Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Shreveport loses another Black female anchor

5th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

Recently Shreveport viewers began to notice the absence of a familiar face on the KTAL 6 news. Anchorwoman Michelle White-Lafitte, who had become a virtual TV institution in their homes was no longer present.

Weeks after the high-profile dismissal of weather personality Rhonda Lee made national news, yet another Black face was drop?ped from Shreveport television. Local civil rights groups are noticing a trend and preparing for a call to action.

The Louisiana Weekly spoke with Ms. White-Lafitte to learn of her plans, intentions and general thoughts about Blacks in media in the area. “I’ve begun a new chapter in my life and I am happy and I am looking forward to what it will be. Life is short.”

Asked if people have been contacting her, Lafitte responds, “Yes it has been overwhelming and I’m very humbled by it and overwhelmed, because I didn’t realize the impact. When I left another station in 2006 I began doing media for a local furniture store and a local hospital. I enjoyed that. I thought of that as a ministry. It was such a blessing. Everywhere I went people would say ‘We miss you on television’ I would say ‘I’m on TV all the time.’

“KTAL approached me when I initially left and I declined. Two years later I was approached again so in 2009 the Vice President called and said ‘Why don’t you just try it?’ I said, ‘Okay I’ll take the challenge of going to channel 6’. I am proud of what I was able to do during my tenure. I was solo anchor for two years and still maintained a presence at various functions, and I gave it all that I had to give. I knew that it would be challenging there are some limitations with the stations in terms of the reach of the tower unlike the other two stations and known as the Texarkana station. But I got to know the people of Texarkana and the wonderful people I worked with at the time.”

While Lafitte was mum on the details of her departure, she did acknowledge that her departure was not something she had exactly planned for at that time. “It was agreeable to both parties at the time.” She may stay in the area but is weighing her options.

The recent firing of Shreveport weather personality Rhonda Lee, sparked a brief national outrage and has the Black community wondering what can be done to do to make its concerns felt about what it wants to see in terms of personnel and programming? “I can’t comment on Rhonda Lee but my heart goes out to her,” said Lafitte. “It sounds like a pretty tough situation in terms of being an African American.”

Are there challenges you would face that you might not face if you were not African American? “Of course that’s in any job or career. Historically African Am?ericans have had to be extra special, gifted, and had to work a little harder, do a little more and do extra special things. Histori?cally there has been a ceiling, but I believe the ceiling can be burst; you have to kick ‘em down, knock ‘em down and do whatever you have to do.”

Asked if this ceiling is something the public can help break, Lafitte answers in the affirmative, “Yes, the airwaves are owned by the public, the FCC, the Federal Communi?cations Commission. The public has a say. If you listen to the commercials and disclaimers or do a little research you can find out how to get your voice heard.”

How does she feel about the entire KTAL experience? “I harbor no ill will toward the station I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish for the station in terms of getting more eyes on the station and the station making more money, while I was sitting there alone, than it ever made in its tenure. Anybody who asked me for help, I helped them. It was humbling how many people would come to me that I was able to help. While I was never perfect, I cared about my community. My heart was in it. I think that is my gift, I am able to emote through the television screen and come to you. Not talking at you but talking with you because I love people of all races and all creeds.”

To young people considering going into broadcast journalism Lafitte offers the counsel of one who has been there, “Know that it’s a very tough business. It’s very demanding. You don’t live a normal life. The hours are grueling. You sacrifice holidays. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And even once you work your way up you still have to make sacrifices with your family. I encourage them to follow their dreams if it’s really in their heart and soul to pursue journalism, just do it, but go into it with your eyes open. Know that you will have to sacrifice.”

Though leaving, Lafitte has kind words to say for the VP/ General Manager, Mark McKay and others who supported her during her time with them. “I’m happy to have been a part of KTAL’s growth. I’m grateful for having been into people’s homes, living rooms, dens, bedrooms… wherever they watch TV it was a privilege. It’s also a privilege to have been well-received and liked and treated with respect in the community, and being told something kind. Children that you would not think would even know my name.”

But she also refuses to be counted out of the local media scene: “You never know, I could pop up on television again,” she says with that familiar smile.

This article was originally published in the February 4, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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