For 10 years, producer Tony Brown has challenged television's exploration of urban and black America. Even though "Tony Brown's Journal" hasn't been perfect, it has provoked and informed. And more importantly, it has provided an alternative to news shows and documentaries that all too often seemed removed, lopsided or misdirected.
The premiere program of Brown's third season on commercial television underscores his durability and the best of his distinctiveness. "Malcolm X's Death: Other Voices," scheduled for WRC-TV 4 at 1 p.m. tomorrow features the first television interview with Talmadge Hayer, the convicted murderer of the black nationalist spokesman. For 14 years Hayer has been in prison and is now telling his story in the hope that the two suspects convicted with him -- who have maintained their innocence with Hayer's backing -- will be released.
Sitting in a prison room, dressed in a white cap and tunic of his Muslim religion, Hayer speaks of the anger Malcolm X created in his mind. He speaks of Malcolm X "slandering" the late Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims. Once a devout spokesman for the then-Nation of Islam, Malcolm X had broken with the leadership a year before his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965.Hayer is asked if he was a "pawn" in the killing, not if he has any regrets, and Hayer says, "possibly. I can't tell you who gave the order."
In low-keyed conversations with Hayer, with Peter Goldman, the author of a book on Malcolm X, and with Norman Butler, one of the convicted co-conspirators, Brown examines new evidence suggesting a conspiracy between legal authorities and Malcolm X's detractors, and arguments for the innocence of Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson. Though a court has already ruled against reopening the case, both Hayer and Brown, in a closing commentary, urge public pressure for another look.