place in a broadcast to monitor this? As soon as the names went up on the screen, you knew that this was a hoax. Where was the person that prepared the graphic? Where was the person confirming the names? Really? Someone at the other end of the phone confirmed them, so you know they were correct?

What happened to Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Two different people meeting in the same situation may have had cooler heads. But there was a weapon involved, and that’s the difference. We, as citizens, took sides to the point there was no outcome that would be seen as correct. It can’t be undone. Was justice served? Only to the extent that our system is designed to TRY and do that in an effective manner.

But the San Francisco newsroom incident shows a degree of ignorance that needs attention. Probably in every newsroom in the country. There is something to be learned from this for all of us.

Racism, of any kind, is not a joke.

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