Jim Vance (Courtesy Photo/Twitter)
There are few shining examples of Black male excellence in broadcast TV, a field that suffers from a dearth of brothas like Jim Vance. The man who delivered the news to us in D.C. for over 45 years passed on July 22, leaving his mark on the local broadcast sector.
Local television news is not the same as sports broadcasting, so one doesn’t see many Black faces like former NFL or NBA players on one’s TV set in this particular industry. These Black males are as close to ‘conventional news analysts’ as it typically gets, and we are drawn to them primarily because of their knowledge of the intricacies of the game from personal experience. But in actual broadcast TV we make up just 5% of the local news talent in the top commercial markets.
We are a rare breed that has yet to see significant growth for many years. TV stations, both local and national, are truly in desperate need of more diverse newsrooms, and I’ve attended panel discussions, breakout sessions and conferences fully dedicated to this exact issue. One thing that is quite well known, but seldom addressed is the news, like modern American society, is run by the White male.
Journalism is supposed to be objective and factual, but when the news being produced is largely controlled by the White man the types of stories and headlines circulating innately become skewed. Diversity in the newsroom is in turn a pressing issue that mirrors many other industries. In addition to the imbalance in reporting segments there is also a top down effect in business, politics, education and more.
People of color have few icons across most professional platforms because in every place outside of sports and some forms of entertainment, we are the vast minority . It’s not fair, but life isn’t fair so we have to keep pushing and strive for change like few have done before. I marvel at the Black broadcasters that I do see and frequently watch broadcast news today.
When I was growing up though, if I wanted to see reporting on TV I would just turn to ESPN and engage with Stuart Scott’s captivating commentary or flip over to FOX NFL Sundays with James Brown’s command of the set. I rarely watched my local news station here in Washington because I was either at school, practice or choir rehearsal .
Besides, ABC, CBS, nor FOX, featured a presence on the daily news who I was drawn to, but I did notice that there was at least one person who looked like me that appeared on NBC News4.
He was an older gentleman with a grey beard and low cut—a brotha nonetheless. Vance was a charismatic fellow with a distinctly raspy and soft, high-registering voice, he was a local legend, who gave the news a hint of chocolate night after night.
Since 1969, he has exemplified doing it the right way for Black journalists in this business. Even after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year , he persisted.
Craig Sager and Stuart Scott , both sports journalists, are examples of individuals who refused to let cancer defeat them or inhibit their creativity or passions for storytelling. Vance is another example of surfing on the high tide until his final wave gently washed him ashore.
He not only leaves a legacy for aspiring reporters like myself, especially being from D.C., but he also left behind a glimpse of hope for our youth who don’t only have local stars like KD or Markelle Fultz to look up to now.
This man’s legacy needs to last a lifetime and lifetimes to come. Parents, make your kids watch a Jim Vance clip as homework. Millennials, remember to tell your sons and daughters about the man who anchored for the premier news channel in the city for nearly half a century throughout your childhood and throughout your parents’, too. It is only right to let children know who should be placed in their Black history books and as posters on their walls.
Arthur Jones II (Courtesy Photo/Twitter)
We must continue to celebrate Vance’s accomplishments like it’s 1969 because what he did for Blacks in journalism, and what he did for our people in this city should be cherished forevermore.
Heaven’s 6 P.M. evening broadcast just found its newest anchor.
Arthur Jones II is a Washington, D.C. based writer.