Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

Sending Gayle King to cover family separation story in Texas a great call by CBS News

What a great move by CBS News in sending Gayle King, its morning show co-host, to the Texas border to cover the cruel White House policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and housing them in empty big-box buildings and tents in Texas.

Last week, I praised MSNBC for looking at this story primarily through a moral lens rather than a political one as many other platforms were mistakenly doing. I think that orientation was one of the reasons MSNBC understood the magnitude of this story before much of the competition.

But if you want moral authority from a TV news personality, you can’t do much better than King, who came to the TV news business with an enormous pop culture identity and persona in large part through her longtime friendship with Oprah Winfrey. If you want a concrete example of what I mean by moral authority, I would refer you to Winfrey’s landmark speech in connection with #MeToo at this year’s Golden Globes awards show.

King has some of that same kind of moral authority, and she immediately displayed it on CBS in covering this story.

“All I can say after talking to people, watching the people, listening to the people, that the Statue of Liberty, I think, is weeping right now,” King told viewers. “It’s unbelievable, the stories we’ve heard.”

That’s what empathetic reporting sounds like.

“I don’t even think you’ve got to be a mother or a father to understand this,” she said in another report. “I think you’ve just got to be a human being with a beating heart and throbbing pulse. … There’s got to be a better way.”

That’s a voice of moral authority.

What a contrast later Monday morning to see Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defending Team Trump’s policy of separating children and their families at the border. She was speaking in New Orleans to law enforcement authorities.

“If you cross the border illegally we will prosecute you,” Nielsen said.

“Don’t believe the press,” she added, saying that the children are well taken care of.

Like I said, what a contrast with King’s compassion. I’ll leave it right there.

King will be back on the air tomorrow reporting this story on “CBS This Morning,” a network spokeswoman said.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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