Brittany Noble-Jones is using her experience working in television news to show the industry that BLACK JOURNALISTS DO MATTER!
Rocking your natural hair in the professional work environment has always been a hot debate, especially in the corporate and news industry. Although there are no set rules, it’s an unspoken, unofficial law that women, particularly African-American women, keep their hair in a nice, simple format. We’re talking bobs and wraps ( nicely, pressed sew-ins), both styles that are heavily encouraged if you happened to attend a business school, specifically a HBCU business program, where you’re taught to stand out but not too far out to scare the white folk.
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For all of you following my EEOC case against WJTV & Nexstar here is an update. In 2017 I filed a formal complaint after my boss told me “my natural hair was unprofessional, the equivalent to him wearing a baseball hat to go to the grocery store: viewers needed to see a beauty queen.” I wasn’t included in station promos while pregnant and postpartum.🤰🏾If you know me, you know my main concern is reporting but a number of my investigations about race were shut down. My boss would say my story pitches and tweets weren’t “for all people.” After enduring a two month long investigation (while positively representing the station on tv each day) my boss was fired and replaced by another man with the same systematic behavior. Btw it was only after filing the complaint that WJTV finally offered me a storage closet to pump milk for my son 6 hours into my shift during normal business hours. 🤱🏾 I finally reached out to the EEOC in April of 2018 for help. The next month I was terminated while using my accrued sick time to care for my dying grandfather. I began working with Antonio Jones a federal investigator with the EEOC. He would ask questions like “how many white employees have to wear wigs in order to do their jobs?” Suddenly I got an email that Jones would be gone for 2 months. It has come to my attention that my federal investigator had to file his own lawsuit against the EEOC. His case documents allege he made “formal complaints regarding the district director and local director. Both of these directors improperly and illegally closed cases to help out certain employers whereas this reflected receiving kickbacks.” I turned in everything I had to the state hoping they would fight for me. To think the state could actually be working with the corporations and not for the people is beyond disheartening. I would reach out to the EEOC for more information but they are closed due to the government shutdown. 🤦🏾♀️ It is my understanding that my investigator has been protesting himself (SWIPE) He is an army veteran who was injured in Iraq. While on sick leave- due to his disability- his cases including mine were taken away and he was reassigned to another state. 🤷🏾♀️
However, more and more women have been challenging this rule and unfortunately paying the consequences for it. Women like Brittney Noble-Jones. Last week, the St. Louis native shared her story with the Medium about being fired from WJTV, a local television station in Jackson, Mississippi.
First, it started with her stories. Jones said her boss would complain how her story pitches and tweets were not for “all people.”
“I was hired at WJTV after breaking one of the biggest stories of the decade. The officer involved shooting death of a teen named Mike Brown in my Ferguson, Missouri neighborhood. His death sparked change and helped ignite the “Black Lives Matter” movement that we know today. However, when I pitched stories about race in Mississippi, I was told the stories “are not for all people.” My boss constantly complained about the “types” of stories I pitched and shared on my personal social media accounts. He explained over and over that he didn’t want my brand to grow and denied me the basic necessities to properly anchor “WJTV This Morning,” such as access to review scripts on the desk before I was forced to read them on air.”
And as a HBCU graduate and member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), reporting on race and accurate stories about the African-American community, was one of her top concerns and passions. Two qualities, that according to Jones, the station knew about before they hired her.”
“I have almost a decade of professional news experience on morning teams across the south and midwest. I also have a Masters in Television specializing in research and I graduated from Alcorn State University located about an hour from the capital city. I have resolutions from both the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis honoring my work as a reporter. I was named best reporter by the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis Magazine. Delux Magazine named me as someone who inspires and I am the 2015 NABJ Emerging Journalist. “
Eventually, that manager will be replaced with another man with the same “systematic behavior.” But the tension really hit the ceiling, when in 2017, her boss told her that her natural hair ” was unprofessional, the equivalent to him wearing a baseball hat to go to the grocery store: viewers needed to see a beauty queen.”
“He said “Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen.” He even asked, “why my hair doesn’t lay flat.” When I asked him how I should address the change on social media he told me to write “I was told to change my hair back to the way it was because that’s what looks best.”
Soon after that Jones filed a formal complaint against WJTV. During that time she was also pregnant with her first child and Jones said the television station excluded her from promotion shoots
“It was only after filing the complaint that WJTV finally offered me a storage closet to pump milk for my son 6 hours into my shift during normal business hours.”
Increased internal harassment led to Jones getting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involved in April of 2018, which allegedly led to harassment by her managers. The following month, she was terminated, while using her sick time to care for her dying grandfather. As of January, her case remains open after her federal investigator filed his own lawsuit with the EEOC, alleging the directors “improperly and illegally closed cases to help out certain employers.” Yet jones is optimistic the state will fight in her favor. Today the 32-year-old is a traveling, freelance journalist and a contributing digital reporter for NBC Black.
Unlike her previous job, Jones is determined to not let her new gig dictate what she rocks on her head or what she reports about.
“Too often black folks still can’t wear our naturally curly hair on air, or anchor on the desk together and our stories are often filtered from the mainstream media,” she explained in an Instagram post. “This next job -I was very specific- I wanted a national platform to talk about stories impacting black folks.”
Jones also wrote a book about her time in television news and lives in New York City. You can follow her journey on her Instagram.
Jones’ story is the total opposite of another fellow journalist of color, Demetria Obilor. In November of 2017, ABC traffic anchor in San Antonio, Texas, went viral after a viewer made negative comments about her curvaceous figure and rocking her naturally, curly hair on air. But the clap back brought tremendous of love and support from social media and Demetria continues to be unapologetically, herself, reporting the morning commute, curls, curves and all.
And last August, Michigan’s WLNS news reporter, Dana Whyte, received kudos for wearing her national hair on television for the first time.
“Straightening my hair every day felt like I was trying to conform to a certain image that society wanted me to be,” Whyte said. “Now, I feel like I’m not hiding behind a mask and can fully be myself. I hope this helps others know that they can do the same.”
Source: Michael Baisden Live ( a shared partnership)
A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.