What’s crystal clear is that veteran local news anchor Mary Bubala didn’t call ex Mayor Catherine Pugh a nigger.
Nor did she sexualize Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s appearance, nor did she give the slightest hint suggesting SRB wasn’t smart enough for the job.
Never, ever did Bubala even utter Sheila Dixon and pickaninny in the same sentence.
But if she had said any of these things the conversation in public and private spaces would have been much different. So now people, black and white alike, are confused about what all the hubbub is about.
Because it intersects race, gender, and class issues in Baltimore, it’s really about a lot of things. And accordingly, the local media got it mostly wrong.
All Kinds of Wrong
What Had Happened Wuz
With a black journalist on set of WJZ TV as a guest, Dr. Kaye Whitehead, who is an award winning documentary filmmaker and university professor, Bubala asked whether it was time to move away from black woman as mayoral candidates considering the failures (in Bubala’s opinion) of each of the three: Sheila Dixon (resigned), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (did not seek re-election) and Catherine Pugh (resigned).
Social media exploded. Journalists from a professional association (BABJ) dedicated to mentoring and establishing standards for their members drew first blood:
Not Everybody Is Mad Tho
I’m going to talk to my people first. People, my people:
Catherine Pugh’s side hustle was a breach of trust. I heard ya’ll say: she sold #HealthyHolly books and got a half million dollars? Damn girl!
But this isn’t a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” type of scenario.
Gaming the system became an art form for us ever since the US defaulted on our 40 acres and a mule.
Sometimes, we know, we just gotta get ours. But in Pugh’s case she was the system, and took an oath to make the system work for the same people she swore to protect and lift up. Then she allegedly used her position to line her own pockets.
What Catherine Pugh Did Wrong
True you might say, Cathy’s game was not as strong as all the white male mayors who have likely done worse. You might also say she broke the cardinal rule: she forgot who she was, who she was playing with, and flew a little to close to the sun. You might even say Pugh deserved to be forced to resign i.e. fired for being so blatant with her ratchetness.
Privately I hear you say Sheila and Cathy made us look bad and maybe we need to go back to white male leadership. But when I really listen, I hear ya’ll’s pain. As notable journalist Lisa Snowden- McCray said recently on a WYPR broadcast: “It’s sad”
We are embarrassed and ashamed. Wearily, we become more than willing to return to pointing fingers at “the man” and grumbling about how he is keeping us down.
We don’t get that many chances. Which is why Mary Bubala’s comments stung.
Baltimore City has had “ …three female, African-American mayors in a row…Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?” – Mary Bubala
Across racial lines, sympathy for 15 year veteran CBS affiliate news anchor Mary Bubala is palpable and growing. A change.org petition has been started to get her back on the air.
What’s Really Wrong is … With Journalism
My source for taking the pulse of Baltimore is my mom. Larry Young hasn’t talked about it on his show as I sit here writing, so of course, she didn’t know anything about it. She lives in senior community and the gossip spread through there like a California wildfire. So I showed her the Sun article.
According to the sage woman who raised me (and I’m paraphrasing):
[Bubala] said what she felt. What’s wrong with that? All the callers to Larry Young feel the exact same way, and they’re black. People want to move way from black leadership, because the three mayors were failures. We had our chance, according to my mom. She shouldn’t get fired. Everybody is saying the same thing. The Pugh ordeal was so over the top. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Understandably, the Loyola of Maryland professor, Dr. Karsona “Kaye” Whitehead prefers to discuss what can be learned from the bias displayed as discussed in a May 8 Baltimore Magazine interview.
I’m willing to accept that Mary Bubala’s apology that it wasn’t her best day, and she wasn’t as artful as she would have liked. I’ll even give her a pass for allowing an opinion slip into her questioning.
I am no way excusing WJZ’s decision to not permit Bubala to offer her apology on air or effectively engage in dialogue with the public she has served for 15 years for an utterance that will stain her career. Audra Swain, pictured above right, is WJZ’s general manager.
Likewise, there is absolutely no pass for the Baltimore Sun in treating the story as one of her firing and not one about the role of journalists, their ethics, duty to objectivity and struggles with bias. The editorial staff, namely Tricia Bishop (above left) continues to miss the point as it makes it an ideological difference in calling the conversation a left wing vs right wing debate.
There should be an apology to residents of Baltimore by both WJZ and The Baltimore Sun. However, I kind of expect one from the former that precede’s Bubala’s likely return, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for anything close an acknowledgment from the latter.