Ed Gordon has gained a reputation as one of the most respected news broadcasters in the industry. In his distinguished career as an anchor, correspondent and producer, he has carved a unique space as a trusted voice in the ever-changing industry.

After graduating from Wayne State University, Gordon launched his journalism career when he became the host of Detroit Black Journal, a weekly talk show. Since then he's worked for BET, NBC and CBS. He's also hosted his own daily news show, from 2005 to 2006, on NPR Radio; and he had a syndicated talk show, Our World with Black Enterprise, from 2006 to 2010. In 2020, his book Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership was published by Hachette Book Group.

EBONY caught up with the news veteran and spoke to him about his latest news show American In Black and why Black journalism is more important than ever.

EBONY: When did you first discover that you wanted to be a news reporter?

Ed Gordon: It's funny because when I was younger, I thought, like most of us, I was going to be in the NBA, then I thought I was gonna be Bruce Lee. My dad, Ed Gordon Jr. was an Olympic gold medalist and it's something that I'm very proud of. Then I thought I was going to be a lawyer but when I went to college, one of my communications professors said, “Hey, you know, I think you'd be good at this. You can always go to law school but maybe you should give this a try.” I can remember as far back as junior high school, I pretended to be the local newscaster with my partner at the lunch table. We acted like we were doing the news. I've always loved telling stories and have always been pretty good at it since I was a kid. Once I started, I just fell in love with it.

How did growing up in Detriot shape your perspective as a journalist?

It had a huge impact. I should show my gators because I'm from Detroit [Laughs]. Growing up in Detroit, we had a Black mayor named Coleman Young, who was a cold-blooded brother that took no gruff from anybody. On my block, we had Black doctors, Black teachers, Black attorneys and the city council was mostly Black. By the time I was a teenager, Motown was there. Then you had all the great music from Aretha Franklin to Parliament Funkadelic to the Dramatics. Even professional athletes lived in our neighborhood back. They weren't making millions of dollars back then so Willie Horton—a great Detroit Tiger—and Charlie Sanders—who was a great Detroit Lion—lived just blocks away from me. So you saw all of this as a kid then, and you believed that it was possible. We had caring teachers in the Detroit Public school system. I went to Cass Technical High School and these people expected us to do well. So part of what I tell people is when our kids are stumbling, some of that is not their fault. Much of it is our fault because we've not given them the idea of dreaming bigger. That's what I always had as a kid. I had examples around me that I could touch and talk to, and they always taught us that you can do this.

CassTech is renowned for its distinguished alumni such as yourself, Diana Ross, Big Seanand others. What makes the school so special?

David Alan Grier, Lily Tomlin— mean the list goes on and on on who went there. It was great and is a great school. I think it was just great teachers who believed in you and taught you not to take a back seat to anyone.

You've dedicated your career to telling the stories of Black people. Why is that vision important to your work?

I think that the idea of telling Black folks stories is important to me because they don't get told. Even today, as much of what we've seen in terms of strides that Black people have made in television news, the vast majority of our stories still don't get told and a lot of times, we still don't have the ability to green light as many stories as we should. Even when I was at CBS and NBC, I still wanted to cover Black stories. A lot of anchors and reporters when they get to the major networks, they don't want to be "pigeonholed" by doing Black stories. I was fine with doing Black stories, so I've kind of worn that as my cape.

After establishing your career in Detroit, how did you first begin working with BET?

There was a young lady who was a camera person, at a time when not many women were camera people, named Joel Boykin. She reached out to BET and said that we could be their Detroit crew when BET News was starting to make noise. So I started as the Detroit reporter on BET News. After pitching them stories every week, I got the gumption one day to say, "I want to fly to New York and just say hello to you all." I bought my own ticket and flew up there. I knew the anchor at the time was Paul Barry, a Washington, D.C. local anchor who was just doing that for an extra check. They were happy to have him because he was a true professional, but I said, "If you're ever looking for an anchor, please keep me in mind." The stars aligned and the moon was right, and they hired me. It gave me a great career, that I've continued for decades now. Along with Donnie Simpson and several other people, I became one of the faces of the network. It also gave me the ability—particularly, when there were not as many Black faces on TV as you see now—to become that voice for our people every week. The audience trusted us. They felt that we had done our homework, and I didn't take that lightly.

From your time at BET, what was one of your most memorable interviews?

That’s when exclusives were exclusive. But back then, when you got an exclusive you were the only person who talked to them. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it made it bigger. I was looking through some pictures today and I was amazed at the people I've talked to over the course of my career. I'm humbled by that. I will tell you, sitting with Nelson Mandela for the first time was the one for me. No comparison. When I met him, I was like, "This guy is not like the rest of us. He is different."

But the interview that is most talked about to this day, more than the O.J. Simpson or R. Kelly interviews is the one with Tupac Shakur. Some people know about that interview and they weren't even born when I first conducted it. I got to know him a little bit and his mother, Afeni. He would call me from time to time and she was excited when he would do that. He said to me, "You're not old enough to be my dad but you're like an older brother, and I appreciate who you are." That is the most talked about interview by people in the streets.

For your latest project America in Black, you reconnected with BET along with CBS. How does it feel to return to the network?

News is very different now. Not just Black news but the news business as an industry. I'm going to remain the same so they're just gonna either catch up with me; or I'm gonna catch up with them in a way, but not fully [Laughs]. I still hold to the traditions of what a story should be. What's funny is that I've been producing through my production company for years, doing different things but everybody still associates me with BET.

I've always wanted to do a news magazine and I did a short-lived one on Bounce TV. But on this one, I'm hoping with the resources of CBS News and their great correspondents such as Gayle King, James Brown, Jericka Duncan and Nichelle Turner that we'll tell some great stories.

In the first episode, you explore the return of Bruce's Beach, which was once a Black resort in California, and how it was taken away from its Black founders but was recently returned their descendants as a form of reparations. What's your thought on how the topic has been covered?

Ultimately, the descendants of the owners of Bruce’s Beach sold that land back to the government for $20 million because they weren't able to rezone it.

We also found a woman—Ms. Mamie Hansberry—who's the sister of Lorraine Hansberry. Her father in the 1930s owned 13 properties in Chicago that would have been worth millions today. Their family lost that land between the late '30s and the early '60s because it was all taken away by eminent domain, and they're attempting to get it back now. Ms. Mamie Hansberry turned 100 on April 2, 2023 when we premiered the episode so that was a little divine intervention there. We're taking a look at what their family is doing to get that land back. At the end of the segment, I called her Ms. Mamie. On another network, they might have said, “Why are you calling her Ms. Mamie?” Well, that's what we call a 100-year-old lady. She’s everybody's grandmama. So it's things like that I think, that makes this show unique.

The loss of land is a big part of why we see the tremendous wealth gap in America. The two families that I mentioned aren't the only families. If you think about all the land that was taken from Black people, often unjustly by the government; or, in the case of the city of Chicago, when the University of Chicago co-opted some of that land in conjunction with the government. If you think about these claims—which are into the hundreds now, or even into the 1000s—imagine if the families could get that wealth back. What if the family that owned Bruce's Beach was able to keep the millions of dollars of the property's worth generationally? Although they were able to sell it recently for $20 million; over 30 years, it would have easily been more than $20 million.

The state of California has talked about reparations and giving descendants of enslaved people $5 million each. I don't know that it's reasonable in terms of whether or not financially they can do that, but the talk of reparations has been going on for decades. We'll see what happens with it.

Lastly, what advice would you give to up-and-coming journalists and those who want to work in the news media?

First, determine whether you're a journalist or you're someone with a platform. Those are two different things. I see a lot of people talking about they have breaking news and I'm like, “Dude, you're just in front of a building because you happen to be there.” That doesn't make you a reporter. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, but there's a difference between what I do and when someone goes on IG live. I'm not throwing any shade but I'm just saying that I was trained a certain way. 

I would also tell people that if you're going to be in media, in any capacity, there's a responsibility that comes from it. There’s a responsibility to make sure that it's right before you choose to post it,and make sure that you have the facts. We have to take that responsibility seriously.