Plagued by Criticism for Clip of 4-Year-Old, WBBM VP Defends Station from Racism Accusations

By Merrill Knox 

In the month since the initial criticism was laid on WBBM, the CBS owned-and-operated station in Chicago, for taking the quote of a four-year-old boy on the South Side out of context, the ethical debate has continued to fester.

The report, which featured an edited soundbite of a young African American boy saying he planned to have a gun when he was older without revealing that his motivation was to be part of the police force, drew reaction from politicians and civil rights groups, including the NAACP. Now the station is responding, in a statement released to the Maynard Institute by WBBM vice president and news director Jeff Kiernan:

CBS 2 has taken full responsibility for the errors made in a story that aired on our early morning newscast on June 30. The mistake was serious and subject to fair criticism. We recognized that fact immediately — prior to any such external criticism — and pulled the segment from air. That much is clear.

However, we do object to subsequent reports in which we believe we have been falsely portrayed. Specifically, we take the strongest possible issue with being characterized as a news organization that doesn’t have African Americans in management and important decision-making roles.

Kiernan — who goes on to list a “significant number of experienced African American managers and journalists” that the station employs — said that any other portrayal of WBBM in the wake of the incident is “unfair and misleading.”

The Maynard Institue’s Bob Butler — who originally broke the story — responded to the statement with information from the National Association of Black Journalists’ Diversity Census. Butler claims that no African Americans work on the morning show, where the original error, which you can watch below, was made.