Ed Gordon, who is among the most well known African-American faces in television news, having made his mark on shows like “Dateline NBC,” “60 Minutes,” and most notably his tenure at BET, is embarking on a new phase of his career, joining with the network Bounce TV for a new quarterly newsmagazine simply called Ed Gordon, premiering Tuesday.
He sat down with EBONY.com’s Digital Managing Editor, Madison J. Gray recently to talk about the show, what’s in store, and why a Black perspective remains important
EBONY.com: What got you involved with Bounce TV? How did you partner up?
Ed Gordon: I’ve been an acquaintance of the president Ryan Glover for some years and for a couple years we’ve been talking about possibilities, puzzle pieces fitting together. I was doing an event that they were sponsoring, and after a group of us went to dinner and we started talking a little bit more and one thing led to another.
We all thought it might be a good idea to try to develop a show and as we started talking about the show that we might bring to air, it turned into doing a newsmagazine.
EBONY.com: What kind of newsmagazine will it be? Will it be comparable to “Dateline NBC,” or “60 Minutes” or will it be something different?
EG: I feel like, I mean, there’s no new wheel (chuckles), you know. A newsmagazine is what it is. I think the best comparable is Bryant Gumbel’s “Real Sports,” in the sense that it’s quarterly as well. So that’s what we’re doing, a quarterly special, an hour, three to four stories each hour.
EBONY.com: What kind of stories can we expect on the premiere show?
I’m really excited about the first lineup. We think this is a great lineup for a first show. I sat with five of the “Mothers of the Movement.” Of course I’m hyping the show, but I keep telling everybody this part is not hype. This part is one of those interviews that you will not want to miss. It’s very raw, very honest. It reached a point where we had to stop the interview. Everybody was crying including the crew.
I wanted to show what life was for these women, because after a while particularly in the case of Sybrina Fulton, they’ve become celebrities and people forget that they’ve become celebrities because of the death, the murder of their child. So I wanted people to see the burning desire for these women to live their child’s legacy, to not let their child have died in vain, so they’re fighting to stop the violence.
And I wanted people to kind of take a peek to see that the pain, even though you may see them out at the Democratic National Convention or at Essence [Festival] or any of these other places, that the pain is still very real for these women.
We’re also doing a segment on the movie The Birth of a Nation and just by happenstance the [rape allegation] controversy obviously has come up. And we close the show up with a recurring segment we’re going to call “A Few Minutes With…”
Every show we’re going to have a segment where I talk to someone – an intriguing person for just a few minutes, and we sat down with Maxwell this time, right off of a sound check. We were talking about his life, his music, his career and his new sense of activism. So we think that’s a great lineup for the first show.
EBONY.com: The “Mothers of the Movement” have been making news, they’ve been very visible and they have really struck a chord, especially with a lot of the discussion of police violence. What are the things viewers are going to come away with?
EG: You’re right, they’ve been a lot of places, but you see them typically as a collective, you see them talking about the movement, you see them talking about brutality, but you don’t really see them: the personal side . In this you will see their personal sides. You will meet their children through their eyes. One of the most poignant moments is when I asked each to describe the moment they found out their child had been killed. So this is a very personal side to each one of these mothers.
EBONY.com: Now taking it over to Nate Parker, EBONY.com did an interview with him recently, which surprised everybody and it was in the midst of all this controversy over past rape allegations against him. Does this influence how people are going to see your interview with him now?
EG: Of course it is. We sat down with Nate prior to all of this happening. And we were doing the story just about the movie and the buzz and the great story of the road he traveled to make this movie a reality and then this broke and we have subsequently tried to sit down and then after the interview with you guys, they really kind of shut him down, quite frankly. So they passed on our invitation – we extended it a couple of times – but we’ve had to add that addendum and so we have a number of people who were looking at the issue and the situation surrounding the controversy and so it’s become a timely piece in that way. We just thought it was going to be a great piece about the movie.
It’s been intriguing to see which side of the fence people sit. Some people believe he was adjudicated, he went through what he was supposed to, let him go on and do what he needs to do. Others believe that you should boycott and that you don’t give credence to what others believe he did. Others say I’m not sure what happened in that room, but it’s a great fight for this movie and I’m gonna support it. So it’s interesting to see how people are falling and which side of the fence they’re on.
EBONY.com: It’s like you’ve dropped into the middle of the news. Not sometime after the news, not where the news is on the side somewhere. You guys are in the middle of it. I can see you focusing on things like the Colin Kaepernick controversy or down the line, Bill Cosby’s trial…
EG: Certainly. I also want to do stories that I think are not brought to television that often that our community talks about. We’re looking at a story we want to call “Am I Black enough for you?” That’s that whole question of who determines what “Black enough” is. Is it color? And if it’s color, then are you telling me that Clarence Thomas is Blacker than Louis Farrakhan? If it’s not color then what’s the line that determines whether you are? I heard someone the other day who said ‘How can Colin Kaepernick lead this because he’s mixed and he was raised by adoptive White parents. I wonder if those people feel the same way about President Obama.
I want to find those stories that we may talk about at the barbecue or when we’re playing bid whist or with our cousins watching TV, but you don’t see it on television. Certainly it’s perspective. One of the things that EBONY has done for years, decades is perspective. They knew what our audience was, they know who we are, so that’s what I hope to do with this show.
EBONY.com: Speaking of President Obama, there’s an election coming up and we’ll be saying goodbye to him in January. Will we talk about the legacy and influence of having an African-American president for the first time?
EG: Well we’ve got a lot of things on the board and I would think at some point we’ll look at that. Certainly there is a depression I think a lot of Black folks are getting ready to have come January and that might be an interesting story to tell.
EBONY.com: Black President withdrawal?
EG: (Both laugh) Yes. I mean, think about it. We’ve had now eight years and there’s this prideful sense among many African Americans. When you think about how elated they are when they see the First Lady on magazine covers or when she is out doing her thing. There just this pride our community has had for eight years now. When that goes away, I jokingly said it, but I do think there’s going to be a bit of withdrawal.
EBONY.com: Everybody knows Ed Gordon, the person who’s been in our living rooms and on our TVs for a long time, man. You’re almost family to a lot of folks. Do you feel that you’ve been able to hold that all these years or have you grown since the BET days and since?
EG: Well I hope I’ve grown. We all should grow from year to year. It’s interesting because I laugh and tell people when I give speeches, ‘ I know what y’all think, oh we love Ed, but he’s kinda stuck up or he’s kinda this or he’s kinda that.’ I was two votes away from class clown in high school, man. I’ve got a buddy who will not watch me because he’ll say ‘I don’t know who that dude is.’
But I also know that I have represented for us a certain kind of journalist and for me over the years when an older Black person comes and tells me how proud they are of me and the way I represent us on television, or when a younger person says to me, ‘Hey Mr. Gordon, I watched you growing up and my parents made me watch you,’ I understand what the dynamic of the brand Ed Gordon has been all these years. I’m just trying to keep that as real and as honest as I can and I don’t take it lightly.
Ed Gordon premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 13, on Bounce TV
Follow Madison J. Gray on Twitter @madisonjgray.