A curious new aspect to my job has emerged; stories that are not necessarily local to our city, and may not be on our nightly newscast, or on our website, end up running their course instead on social media. This means increasingly, I report news or stories to my Twitter followers, without it going out over our traditional broadcast media.
Case in point, Tuesday; I saw a Tweet about a “racist” CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Television job posting asking for “Any race except Caucasian” to apply.
Having worked at the CBC, I’m well aware of its diversity policies. But I was a bit surprised they’d be so… blatant in a job posting/casting call for a new Kids TV host. Curious, I went to look at it immiediately. But before Tweeting about it, I first wanted to make sure the post was legit. I did a few checks; looked up the casting agency that was handling the job posting and auditions, “Larissa Mair Casting”, and did some basic verification on them. It’s always good to make sure these things aren’t hoaxes before re-tweeting and weighing in.
Seeking further verification, I called the business number, and was surprised when Larissa Mair herself answered the phone. Before I could even get a question out, she told me, You’re calling about that posting… It’s a terrible terrible mistake”. As I was on the phone with her, someone across the newsroom hollered that the original posting had just been changed to remove the racial reference.
Knowing this story didn’t really have a Calgary angle, it was clear we probably wouldn’t be putting it on TV tonight (that would be left to our National news partners). But still I was curious and tweeted about the posting. There was immiediate and visceral response. At the time, I also screen-grabbed the original posting, which was still up on my computer in its unaltered form. (Thank goodness I hardly ever close an internet tab until the end of the day!)
I tweeted the posting right away, and again moments later that the posting had been altered. More fury from Twitter.
I asked Larissa about how this criteria had come to be in a CBC (government-funded for those of you outside Canada) job posting. Here’s what I Tweeted as we talked:
JUST IN Larissa Mair tells me “this is an error on my behalf”. “I want to be just sick right now.” This was “innocent error, no ill intent”
Larissa Mair tells me by phone she’s horrified about what she calls a “mistake” in CBC kids host job post that only non-whites need apply.
Casting agent taking full responsibility for “mistake”.
Casting agent Larissa Mair says “Any race except caucasian” line in CBC job post was “mistake”. She can’t explain to me just HOW it happened.
Immiediately I got a tweet back from someone in the industry telling me he had e-mailled to ask about that “Any race except Caucasian” line in the CBC posting earlier today, and was disappointed with what he heard. He sent me his e-mail:
Hello Larissa,I am curious to know why your recent ad on craigslist excludes an entire race.Thanks
The only race is Caucasian. The show has been ongoing for years and this is another role they want to cast.I’m the casting director and this has been requested from the production.If you have further concerns, why don’t you give me a call.Since you’re a producer, I’m sure when producing something for a show, you’re seeking something specific.-Larissa
I contacted the casting agent again to ask about this letter, and why she told the writer this had been “requested from the production”. She remembered it, and provided this explanation:
“Absolutely, It was a complete mistake on my part. In the casting profession we are often asked to find specific types for different roles. In this particular case we were asked to seek a cast of diversity. We mistakenly took that to mean that the production was not seeking Caucasian actors. This was a mistake that was made entirely by the casting company and not the broadcasters, who are seeking actors of all ethnicities for this role. We deeply apologize for our error and anyone we may have offended.”
So in very short order after the posting was first brought up on Twitter, we had outrage, explanation, acceptance of responsibility, an apology, and more outrage. Also interesting – Twitter users are tweeting the original posting far more than my follow-up tweets with the explanation/admission/apology.
So what’s the CBC saying about all this? Nothing. Requests for comment or an explanation, or an answer about what exactly was asked of the casting company have not been returned.
Thoughts on this story? Does the casting agent’s explanation satisfy you? What does the CBC’s silence say to you? I’d love to hear from you.