Media Scene

Strains of ‘Dixie’ brings complaint at WBTV

By Mark Washburn, mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

Management held meetings this week in the WBTV (Channel 3) newsroom to address staff concerns about racial sensitivity.

On Wednesday morning, a photographer was heard whistling in the newsroom the folk tune “Dixie,” whose origins date to the blackface minstrel shows of the 1850s before becoming an anthem for Southern forces in the Civil War. Several African American staffers were in earshot.

On Thursday, two meetings were held with staffers and WBTV general manager Nick Simonette and news director Dennis Milligan.

“We wanted the staff to know that we don’t tolerate things in the workplace that make people uncomfortable,” Milligan said. “We encourage people to come forward. I think it was handled in an appropriate way.”

Milligan said the matter was a personnel issue and he could not comment further on whether any disciplinary action was taken. He did say that the incident was an “extremely unusual” one in the station’s newsroom.

Alexis Mitchell, president of the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists, a chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, issued a statement calling the situation “unfortunate.”

“I am grateful that our station’s management addressed the issue immediately,” said Mitchell, a news content specialist at WBTV who was in the newsroom when the incident occurred. She said the local chapter and the national organization would continue to monitor the station’s response.

“This is a learning lesson for all and we hope this will never occur again.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs.

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