March 31, 2016
Mr. Chuck Wolfertz Vice President/ General Manager/ WTAE TV 400 Ardmore Boulevard Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Dear Mr. Wolfertz;
First of all I wanted to thank you on behalf of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV) for your Editorial a few days ago regarding the unfortunate situation involving your now former anchor Wendy Bell. We appreciated your sensitivity in addressing the inappropriate use of the WTAE Facebook page by Ms. Bell and your statement of regret on behalf of you, Wendy Bell, and WTAE TV for the messages which had been posted. In your editorial you mentioned that management from WTAE TV has begun to initiate a comprehensive examination of the issues which have been exposed as a result of the Facebook postings. B-PEP and the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence applaud your decision to do so. We are also encouraged to see that you and WTAE TV are also committed to work with local community organizations ‘…to further dialogue around these important issues”. We urge you to work closely with the Pittsburgh Black Media (PBMF) as partners in the effort to move forward. Representatives of The Black Political Empowerment Project and the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence are very willing to assist in this effort as well. For your information and review, we are sharing with you the section from our CAV “Strategies For Change: Creating More Peaceful Communities” entitled “The Role of Media”. Our entire document was written with the input and participation of a few hundred area citizens, across lines of age, race and ethnicity. “The Role of the Media” was written in response to the views of many people, of all races, that African Americans, and particularly young African American males, are portrayed in area media in a very negative light. This feeling or attitude has been prevalent for many years, if not decades. It does not appear to many of us that much has changed over the years in terms of how African Americans, and people of color in general, are portrayed in the media. B-PEP PLANNING COUNCIL Tim Stevens Chairman & CEO Valerie Dixon Vice-Chairperson Lorraine B. Cook Cross Secretary/Civic Engagement Coordinator A. Odell Richardson Treasurer Mary Young Personnel Committee Chair Lois “Toni” McClendon B-PEP Radio Producer Lead Writer & Editor/ CAV/ B-PEP Administrator Brigette Bethea Special Assistant B-PEP- CAV In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. LeRoy Patrick Rev. Dr. James E.Garmon Rick Adams William Anderson Art Baldwin Jordan Ball Rev. Maureen CrossBolden K.L. Brewer Lois M. Cain Monica Carlisle Richard Carrington Elena Chaffin Martha Conley, Esq. Rob Conroy Rev. Sampson Cooper Mary Evans Rev. Michele P. Ellison Brandi Fisher Monique Flowers Evan Frazier Keonna Gibson, Intern Janice Gladden Navada Green Elder Eugene Hanner H.P. Jackson Tamara Jones Ron King Valerie Lauw Terrance McDaniel Shirley Muhammad Kenneth Alan Miller Joanne Norris, Intern E. Richard Phipps Betty Pickett Marlene V. Ramseur Jonathan Reyes Reggie Roberts Craig Stevens William “Jack” Simmons Esq. Schnel Simmons John Small Celeste Taylor Flo Taylor Natalie Taylor David Tessitor Jamar Thrasher Clyde Trent James Tucker Matthew Ulich Cynthia Vanda Dewitt Walton Shanon Williams Ashley G. Woodson Karen Wright Mary Young 2 “It’s a LIFETIME COMMITMENT… African Americans VOTE in EACH and EVERY election!!” Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.b-pep.net A few years ago B-PEP and CAV helped to host “A Media Summit on Black Imaging”. The event was hosted by WPXI TV and was attended by representatives of most of our area media. Years before a similar summit was hosted by WQED TV when I was President of the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch. Ironically, earlier on the same day that I found out about the Wendy Bell postings in a meeting about a future Youth Summit which would be based on some of the strategies from our Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence document, something was mentioned in that meeting that caused me to state that maybe it was time to host another Media Summit on Black Imaging. Once I heard of the Wendy Bell Facebook Page the need for such a Media Summit seemed even more necessary! Part of my personal reaction to Ms. Bell’s comments were that these comments were stated publicly and posted on a WTAE TV Facebook page, particularly because of the extremely inflammatory and racially insensitive nature of some of those comments. Even in my former volunteer position for ten years as President of the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch, and my thirty years as Chairman (and now CEO) of B-PEP I have always tried to be extremely careful any time I was asked by the media to address various issues. I felt, and still feel, that my words are potentially a reflection on the organizations I represent, or have represented. I would hope that any representative of WTAE TV and other media outlets, would be aware that any comment posted on a Facebook Page, particularly one supported by one’s media source, could reflect, potentially negatively on themselves and their employer, and potentially further racial tensions and the racial divide. Everyone, particularly a professional media person, should be totally aware of the power and passion around the subject of race in Pittsburgh and in America. The last thing we need to propagate through the media is a continuing and an expansion of negative images of African Americans. Some of Ms. Bell’s comments were the height of stereotyping of young Black males. It is possible that the continued negative images of young African American males both on WTAE TV and in the media in general, over a period of years, helped seed such negative thoughts and impressions in the mind of Ms. Bell, as well as in the minds of the viewers of local and national television. This pattern of the ongoing negative projection of African American males must be stopped. Media representatives and interested citizens of Metropolitan Pittsburgh should have an urgency about how to explore ways of how the conversation around race can take place in a constructive manner. In reviewing Wendy Bell’s full posting I truly believe that she was honestly reacting to a tragedy which affected so many people and occurred almost on the door steps of WTAE TV. I think her heart may have been in the right place, but unfortunately some her words were not. I am still not certain if WTAE TV have missed a golden opportunity for a ‘teachable moment’ for Ms. Bell, for the station and for people of all races to collectively address what went wrong and why, and move to ‘fix it’! 3 “It’s a LIFETIME COMMITMENT… African Americans VOTE in EACH and EVERY election!!” Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Email: email@example.com Website: www.b-pep.net Some people talk about why so many Black males are unemployed. Part of the answer might be based, at least in part, on the continued projection of African American males as criminals. Such ongoing negative pictures have to have a negative effect on the minds and perspectives of those charged with hiring new employees when considering young African Americans. Such negative perspectives can certainly have a profound and negative effect on an entire community of people. The time to address this entire situation is now. We strongly urge WTAE TV, and all area media, to fully review the “The Role of Media” section from the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence “Strategies for Change: Creating More Peaceful Communities” document and to create policies, procedures and methods aimed at implementing many of the recommendations contained in this section. One of the recommendations would be to further diversify of your on air personalities, as well as those who make key decisions for the direction of your station with regard to how news is covered. We look forward to hearing from your station as to how you plan to move forward. Thanks for your consideration of our thoughts and recommendations.
Tim Stevens, Chairman & CEO
The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) Co-convener, Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV)