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As racial justice protests continue, BABJ President speaks out on newsroom diversity

Courtesy of Madison Carter/WKBW

Thousands of Western New Yorkers tuned into Madison Carter’s coverage of the protest against police brutality in Buffalo for WKBW-TV on Saturday. In conversation with WBFO, Carter speaks out about being one of the only Black reporters on the scene and her fight for greater newsroom diversity across the city.

Carter, originally from Northern Virginia, is a multimedia journalist and anchor who joined WKBW in the summer of 2018. She has also served as president of the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists since January 2020.

“Of everything that happened [Saturday], this is the one thing I cannot shake, that I was the only* Black reporter covering this rally that had to do with racial injustice,” Carter said. “There were some brave reporters, some of Buffalo’s finest, I will say that. They do excellent work. But what was missing was context and understanding, and I can’t ignore that.”

Carter also spoke to WBFO about her experience covering the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and how that helped prepare her to navigate the at-times violent altercations between protestors and police, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, which played out late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

“I spent a lot of time watching other reporters as these demonstrations popped up around the country,” Carter said. “I spent a lot of time researching, ‘What are the best ways to do this?’ and I think that preparation allowed me to remain calm. I had seen it before. I knew what might happen, and I also was keeping in close contact with some of my law enforcement sources.”

Carter also praised law enforcement officials present in Niagara Square Saturday for their respect and protection of local media throughout the night. The situation has been quite different in numerous cities across the country: Police have attacked journalists at least 100 times over the past week, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Asked about her personal aspirations for journalism in Buffalo, Carter said she’s proud of the efforts many local television newsrooms have made to diversify their staff but will continue to push outlets for greater representation of people of color in anchor chairs and deeper reporting on issues facing the city’s Black residents.

“I am clapping. I am applauding the work they’ve done to increase diversity in newsrooms, but now I think what we need to do is step into an educational sphere,” Carter said. “It’s about coming together in a room, having those conversations and educating people who are not Black on how to serve that community. That’s what needs to happen next.”

*WBFO’s racial equity reporter Thomas O’Neil-White also covered parts of Saturday’s events and was accidentally hit with pepper spray. We are happy to report that he is doing fine.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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