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Linsanity, Ann Curry, and a New America Media award

 
 

What’s up New York? In two weeks, the most marketable and best known Asian Americans in the country–hoop star Jeremy Lin and TV anchor Ann Curry–are given the boot from their Big Apple perch and we’re not supposed to take it personally as an affront to our sense of diversity?

It’s insanity.

That’s not to be confused with Linsanity, now headed south to Houston for a three-year $25.1 million deal.

Basketball observers will debate if Lin is worth that kind of money on the court. But Lin was more than just about basketball. In a general sense, he was mythic, the great story of the underdog who rallied a dispirited team in America’s biggest city and made them winners.

Lin’s 136 points in his first five NBA starts is the best ever. It fueled a remarkable phenomenon that lasted just 25 games before a season-ending injury. But it still managed to grow the team fan base, generate millions of dollars in merchandise and ticket sales, as well as trigger a settlement between Knicks owner MSG and Time Warner over cable fees in New York.

Lin was money to the Knicks. But for Asian Americans, Lin had become not just the face, but the heart and soul of the community.

Not since Bruce Lee has there been such a galvanizing athletic pop icon to match Lin. Sure, Yao Ming came close as an NBA center. But Yao was an oddity as a 7-foot 6-inch center from the Mainland. He wasn’t an immigrant. He was an Asian national superstar from China. Lin was the unlikely All-American California kid who broke all stereotypes and played his way to the top. For Asian Americans, there was life after cello practice. Linsanity was awe-inspiring.

If letting him go is sheer insanity, now we must consider if it’s not a tad racist too.

Imagine if Lin were white or black, would the Knicks have been willing to pay whatever they needed to keep him? Or was it just too easy to go back to stereotypical thinking, play the odds and say the chances of an Asian American achieving what Lin did in 2012 just wasn’t going to happen?

We’ll never know. There aren’t any other Asian Americans in the NBA.

We do know it won’t happen in New York next season. And it’s simply because the Knicks didn’t believe or put value in a budding Asian American superstar.

ANN CURRY

I miss Ann Curry.

Has anyone heard a peep from Curry since she went from being co-host of the morning news “first family” to the illegitimate daughter no one talks about?

NBC must be hearing the clicking of remote controls as people have begun to wander and sample during the morning Curry void. What have they seen? Just this week, a great CBS Charlie Rose interview with the Obamas. And sitting next to Rose? Former NBC Washington reporter Norah O’Donnell. That’s when it hit me. O’Donnell would have been a great replacement after Meredith Viera left “Today.”

But that’s old news now. NBC execs were hell bent on havan’a Savannah in the morning.

Savannah Guthrie is Katie Couric on steroids. Couric was more cheerleader. Guthrie looks and acts like the captain of the volleyball team. She’s perky enough (except for that day when she had migraines; bad for TV, good for viewer empathy). She’s young, law school educated, White House battle-tested. Did I say young?

But Guthrie’s apparently no ratings magnet. In last week’s preliminary numbers, ABC’s “Good Morning America” beat “Today” by a record margin–more than 350,000 total viewers, as reported by TVNewser.com. In the key adults 25-54 demo, NBC was still ahead, but the trend of the shrinking margin over ABC continued, just 2,000 viewers.

NBC officials downplayed the results. But if they really aren’t all that worried, why replace Curry and make her a scapegoat in the first place? If it really is more about looks and chemistry and not news, why not go after the balding white male who co-anchors? Double standard? Of course.

It was disheartening to see Curry go. During her teary goodbye, I felt she was talking to me. I knew her only professionally from Asian American Journalists Association conventions past, and have never met her personally. But as one Asian American journalist to another, I saw her as a sister. I know how hard it is to make it in TV news, and how easy it is to go from flavor of the month to sauerkraut. I could appreciate what it took to get to the “Today” show couch.

Curry was also different from other Asian American females on TV news. Unlike Connie Chung, who had her young wannabes that could copy the look, Curry, as a half-Asian woman, was more unique in her style and her reporting. Maybe that was her problem. She had real hard news chops. She wasn’t glamorous or fluffy enough. When she interviewed Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, it was always much more than a celebrity interview.

In her farewell, she acknowledged those of us rooting for her when she said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line. But man, did I try.”

Hearing and seeing her say that almost made me cry.

As diversity goes in media, “Today” had the perfect look. It had the black weather guy, the Latina news reader, the aging white male host, and the half-Asian co-host. No winning national morning news show had ever assembled that kind of team.

But in the end, you can strike the set and call it a wrap. It was just a facade with no apparent corporate value. It never does when diversity’s all talk and window dressing.

AWARD JOURNALISM AND REAL DIVERSITY

I want to thank New America Media for naming me the winner for outstanding commentary in its recent Northern California awards competition.

And all I did was write about my concerns from an Asian American perspective.

I’m usually not much for awards, happy to toil without trophy or certificate. But everyone, even the biggest news organizations, plays the game simply so they can crow objectively about how good they are. Toot, toot.

New America Media journalism competitions are a bit more meaningful because they tend to honor those who cover the unmentionable, the forgotten, and the otherwise ignored. The subjects are people of color, minorities, all those who get left out. It’s a different perspective that you rarely see taken as seriously anywhere else. New America Media singles out those who truly are a voice of the voiceless. You’d figure that would be hard to do in a country where there’s a black president and the minorities are on the verge of becoming the majority. Sadly, that’s not the case in media.

New America Media finds the real diversity in journalism, aggregates it, and helps fill in the massive gaps in mainstream coverage. I put great value in that. And I hope you do too.