WHEN WDVM-TV anchorwoman J. C. Hayward was asked recently to appear as special guest at a fund-raiser to help the D.C. Youth Orchestra to to Europe, her response was immediate and enthusiastic. "I'll be glad to do it. I think those kids are great. Look, I'll even do a public service announcement and promo the fund-raiser. Bring some of the kids to the studio to play, and I will plug it for them."
The person to whom she spoke was left feeling that Hayward couldn't do enough, that her public spiritedness and love for young people was so spontaneous that it ignited her personality and transmitted a glow to the small, harried orchestra staff, giving it new energy to pursue the fund drive.
This incident was typical of the way Hayward has gone beyond her role as an anchorwoman to become a real presence in the Washington community. It came to mind this week as I read about Hayward's contractual battles with Channel 9. She's been one of the people who was always available, whether it was for famine relief in Africa or to help raise money for the Cardozo High School marching band to by uniforms and travel to the Rose Bowl in California.
I've watched Hayward over the years grow from one who read the news to an activist who has become one of the most popular anchors in town, part of the stunning success Channel 9 has enjoyed.
Hayward's contractual troubles came hard on the heels of those of another popular WDVM anchor, Maureen Bunyan, who only recently completed difficult negotiations with Channel 9. Bunyan was put on 20-day extension past her contrast before it was finally signed.
By contrast, sources in the industry say that Gordon Peterson and Glenn Brenner were signed up months in advance of their contract expiration dates.
All this raises quesitons that are important beyond whether an anchor like Hayward gets what she's looking for -- more money or equal billing and promotion or whatever.
We all know that television is a volatile business, but is it only coincidental that these two women seem to be getting a hard time? Are they making unreasonable requests or is their treatment part of the changing political atmosphere in which some people seem to feel it is less important to have blacks despite the gross under-representation of their numbers in the industry and their misrepresentation on television programs?
Meanwhile, it's generally known that Channel 7 will be replacing Paul Berry as 5:30 p.m. anchor. Berry will become a fulltime "7 On Your Side" consumer reporter. It will be interesting to see who Berry's replacement will be, for that will speak volumes about what Channel 7 perceives as its audience and its need for blacks.
The timing of Bunyan's and Hayward's bloody negotiaitons and Berry's replacement sends out confusing signals to the community at a time of growing conservatism in the nation.
But it is also a demonstation of another crying need at this juncture in history that goes beyond the fates of even mature and talented on-air personalities. That need is for more news managers and decision-makers who are black. For the time is long since past for concentrating only on on-air personnel. While the community needs the visibility and symbolism of a Hayward or Berry taking part in crosscultural dialogue and education in today's interdependent world, we also need more blacks helping to direct the news coverage in this city and beyond.
Dwight Ellis, vice president for minority and special services at the National Association of Broadcasters, says, for example, that of the 762 commercial television stations in the country, only three have black general managers and only three have black station managers. Among the approximately 200 stations in the top 50 television markets in the nation, there are only two black executive news producers and one black news director, he says.
"What we need to begin to do," Ellis says, "is to press management [to place blacks] into decision-making roles in newsrooms. In too many cities the black community doesn't ahve anybody who can help direct news coverage."
Everyone knows that communications is the growth industry of the 1980s and that its influence on the way we live and think and perceive each other is enormous. I think we need more diversity if we're going to bridge the growing chasm between the races, the sexes and conflicting political ideologies.
For the here and now, it's a sure bet that if there were more blacks in management, the fierce contractual battles we've seen this spring and summer might be significantly muted.