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Award-winning journalist Ed Gordon returns to prime-time television with his news magazine show simply titled “Ed Gordon.”
Gordon serves as executive producer and host of the new Bounce TV original series, sitting down for revealing interviews with top headline makers, entertainers and pop cultural figures. Ed Gordon will also include investigative pieces, celebrity profiles, current event segments and human-interest feature stories.
The series premiere features Gordon’s exclusive and emotional interview from Ferguson, Missouri with five Mothers of The Movement, African-American women whose children have been shot, with four killed, in acts of violence: Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin), Lucia McBath (Jordan Davis), Lezley McSpadden (Michael Brown), Wanda Johnson (Oscar Grant) and Marian Tolan (Robbie Tolan).
Gordon also visits with Nate Parker and the cast of The Birth of a Nation, the much-anticipated motion picture dramatizing the life of Nat Turner, the slave who lead a rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Parker, the director and star of the film, discusses his passion to produce the project and how many are seeing this film as ‘an agent of change,’ especially during a critical time in our society. The segment also explores the controversy surrounding Parker’s past.
In addition, Gordon sits down with popular singer-songwriter, record producer and actor Maxwell. The multiple GRAMMY-winner opens up about his life, his music and his activism in a rare one-on-one interview.
The news program continues Gordon’s vast career in journalism. Ed Gordon has been a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes II, The Today Show and Dateline NBC, the host of “News and Notes with Ed Gordon” on NPR, anchorman for BET and is a weekly contributor to the national Steve Harvey Radio Show. He is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award, as well as the prestigious Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
I had the honor and pleasure of speaking with Ed Gordon about the new program, and what viewers can expect to see.
MELISASource: Give us a high-level overview of the program, and how the concept came about.
ED GORDON: I’m just really excited about the idea of doing a news magazine program. It’s something that at almost every stop I’ve ever made that was African-American owned wanted to do a news magazine program and for one reason or another, we just never did, and so when Bounce came to me and talked to me about this, I jumped at the chance. I love the fact that we’re going to be able to do this kind of show, very pleased with the premiere and the lineup that we have. We’ll be doing three segments this show. The first is a profile of some of the mothers of the movement. Many of you know who they are and certainly saw them at the Democratic National Convention as they’ve been making stops along the way.
We sit down collectively and speak with Trayvon Martin’s mother, Oscar Grant’s mother, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis and Robbie Tolan, who fortunately was not killed, but through his incident, there’s been an important Supreme Court ruling that came down. And I will tell you that this interview is, to use the word emotional almost understates it. At times, it will be hard to watch just from an emotional standpoint, but it is riveting and I think it shows what these mothers go through on a day to day basis and how much work they put in to continuing the legacy of their children and wanting to stop senseless gun violence. We are doing a segment on birth of a nation which we obviously started prior to the controversy but we will have that as we look at the movie and now the controversy and we close the show out with a sit down with Maxwell in a segment we called, “A Few Minutes With”, which will be a reoccurring segment, where I literally just sit down for a few minutes with an intriguing person.
And I’ve known Maxwell over the years. We caught him right after… And we try to catch people in their element… Caught him right after a sound check in one of his concerts. We sat down and talked about his life, his music, and why he has become such an activist of late. So, it’s really an intriguing sit down and interview. And so, we’re very pleased with that to be our first lineup for a premiere show. And I don’t think you can do much better. So, we’re more than happy with where we sit.
MLS: What made you choose to partner with Bounce TV for the program?
EG: Bounce, I’ve been watching Bounce from afar, looking at their numbers, looking at how they were growing the network. And then I got a chance to meet them at and I knew Ryan Glover for many years and we had been just talking casually over the years and always said hey, we should really sit down and look at what we might be able to do and never really got around to it.
Then I hosted an event that Bounce was sponsoring. And one night, we all just sat down and started talking after the event. And we believe that there might be a puzzle piece here that would fit together nicely. And so I have been impressed with the way they’ve grown the show. And then when I was able to meet some of the executives there, I was more than impressed with how they were taking a look at the road map that they were building for the network. And so I think we all just sat across in the table and felt like this makes sense. And so I’m elated to be a part of the Bounce family now and I think when people see the show, they’ll understand why. I think we all feel very proud of what we’re doing with this premier edition.
MLS: What is it about this particular new show that excites you the most in comparison to previous shows that you’ve done?
EG: Well, I’ve been elated throughout my career to have great opportunity with different shows and the like but never really been able to do a full-blown news magazine. And our hope is to grow this show down the line. Right now, I’ve done all the stories I would love in the coming editions to add correspondence to the show and add a little more depth to what we’ll be doing by means of just it not only being me. As large as my ego is, I’m happy to share that space. But the news magazine is one of those things that is looked at in a certain way in our industry. You think of 60 Minutes. You think of 20/20 and Dateline. And so, it allows you to expand the story. It allows you do some things that you just can’t do with a two to three-minute piece. So, we were elated about that.
MLS: When you were interviewing the mothers of the movement – you know unfortunately we know about stories because of their sons and the police brutality and all – but what did you take away: what did you learn from speaking to these groups of women that you didn’t know going in?
EG: Well I think what you will see in this segment is that even though so I’ll give you for instance which is really what started me looking at this for a story. I’ve gotten to know Sabrina Fulton fairly well, Trayvon Martin’s mother. We’ve done a lot of events together and I remember being on a dais, and I was moderating the evening and she was on the dais and I saw people running over to her and asking for her autograph and taking selfies and the like, she was trying to be very gracious but I reminded the audience that night that this is not a woman who sought celebrity. She didn’t go seek celebrity out. She became a celebrity by means of tragedy and one of the worst tragedies that could ever befall anyone and certainly befall a parent and that’s the death of her child.
And I said “please be mindful of that,” and she came over to me that night and she said “Ed, I couldn’t figure out how to articulate it but when you said that, that’s exactly it. I’ve always tried to be gracious. I’ve always… But you know, there are some days I just don’t wanna be bothered with it, but I know that this is the legacy I’ve been given and I’ve got to carry on in his name.” And so what I found and what we’ve tried to show in the segment is that here are brave women who you see with a brave face and they are out, but every day is a challenge for them to get up and to start again and to move forward and to find ways to live. I don’t know if any of you all have seen the promo but if you haven’t maybe we can send you a link to it and you will get a sense just very quickly of what you’ll see and so I would think that we learn very quickly that even though they carry on, their lives you know have been obviously changed from that moment on and that every day is a struggle still.
MLS: There’s so many things going wrong in society. There’s good things as well but it could become very draining. So just in your history of being a journalist and regarded as one of the most respected ones, how have you handled your emotion throughout the years, handling certain types of news coverage? How did you balance that?
EG: Well I tell you, it’s funny you asked that because this time, and you’ll see the little bit, I mean I really got caught up in the emotion of this. Normally I have been really, really good at divorcing myself emotionally from most stories but this was difficult even for me to sit across because as a parent I’m sitting there thinking “what if this were my child” and at one point the tears just flow with all of the women and the crew got misty eyed and I was getting a little soft and I am trying to tell myself I’m from Detroit you know buck up. It’ll be alright. and you know at some level I’ve never been the believer of as they used to teach us years ago that, well you got to leave your opinion at the door and you don’t shape a story. We all have an opinion and anything we write is shaped by our existence, our history…
…But you do your best to be – and this is what I was talking about earlier, in terms of a journalist, versus someone who just shapes opinion or is a talking head – you do your best. If you’re a good journalist, [you try] to be straight down the middle and give both sides equal fare. And I think you just learn to do that over the years. And, you know, you critique yourself. You try to see… I’ve sat across from KKK members who later on, two months later, I’ve found had an arsenal in their basement and clearly did not like my kind. But I treated them with the same respect I would have had President Obama sat down with me. And so, I think that there are certain rules you just go by as a journalist and you try to stick by them. And, you know, they’ve suited me over these years. I know the business has changed a little bit and it’s more of an opinion game now than not, but I think it’s a better story when you don’t become part of the story, when you just let the story tell itself.
MLS: What do you hope the viewers take away from your show, and what should we expect to see?
EG: Well, I hope they take away that we’re giving them television that I’ve heard a lot of people ask for. They say they want smart television that looks at the things that are important to our community; and a look from our perspective and that’s what we’re trying to give them. I’ve learned over the years that it’s probably better to do a show like this that is all encompassing, in other words, it’s not all hard news. People like entertainment, people like light feature stories, people like the harder edge stories and so we’re going to try to give them all of those things. And for me, as I said, it’s a kick to be able to sit down backstage with Maxwell and then in turn to also, on the same show, be as topical as The Birth of a Nation is right now and to bring something as important as the mothers of the movement. For us, just to kind of run the spectrum, and get all of those things in one hour is important to me.
And I hope to the audience because, as I said, the last, I won’t even say a few years, a lot of years I’ve been hearing people stopping me on the street as we’re eating at a restaurant, as I’m on a plane: “Oh Ed, we need this, we need that, we need… “. “Okay, here it is”. So again, just want people to support it and when they tune in I hope they will walk away, I’m pretty sure they will walk away saying “That’s what we’re talking about, that’s what we wanna see.”
MLS: Who else would you like to have on the show to talk with?
EG: We kind of wait until we get closer to the air date to shape some of those things, we wanna see who’s got a new project coming out, there’s a new movie coming out “Hidden Figures” that tells the story of some sisters who work at NASA who I’d never heard about with Taraji [P. Henson] and Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer, so that might be one of the things we look at. I wanna look at things that we talk about in our community.
Those are the kinds of topics I think I’d love to do because we talk about ’em at home, but rarely do you see it on television. And so, I wanna bring some of that. And we’ve been very fortunate over the last week and I don’t wanna tell you who it is. So who they are because we haven’t finalized anything, but we’ve been very fortunate as the show hasn’t even been seen where we’re getting calls from some of the representatives of some pretty major stars, saying “hey, we’d love to be on.” So we’re excited about that.
MLS: Lastly Mr. Gordon, where can we follow and interact with you on social media?
EG: Well, I am on Twitter and Instagram, @edlgordon. We have a Facebook page and we have a website, edgordon.net. And obviously with the show coming up, you know, we’re going to be out there a lot more than we’ve been. This is obviously going to boost a lot of what we’re doing on social media, so those are the outlets that you can find me.
MLS: Any final thoughts?
EG: I look forward to, to getting [the program] out there for everybody. And it’s one of those things where, you know, everywhere I was going people said, “Oh, Ed! We need this kinda show. We want you to come back! We don’t have this on TV. We don’t have that. We just got, you know, crazy ratchet stuff on TV.” Well, okay. Now, you have something, so let’s back it up.
I tell people all the time, you know, we talk about “Oh, we got too many housewives shows. We have too many this. We have too many that.” But we have to support the things that we say, and I underline say, we wanna see. And so, my thing is don’t support it just because it’s me. Don’t support it just because it’s black. Don’t support it, you know, for any of those reasons solely. You know, you wanna support it ’cause you like me and the history I’ve done? Great. You wanna support black folk? Great. But also, you know, make sure that you hold us accountable. I want you to support it for those reasons plus that it is really a good show that people enjoy because, you know… And learn from. We’re gonna have news and entertainment. The sit down with Maxwell is, you know, just as you would think. There’s some great things in it and it’s simply just Maxwell. It’s an entertaining piece, so we hope to service both sides of the street.
Ed Gordon premieres Tuesday, September 13 at 10pm ET on Bounce TV.