Two reporters fired in Michigan for asking if every Pride event is newsworthy

Stanton Tang and Amy Fox

If a local news channel covers one Pride event, does it have to cover every Pride event that year? If it interviews LGBTQ+ movement supporters, must it also interview those who oppose?

These were the concerns shared by news director Stanton Tang and assistant news director Amy Fox at WOOD TV, an NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in an internal memo to employees. They were both fired for it.

“We know that West Michigan is a Conservative area in many ways,” the memo said. “We need to recognize that some stories related to LGBTQ issues are going to be controversial and polarizing in our community. While you personally may not agree with a certain position, people are entitled to their opinions, and they are our viewers.”

The memo continues on to say, “If we are covering Pride events we need to consider how to make the story balanced and get both sides of the issue.”

Local and regional news platforms are notoriously underfunded and understaffed. They do not have the time or the money to send reporters out into the field to cover every event across a region. At a certain point, reporters need to make choices about what’s news—and what isn’t.

Progressives understand this principle in theory. They take no issue with the slogan of The New York Times, arguably one of the most famous phrases in journalism: “All the news that’s fit to print.”

The authors of the memo were not at all suggesting that the station should sideline important local stories based on the politics of their viewers. They were simply asking the question, “Hey, we seem to be covering a lot of the same thing and people are complaining about it. Is this really news?”

The parent company of the affiliate, Nexstar Media Group, issued an apology after the memo leak, condemning its contents and emphasizing that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are among the company’s core values, and that its stations are expected to report the news in an “expansive and inclusive fashion.” The affiliate issued a nearly identical statement:

“WOOD-TV is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to covering and reporting the news of the day in an expansive and inclusive fashion, consistent with these values,” WOOD-TV general manager Julie Brinks said, adding that the station’s parent company, Nexstar, will “take appropriate action as necessary to address this situation, and we apologize for offending members of the LGBTQ community and WOOD-TV’s viewers.”

After Tang and Fox were fired, two additional colleagues were accused of leaking the memo to the press. They were also fired.

Disappointingly, the station has not appeared to start any kind of open and honest dialogue with its staff about how to select news stories, how to present diverse and balanced perspectives, and how to create a newsroom where journalists can explore these ideas without losing their jobs.

Journalists should not be fired for trying to determine what is news and what isn’t

Take Action

Send a message to WOOD-TV’s executives today and demand that Tang and Fox get their jobs back.

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