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

WJZ again makes news for wrong reason on big news day with question on race, leadership

Last week on the day the FBI raided the home of Catherine Pugh, WJZ published information it said came from sources claiming the mayor had fled the city. And when it became clear through the reporting of others that she had not, the station failed to clearly correct the bad information.

Thursday, on an even bigger news day in Baltimore with Pugh resigning as mayor, WJZ again made news for the wrong reason as anchorwoman Mary Bubala linked the race and gender of Baltimore’s last three mayors to the ability to lead.

Latest: WJZ says anchorwoman Mary Bubala is out in wake of her question about race, gender of recent Baltimore mayors »

“We’ve had three female, African-American mayors in a row,” Bubala began in a question to Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead, a professor at Loyola College and show host on WEAA-FM. “They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Is this a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore city forward?”

“No,” if we look at the work that each one of them did,” Whitehead said in response to Bubala’s question about whether a different kind of leadership is needed.

“Because of the work that they did,” she continued, “the love that they had for the city, the commitment they had for the city, the next leader of Baltimore city, if it’s going to be Jack Young or whoever will challenge him coming up next year, needs to have that same level of commitment and passion.”

Friday afternoon after a day of blowback on social media as a result of the question, Bubala offered what she labeled “a sincere apology” on Twitter, writing that the “question did not come out” the way she intended.

“I am devastated that the words I used portray me as someone that I know I am not,” she added. “ I hope you allow me the opportunity to regain your trust.”

She had previously explained the question to Whitehead this way on Twitter:

WJZ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Sun Friday afternoon.

I understand live TV and the possibility to say something you didn't intend, but when the subject comes to race and something as grave as the resignation of the mayor, some serious caution is in order.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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