A local station in the mostly white, middle-class city of Grand Rapids, Mich., won this year’s UNITY Award this year for large-market stations for its televised working program tackling the issue of racism. NBC affiliate WOOD-TV set up the Institute for Healing Racism with a couple of local partners and recruited 15 participants of various races and backgrounds, who agreed to be taped in an effort to shed light on the issue.
An hour-long show, “Race in Reality,” was created by producer Susan Samples, culled from five hours of footage shot at the group’s weekly sessions. The show focused on issues such as stereotyping, workplace discrimination and white privilege. The station also ran a number of news pieces in conjunction with the special.
The idea for the program came from WOOD-TV News Director Patty McGettigan, who attended a similar program that her local priest encouraged her to volunteer for in 2002. Always concerned with the issue, she says the program affected her deeply and made her realize that many white Americans are in denial about how ingrained racist tendencies are.
“It had such an impact on me I thought I needed to send my staff through it,” said Ms. McGettigan. “I then had several conversations with staff members about how to do stories that really expose racism for what it is, and we finally decided, why not put one of these institutes on tape?”
The program is ongoing, offering courses of eight to 10 weeks to employers for $200 per employee. It’s available to members of the community for free.-WAYNE KARRFALT