University of Alabama is Looking for a Lemon from Louisiana

CNN anchor and author of TRANSPARENT Don Lemon visits the University of Alabama today in Tuscaloosa, a place where he formerly worked for a short time as an weekend anchor. There are several things we’re looking for in Lemon’s visit to West Central Alabama.

Lemons are usually yellow or pale, sweet, make good lemonade or they’re bad cars.

Depending on how you look at it, only a couple of those descriptors would apply to CNN Anchor Don Lemon, who is making a quick stop on our University of Alabama campus later today.

Don Lemon is weekend evening anchor at CNN.

The native Louisianan is openly gay and he’s a lighter-skinned African American man.   Some might say he’s “high-yellow” and because of his sexual orientation, he’s sweet.

Because he’s so TRANSPARENT, Lemon probably would not be offended by either of those references, neither of which was  meant in a derogatory way.

I purchased his book, appropriately named TRANSPARENT a couple years ago, just days after it was released.

The 220-page memoir has received mixed reviews, but the 19 chapters provided great LESSONS for his readers, especially if you’re an African American working in the broadcast news business as I was for eight years.

Despite all of the media attention surrounding Lemon’s decision to reveal his sexual orientation as he released the book nearly two years ago,   he didn’t talk much about that “coming out” experience in the book.

In the eighth chapter, where he included a section on “Coming to Terms with Myself,”  he provided just as many if not more pertinent lessons about dealing with college professors, some of whom can be more dis-empowering than encouraging.

That’s the kind of lessons I think we’re looking for TODAY here at Alabama.

Looking for Lessons on Persistence, Perseverance 

Don Lemon took classes at both Louisiana State University and Brooklyn College.  He juggled finishing college while launching his journalism career.

Students at UA need to know how he did it.   What strategies were required to be successful in the classroom even as you were making a name for yourself in the newsroom?

Lemon’s first book, TRANSPARENT, was published in 2011 by Farrah Gray Publishing, one of the largest African-American-owned book publishing companies in the country.

Students in my Diversity class here at Alabama were assigned to read Lemon’s opening chapter on “A Lesson in Race and Color.”

In fact, his discussion is a template for UA students on how to tell their own diversity story.

I hope today we’ll get more frank, honest dialogue about race like Lemon provides on his 11 months as a weekend anchor at WBRC- Fox 6 in Birmingham.

Looking for Transparency

In looking for Lemon today, the University of Alabama ought to look for the same transparency this broadcast journalist demonstrated in making news with his own lived experience as he covered a breaking story involving an Atlanta minister accused of sexual misconduct

That Atlanta minister, Bishop Eddie L. Long, was  my pastor during my nearly seven years as a active member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church while living in Atlanta/Athens, Ga. area.  I still consider him one of my spiritual fathers.  So I was especially interested in all of the interviews and updates in this scandal involving my pastor.

During an 2010 interview, rather than the details on the status of Bishop Long,  what I heard was a very “transparent” Don Lemon disclose on national TV that he was the victim of abuse.    The unusual disclosure is archived on YouTube.Don-Lemonfreezeframe

“I probably wouldn’t have addressed the whole issue of my own experience with childhood sexual abuse during the context of the news story, but the accusations against Bishop Eddie Long, and the things the members of his congregation said in his defense, triggered me, ” Lemon wrote.

Looking for Disclosure

As Don Lemon talks to the University of Alabama community tonight at 6 p.m. at the Ferguson Theater,  we’re looking for disclosures that reveal a truly transparent journalist.

More than a decade after anchoring the news here in Alabama, when he probably covered at least one story here in Tuscaloosa,  Don Lemon returns today with a much higher profile.

The timing of the Emmy award-winning author and anchor’s visit could not have been better as the University marks the 50th anniversary of its welcoming its first black students.

As for me, I hope not only to hear a great presentation, but GET my copy of TRANSPARENT autographed.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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