Megan Figueroa: Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.
Carrie Gillon: I’m Carrie Gillon.
Megan Figueroa: and I’m Megan Figueroa. Well, I survived a heat wave. But now it’s over where you are.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. We have a heat wave, the Pacific Northwest and in some areas it’s going to be hotter than I’ve ever experienced in Phoenix personally. I don’t live there, but this place called Kamloops, which actually was where the first large group of bodies at the residential schools were found, but in Kamloops, It’s going to be 49 degrees Celsius, which is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And the hottest I happened to have experienced in Phoenix was 119. I know it’s gotten hotter, but it’s never been that hot and Kamloops is like hotter than where I am generally, but not like that.
Megan Figueroa: No. Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, that’s not even a desert.
Carrie Gillon: It’s a semi-desert. That’s what part of the reason why so much hotter, but it’s still not, this is not normal. We are going to be cooking alive.
Megan Figueroa: That’s horrible. I survived – well, I mean, I guess it is in a way surviving it. The hottest I went through in Phoenix was 122. You just kind of stay inside. It’s kind of like the equivalent of being, there’s a blizzard and you’re stuck in the house.
Carrie Gillon: It’s the exact opposite, but the same. Just stay away from the sun as much as possible. And foolishly, I had bought tickets for the PNE, which is kind of like a state fair, for tomorrow, which is going to be, well, it depends on which weather app you look at, but it’s going to at least be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius. So that’s going to be a very toasty and I’m like, oh, we gotta bring lots of water and ice. Oh my God.
Megan Figueroa: Is it humid too? Is it going to be super human?
Carrie Gillon: Yes, it will be a lot more humid than Phoenix would be for sure. I don’t know about super humid, but yes, it’ll will be humid.
Megan Figueroa: I start feeling like I’m like, oh, it’s so humid. And I look at the app and it’s like 13% or 7%. I’m like, Ugh.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I was actually looking at like an old Facebook post of mine where I said something like, it’s, I don’t know, 20% humidity and I’m dying. And I’m like, yeah, it’s just so different there. Like any amount of humidity and suddenly you’re just like, ugh.
Megan Figueroa: it’s true. I’ve been to New York and we were in New York and New Orleans, during the summer, and I know what humidity feels like, but here, if you have anything, you feel it immediately, you can feel 7% humidity.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Cause it’s normally so not humid so that when you have any humidity, it’s just, you’re like, oh, what’s going on? And also, because it’s so much hotter there than most other places, it just, you feel it like you really feel that humidity.
Megan Figueroa: So, the mundane things we talk about, but when you’re in a place like the Sonoran Desert, weather is important, we talk about it all the time.
Carrie Gillon: Weather is important everywhere, but there’s something about the fact that there’s so little of it. it’s almost always sunny. And so when anything is not that, it’s an event.
Megan Figueroa: Yes, exactly. A capital E event.
Carrie Gillon: Joshua Raclaw tweeted us into this- to point out something that someone had posted. So it was a book for English language learners- or for people who are going to be teaching English language learners, I think.
Megan Figueroa: Okay. Yeah. I’m already scared.
Carrie Gillon: Yes. So, this is on the page with the heading that says Cultural and Linguistic Diversity and ELL Students.
Megan Figueroa: Okay.
Carrie Gillon: “There are appropriate ways of adapting instruction for students with different SES levels, socioeconomic status. For high SES students, minimize competitiveness, provide less structure and present more material. For low SES students, be more encouraging guard against feelings of failure or low self-esteem and provide more structure. Do not lower learning expectations, but do present less material and emphasize mastery of the material.”
Megan Figueroa: Uh, no.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah.
Megan Figueroa: I hope this. I mean, the only thing I could think of immediately is I hope this isn’t like something that was published last year, but still,
Carrie Gillon: well, it was posted a year ago. So, it was probably published before that, but like, not that much more before. I don’t think.
Megan Figueroa: No, I say that, but I know that they publish and think these things still today. So, it’s just like a useless thought. I’ve never seen anything that. I mean, I haven’t spent a lot of time with these kinds of materials, but I didn’t know that they targeted SES in these type of materials. People know if they follow me on Twitter, that I’ve been tackling this piece on the so-called word gap. And I was spending a lot of time thinking about how SES becomes and poverty becomes shorthand for basically systemic racism and all of the consequences of systemic racism. So, we’re putting a lot on a social construction of SES when really, it’s all of these other factors that affect why people may be in so-called lower SES, right?
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. So, there’s all these reasons for that, for this to happen. But poverty does have an if real effect on people’s ability to learn because they’re hungry. Like of course they have an effect, but like, that’s not how this is. This is not helping that.
Megan Figueroa: They’re discriminated against they’re, they’re treated poorly for what reserve, you know, like the way that we treat people in poverty. We’re assholes. So, it’s like, yeah, there’s a lot of reasons why things might be more difficult. Yeah. Basically, or we are the reasons for it. I mean, how, okay, so be encouraging, but also what was it?
Carrie Gillon: This is what they say: “do not lower, lower learning expectations, but present less material.”
Megan Figueroa: Okay.
Carrie Gillon: Those are like,
Megan Figueroa: that’s exactly the same thing.
Carrie Gillon: They’re actually opposite things, right? You’re saying: don’t lower expectations, but then do lower expectations.
Megan Figueroa: So, you’re lowering expectations by giving them less, that’s literally lowering expectations. So, they’re trying to say that this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if you think poorly of someone they’re going to perform poorly, we know that that. But if you give them less material, they’re going to perform poorly against someone who was given more and learned more because they had more material
Carrie Gillon: and it may be still the pedagogically correct thing to do to give them less material, because they’re like, I don’t know about SES, but like there might be some students that they need it in smaller amounts at a time. I don’t know, that could be right, but like the way that they’ve worded it.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, no, I know. I mean, they’re just thinking about ADHD. There’s many reasons with, you know, within the spectrum of having ADHD, that having less at one time, it would be very beneficial, you know, and that might be even the reason why some people need it. Yeah. But then we just collapse it into SES, right?
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. It’s probably, it’s probably not SES that. Well, yeah, it’s that, that’s probably only one factor that counts and it’s not the sole determining factor. And also, like, I don’t know if people were being fed, if they, these kids were eating
Megan Figueroa: right.
Carrie Gillon: They might be able to absorb more materials. So, like, why aren’t we tackling that?
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Free, free lunch for all type of thing. Like these kind of things. The Black Panthers knew what was up.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Yeah. That’s why they were so dangerous.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, of course. Yep. Yep. Exactly.
Carrie Gillon: Because they were actually doing what would actually make change.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, I shared on Twitter a new piece on, I guess it was on Mashable, that was talking to @blkgirllostkeys. I don’t want to call her like an ADHD influencer. I don’t know if that’s what she called herself. But we have a moment right now and she was interviewed for this piece and her talk and this piece is great. Just talking about under-diagnosis of especially Black girls, it’s just the intersection of race and all these expectations that we have about race that Black girls or Black boys are gonna be disruptive and all these things. So, we just think they’re being disruptive because they’re Black, but really, they might have ADHD. So this underdiagnosis of this made me just think that what other factors are affecting how children behave and perform in school. And we’re just telling them that they’re bad, um, or that they’re poor. I’ve been thinking a lot about these things. I think Josh probably added us because I have been thinking about SES so much.
Carrie Gillon: I know. He definitely did. Anyway, I thought I should point that out to you this, I think it was for you.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah.
Carrie Gillon: So, I was so excited about this episode.
Megan Figueroa: Oh my God. So much fun. Um, so important to, I. I, I love our guests that we have today. It was such a pleasure and honor to speak with him.
Carrie Gillon: Yes. So, um, Probably he’s most, well, we talk about this. He is most famous for his, uh, bison video, but we don’t really talk that much about it. We mostly talk about him, him and his accent in Baltimore and how it affected his career so far.
Carrie Gillon: All right. So, we’re very excited to have our guest today. Deion Broxton, who is a multimedia journalist for Iowa’s News Now. Previously he was a reporter for KTVM in Montana, where he went viral for his video in Yellowstone National Park of a close call with a bison. We are talking today, not because of that video, but because of his discussion with The Guardian and actually also Code Switch, but a few years ago, about having to change his Baltimore accent in order to break into TV news. So welcome.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, welcome
Carrie Gillon: Of course.
Megan Figueroa: So excited to chat with you today.
Carrie Gillon: All right. So, before we get into the meat of the matter, the, the media and accents and all that, why did you want to become a television journalist?
Deion Broxton: I’ve always liked sports. I remember being in the early nineties, late nineties. My mom would always watch football and basketball. I was never really that good at sports, but I love sports. So, I figured if I can’t go to the NBA or NFL, I would cover sports. I would say in middle school, you know, I think I had, like, I was like a casual fan, but in middle school, all of my friends, they would talk about the Ravens game. You know, the Baltimore Ravens is a team in Baltimore, the game on Monday. And I was like, I want to talk about the game on Monday. So, in sixth grade I started watching every Ravens game. Every I pretty much every full NFL game because I wanted to be one of the guys. And then when I got to high school, you know, I played football and I ran track. Wasn’t that good. But my friends would always joke that I would be on ESPN one day because I had so much sports knowledge, but I knew from high school that I was going to be a journalist, a sports journalist. So, when I got to college, I kind of was going through the motions, you know, partying, just having fun. But then when my senior year came, I thought to myself, okay, Deion, you need a job. Once you graduate college, time to start taking life seriously. And I had a news reporting course. And my professor, he worked as a reporter for a Boston newspaper and he was pretty, he was pretty hard. He was hard on us, not like, he wasn’t mean about it, but like he ran the class, like it was an actual newsroom. I had to cover council meetings and he helped me develop an admiration for this like regular news and not sports news. And I remember that same semester I was taking that class. It was when Freddie Gray died. Cause I went to school in Towson University, which is Baltimore County, which is just one city next one city, north of Baltimore. They, they touch each other. So, I remember like being in the dining hall, eating my food, seeing the senior citizen home around the corner from my house being burned down because of the riots. So, I remember like, I want to like witness this. I remember, I probably like a few days or a week or so later I went down to City Hall. That’s where, all the media was Fox News, CNN, local news, you know, all the Baltimore stations, DC, Philly. It was so many stations. It was like media having I saw Holt Lester Holt, Geraldo Rivera. And I just, I was enamored with what I was seeing. Because these are people who I see on TV, but like seeing them in person, the lights, the cameras, I was just amazed by it. The one thing that bothered bothered me when I watched the coverage, it was a lot of white people covering, you know, the death of Freddie Gray. I wanted to see a Black, I mean, it was, you know, there are a few Black journalists. I wanted to see more Black faces talking about Freddie Gray, but I grew up a few blocks from where Freddie Gray died and where he grew up from. They didn’t have that perspective of being sensitive to matter, because you can say, oh, he was a drug dealer. Oh. He had problems with the law. But as someone who grew up in the hood of Baltimore, I know that there are inequities and we all aren’t given the same resources. You can always blame someone for doing wrong, but I think a more important question. How does someone get to doing wrong? From that day forward, I became committed. I mean, like my last semester of college, I had two unpaid internships, a part-time job. I was a full-time student. And I’ve always coasted by, with like a 3.0 and my last semester of college, I got a 3.6 and I made the Dean’s List because I took it that serious. So that’s how I made my journey and made the decision to want to be a news reporter.
Megan Figueroa: That’s quite the origin story. Did you want to be a sports journalist up until Freddie Gray?
Deion Broxton: Yeah, because to me, news is more it’s different stories, sports, you know, And I’m a fanatic. I love like, I’ve got the TV on right now on ESPN it’s it’s to me, it’s not as difficult. And I enjoy the challenge of trying to understand new things. I embrace it. A lot of reporters that I’ve worked with, they want to cover like the easy stuff and what they know. But when there’s like difficult topics like city council or government, I’ve been doing a lot of stories on the Iowa legislature. And there are things called like funnel week and then Senate file, you know, Senate bills and they change names once they get amended and all these things. So, like, sports, you know, it’s the fourth quarter tie game. So-and-so I mean, it takes skill to be able to tell stories like that. It’s like a Marvel movie, you know what you’re going to get. A good guy, the bad guy, the bad guys gonna try to mess stuff up. The good guys want to save today. And I feel like sports is like that. No offense to anyone who loves sports. I just like being challenged more than that.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. It’s a little like pro wrestling in that you have like face and the heel and all that, but also like the city, the city level and the state level stuff is so underreported and it is difficult stuff because yeah. There’s all these like shenanigans going on that. Yeah. We need reporters to tell us what’s going on.
Deion Broxton: And it’s a lot of jargon. So, like, I think what makes a good journalist is not being afraid to ask simple questions. You can’t pretend like you know it all. I will tell, I would tell a politician, what does this mean? Like, like last, this week there was a bill that was going to die on Thursday and most people don’t know what that means. I’m not sure if it’s only in Iowa or all over the country, but it’s these things called Funnel Week. Which means the bill needs to get to a certain point, needs to pass out of Senate or out of House. If not the chances of it becoming law are done for this for this year. And I’ve had, I have politicians explain it to me to make sure I’m telling people at home right. Now, I won’t tell people at home. Oh, it’s Funnel Week, this and that. I keep it. If this bill doesn’t make it out of Senate or House by Thursday, it won’t become law. It’s off the table. I think that what makes a good journalist is not being afraid to admit you don’t know. And please explain to me this to me, I’ve seen journalists be afraid to ask questions like that and try to like research it on their own. If you want advice on basketball, you can read a basketball book or you can just ask Michael Jordan.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. You want Michael Jordan’s quote, like let him tell people, right? Yeah, absolutely.
Carrie Gillon: Once you decided, okay, I’m going to go down the news journalist track rather than sports, what types of issues were you hoping to cover?
Deion Broxton: Social justice, police reform, you know, burning fires, you know, violence. Things that I’ve known to see in Baltimore, not the closing of Yellowstone National Park.
Carrie Gillon: Fair enough. Have you been able to do any of the types of social justice issues that you wanted it to cover?
Deion Broxton: Here in Iowa, yes. On my third day on the job, I watched protestors get tear gassed and flash banged and, Iowa city where the University of Iowa is. So many stories have spawned out of the George Floyd movement, but I don’t want to call it the George Floyd movement, but you guys get it. The BLM black lives matter, all the protests that came after his death. So, like police review boards, truth and reconciliation commissions, I’ve been covering it all. You know, things proposed in city council has been my unofficial beat here in Iowa.
Megan Figueroa: And that’s what you wanted. So it’s not like you’re being pigeonholed into something.
Deion Broxton: Yeah, I love it. Just to be honest, when I got here, cause the week, the day I left Montana same day that George Floyd died or was murdered. I wasn’t aware of Black people in Iowa or what kind of footprint Black people had an Iowa, but when the George Floyd murder happened and I got here, there were protests.
And as, I mean, I’m going to be real. I saw the fear in my coworker’s eyes. I’m the only Black reporter at my TV station. I could see the fear in their eyes when they say another protest is planned tonight.
And I’m like, this ain’t nothing to me. Like send me, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. So like, I’ve been the guy to cover those things. One because I have the courage to do it because I grew up in a hood of Baltimore. So, I’m not afraid to cover things like that. I think that’s why representation matters because.
I mean, we’re all not going to be comfortable doing certain stories. Cause I’ve been in the middle of nowhere, Montana and felt uncomfortable, but you know, you gotta have representation so people can tell stories of people who look like them and you know, who can be an asset. Having me in this market at my TV station has been an asset because I’ve built a relationship with the Black Lives Matter advocates here.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. In a way that white people cannot do.
Deion Broxton: For me. It’s personal. I don’t want to say I feel like their savior, but I have, a lot of these Black advocates, they always come to me first. And there are other Black people here in this market. I don’t know, maybe because I don’t come from a middle-class or upper-class background. I come from a food stamps, government assistance background. So, and we all know that, you know, minorities are at the bottom of the totem pole economically in this country. I can relate to these people, right. It means a lot to me that they pick me first because there was one story. It was an exclusive, one lady she told me, “I was thinking about it was, it was two people I was considering going to you and another person.” And she said, “when you cover these stories, I feel like you care. The other person. I feel like that person just wants to, you know, get the work done with.” As a Black person. But they’re with you. “So, I decided to go with you.” And a lot of people here, it’s telling me that I’m not working for them, but it means a lot for me to make sure that their voice voices are heard. And, and you know, I’m a do it with my journalistic integrity and not just, you know, give a microphone because they asked for a microphone,
Megan Figueroa: right.
Deion Broxton: If it has news value, I will let them share their thoughts.
Carrie Gillon: Right. And this highlights the intersection of class and race. Both things matter for stories for certain stories like Black Lives Matter’s for sure.
Megan Figueroa: The story, the stories are important. What about the actual voices? So I’m thinking about you and as you’re coming up and you’re studying journalism, what were you told in school where he told anything?
Deion Broxton: You know, I never was told the way I talked was different. I knew I was different in college. Because freshman year of college, you know it’s people from different parts of the country. Everyone made fun of the way I talk and it didn’t bother me. It’s just like, I just talk differently. But, trying to get a job, that’s when I knew it was a crutch because I have a Baltimore accent, the Baltimore accent is a mix of a Southern accent and I guess, you know, a Black flare it’s like, it’s a mix of, of a city accent and a Southern accent with a Black flare on it. If that makes sense. So, in college, I just thought I was going to graduate and get a job and I’ll be the end of it. You know, to me, didn’t even cross my mind. And I remember even doing seminars and having other broadcast journalists telling me like, you’re going to be, you’re going to be special. You’re going to be good. So, I had no problem. But then, so I graduated in December of 2015. I thought I would easily get a job. I don’t know how many jobs I apply to, but, but for like the next four months, I mean full for the next two and a half years, I just kept applying and applying. I mean, nothing, no, no emails, bags. The emails that I got back were the ones that said, “thank you for your interest we have a candidate already.”
Megan Figueroa: And when you reply, you send a video, right?
Deion Broxton: A YouTube link. I shot this stuff in my internships and you know, my jobs and I wasn’t hearing anything. So, in the summer of 2017, so this is a year and a half after I graduated college. I’ll never forget it because, I was visiting a friend, a friend who I worked with in journalism in Baltimore. He was a reporter in Baltimore and I was an assignment editor. And he left Baltimore and went to be a reporter in Chicago. So, I went to go visit him in the summer of 2017 and a new director called while I was in a car with car with him he was a news director from Gainesville, Florida. And he told me, he said, my name is blah, blah, blah. And I see your resume. I’m impressed with it. I was wondering if you be willing to like, you know, sit down for an interview or talk on the phone tomorrow to have a like formal interview.I said, “sure.” So, the next day we talked, you know, I’m giving him my background and things like that. And then over the next few weeks, I remember having another phone call with him and he said, I really like you. I like your resume. I like your determination. He said, but your accent is really strong, man. He said, if I bring you down here, you have to prove to me that you’re going to work on your accent. And to me, I’m not thinking racism or anything like that. I’m just thinking, okay, I need to just, you know, sound standard. And so, a few weeks go by. I knew I didn’t, I knew I was going to get the job. I knew it cause he just, he called me back a few weeks later because normally if a place is interested in you, they will keep talking to you. I mean, it went like a few weeks. I knew I didn’t get it. So, he finally called me and told me like, yeah, man, we, we picked someone for the position and I just want to thank you for the time. And I was pissed. I was pissed cause I, I worked like I wanted it. I was pissed. So, I reached out to, but I’m not a person like to feel sorry for myself. I’m a find a way to get what I want. So, I called a speech pathologist and I told her my story. I said, I’ve been trying to be a reporter for two years now. And someone told me that someone told me that my accent is too strong. I want to see if I can fix it. And I, and in this process, I did have other journalists say, maybe consider a speech pathologist, but it was just a maybe, it wasn’t a definite. So, I thought to myself that I could just fix it on my own, that if I just read a piece of paper, I can just, you know, sound. But you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s what I found out when I had a speech pathologist. The first time that I worked with her, she had me record myself. I think I just like wrote like a paragraph about myself and she had me record myself. We did the same thing three months later, I said, holy shit, I sound like a whole different person. And she taught me that and I don’t want to call it racism. I think there’s a mix between racism and professionalism. For me, yes, I did have a black accent, but I do believe that I slurred my words a bit because of, because of my accent and I didn’t hit certain words correctly with that speech training, I learned how words should sound. Like I spent my whole life saying “probaly” my whole life. I’ve been saying, “probaly” thinking that was the correct way to say it when the word is actually “probably”. So, like I was saying things wrong. And in Baltimore we say like a dog, we don’t say dog. We say, doug, like the word like you, Y O U are, the normal person will say you, but in Baltimore we emphasize it. You too. Ooh. We just, we just, we draw it out. Something. So, a speech pathologist helped me recognize some of these things. So, like, when it comes to words like you to blue, we really emphasize it in Baltimore. To me, that’s racism. But what is like, “probaly” – that’s me saying a word incorrectly, so that’s something I do need to work on. So, I think there’s a fine line between systemic institutionalized racism and then just professionalism.
Megan Figueroa: And did, did the speech pathologist, do you feel like that person was able to differentiate between that was how did they make you feel about the way you speak?
Deion Broxton: Actually, my first speech pathologist was a Black woman from Texas. So she has a Southern accent, so completely gone because you would never tell that she was from Texas. I think she grew up in Houston, if I’m not mistaken. I forgot how she got involved in the industry, but she never, we never talked about like racism. Like, to me, I just wanted to be a reporter. So, you could tell me to jump off a building and fly. I was going to do it you know? Yeah. I had a conversation with one of my good friends yesterday. He’s from Ethiopia. Doesn’t have an accent or anything like that. He sounds like a typical, a typical person. But, he, he was one of the people in my life who would always make fun of me. Cause I met him in college. He grew up in DC. I grew up in Baltimore. So when I met him in college, he would always make fun of my accent. And I remember when I started, when I started working with the speech pathologist, he told me you’re just working with her so we can stop making fun of you. But then I talked to him yesterday and he said, We glossed over the fact that I couldn’t get a job because of my accent. We just was like, we just figured, okay, just work harder, you know, just fix it. But once I started telling my story, like when Code Switch and my speech pathologist was the one who put NPR in contact with me because they were working on this and I don’t know how they found her, but they said you have a student? And she picked me, I guess, cause I was at the opposite end of the spectrum. I think most people get speech therapy when they have like a stroke or something like that. Cause my uncle has had several strokes and I know that he’s, he’s been getting speech therapy to, you know, be able to talk better again, versus someone like me. I was going through speech therapy, to get a job, which you don’t really hear all that often. So, they picked me and then when they interviewed me and they asked me questions like, you know, Does it feel like racism and things like that. And I said, no. I said, it’s just a professionalism to it. But then with this George Floyd, you know, race came under a microscope after the death of George Floyd. Then I really started thinking about it with all the things I’ve like, I’ve read, how to be an anti-racist recently. I’ve read all these and somebody books I’ve read before. Like, you know, the autobiography of Malcolm X. I read these books years ago. With the aftermath of George Floyd, my thinking has changed and I’m thinking, wow, like someone, I think some of the, some of this is racism because in Montana, I worked with a white girl. She had a Southern accent, but she got a job. And at my current job, I work with two people who slur their words. And it bothers me because I’m like, when I slurred my words and the one thing is all these people all have in common, there are white. So, I’m like, I slur my words. I couldn’t get a job, but you’re slurring, you’re slurring your words and your here where I am. And that’s the part that bothers me the most. And it’s, it’s, it’s the same with black people. You have to work twice as hard just to get somewhere, to see these people and this is no indictment against them. But I get angry sometimes. Like how can you be on TV and slur your words? But when I slurred my words, I couldn’t get a job. Is this the racism that, you know, the implicit bias that we’re talking about that, oh, he’s black and he can’t speak, we can’t hire him.
Carrie Gillon: Absolutely. It’s an indictment of the system as a whole, not necessarily individuals, although sometimes individuals
Megan Figueroa: they’re definitely upholding the, the system. Yeah, absolutely.
Carrie Gillon: What do you like best about your, like the Baltimore accent?
Deion Broxton: Yeah, that’s a good one. probably the same, like we say “Shorty” a lot. I don’t know if you guys saw this, but recently, you know, Shorty’s a very common thing we say in Baltimore, but so, but we call it like some people we have the name Shorty, like, I don’t know. Like “Peanut”. Peanut is a very common nickname in the Black community. And in Baltimore, Shorty is a very common term and name like we say “unc”, which is like short for uncle. So, the Baltimore mayor, a few like probably a month or two ago, there was a, a Black person at his press conference named Shorty and he was complaining about police brutality, but the mayor was giving a press conference on, COVID measures, coronavirus response, and the Black guy- he’s known by everyone in the community. He kept interrupting the mayor and the mayor is trying to talk. And the mayor was and the mayor was like,
Mayor Brandon Scott: Shorty, pull your mask up, man. Pull your mask up.
Deion Broxton: It went viral because the guy’s name is Shorty, but people thought he was his call him Shorty. I was like, you know, like how sometimes maybe like, people said like, that’s my dog, you know, that’s my road dog. People thought it was the mayor code switching, pull your mask up. Shorty, pull your mask up but the guy’s name was Shorty. So, people thought it was kind of like my bison moment where I was professional. And then I went back to what I was, what I really am. So, phrases like that. Like, “come on Shorty, put your mask up. People dying out here.” That’s what he said. So that’s what I like the most is just the vernacular. Yeah.
Megan Figueroa: Was Montana your first?
Deion Broxton: My Plan B be to get to Plan A was working in Baltimore. So, I worked in Baltimore as an assignment editor at one station for four months. And then I went to another station and I was a web producer for almost two years. And during that time I was shadowing reporters, you know, filming fake stand-ups you know fake stuff with me on camera and stuff. So that’s how I was able to build my reel is by shadowing reporters, getting feedback from them and what I can do to get there. And they all, I mean, like, and there are other Black people and people in general who take the same route, they get a job in TV, work on their stuff and then get in front of the camera. So, whenever someone at my previous jobs have the same dreams of mine, So current reporters there, they always say, talk to Dion. He did it. I can’t tell you how many times I get like a random phone call or a random text from someone and wanting to take the same path as me. And obviously the bison video helps.
Carrie Gillon: Yes. Yeah, for sure.
Megan Figueroa: I know. How can media do a better job of letting people be authentic with their voices?
Deion Broxton: Put more people of color in management positions. I struggle sometimes with what I say. Because I am under contract. The station does own my image and likeness, but at the end of the day, truth is more important. And at the stations in Montana and here in Iowa that I worked at, there was such a disconnect. There is a disconnect. For example, Thursday, I did a story about, a house was spray painted with the n-word. And I did a story from there Thursday night, you know, I, I do this story and then I do my live shot in front of the house. And it’s viewed as like a bad area. I’m just like they got grass, rabbit, not a bad neighborhood. What is the sensationalism of thinking just because Black people live in this community, it’s a bad neighborhood. And I I’d roll my eyes. Like my boss asked me, “do you feel comfortable?” And this, this is not a bad neighborhood. All think because Black people live in these communities, it’s a bad neighborhood and it’s, I get tired of it. And it’s, it’s, it’s what you don’t know is what the fear is. If you take a walk around, as you said, white people also live in his neighborhood. People are just minding their business, going for walks, riding their bikes. But it’s this fear that is deeply entrenched in your mind. Oh, this can’t be good neighborhood because Black people live there and someone spray painted the n-word on it. It gets on my nerves. Yeah. And then when I was covering the protest, because all the co-workers were afraid to cover it, they said to me, do you feel comfortable? I mean, and I’m not trying to diminish harm that can be done because we have seen reporters and people attacked during these protests. I’m like, these are, and I’m not trying to downplay the incident. I’m not trying to downplay the situation. But these are a bunch of college kids marching through the streets, but in your mind, because they got teargassed, you think these are violent people who want to attack me. Because when I was covering those protests, they tried. And I said, I don’t know you talking to you, but you ain’t going to bully me because where I come from, bullies get bullied. And it’s just, if you stand up, if you stand up straight with your back straight and you stand up tall and they won’t mess with you. But the problem is the people who I work with, come from middle-class communities, where they are afraid of confrontation like that. And it’s like, no, like, no, these, these people don’t want to, the people the protests I covered. They didn’t want to beat me up. Yes. They stood in front of my cameras and they didn’t want certain people’s faces seen on camera because, you know, they were spray painting and breaking glass and stuff. I get that. But to think that I get it, it’s a hostile environment, but to me there was an, an exaggeration of how hostile the environment would be. But I think it’s just that middle-class white. Oh, these are Black kids. You know, and it, it, it, it gets on my nerves. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because I have interviewed people who have grew up white people who have grew up in black communities and have no problem with this at all. It’s just, it’s what you don’t know is what scares you. And that’s the part that constantly is frustrating. But obviously I’m using it to my advantage because I’m covering the tear gas incident because of my coworkers was scared to cover it. I covered it and I won an award for that. You know, I’m taking advantage of your, your trepidation.
Carrie Gillon: Well, congratulations on that award.
Megan Figueroa: That’s awesome.
Carrie Gillon: It’s amazing. But also, I would have been afraid of the cops because they were the ones who seem to be rioting in most of these instances and like attacking journalists. So that’s where my fear would have come from, not from protestors.
Deion Broxton: I mean, but if I win a lawsuit, I can retire from journalism.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Okay. I still would, rather that you don’t get hurt like that. What advice would you give to other people seeking jobs like yours?
Deion Broxton: If you love it, do it. If you don’t, don’t do it. Because I love this job, but, that’s a tough question. Like, I love what I do. I love what I do, but it is, it is not easy. And the part that troubles me is it’s my job to hold people accountable. And if I’m taught my whole life to hold people accountable, then if management makes mistakes, you best believe you best believe if I’m breathing. I’m going to hold you accountable. And any, anybody I’ve ever worked for. I am. I will call you out in a heartbeat. I don’t care if you are Jesus Christ himself. If you do me wrong, I will call you out in a heartbeat. And that’s not always, not welcome. You you know, it was like sports “shut up and dribble.” and, and management will never admit to this, but if you shut up and dribble, that’s what they’re happy with. And I’ve always had a problem with it. So it’s a tough industry to work in because racism doesn’t exist outside of journalism. I’m not saying like it’s, and that’s the thing with racism. People think racism is lynching someone hanging them by a rope and it’s no, it’s, it can be subtle. And I have witnessed this and I’ve witnessed it. I can’t say it, I will say. And once I’m out of this industry I will say it. Well, I can’t say it right now because I’m under contract and they own my image and likeness were, there are things that I see that deeply troubled me, and it’s hard that I’m paid to investigate truth. And, but, but I can’t speak my own truth. I’m paid to investigate truth, but I can’t tell my own truth because if that happens, I won’t be getting paid to investigate truth anymore. That’s the hard part. And when I was in Montana, there was a Black woman who got pulled over by the cops. You know, Montana is the whitest state in the country and it was a discrepancy about how fast she was going. She didn’t believe she was going that fast, but the situation- she was recording on her phone, I think Facebook Live. And a white cop, a white female cop said, “you’re just trying to get out of a ticket” and that set the woman off. So I went and I interviewed the police chief for the university, Montana State University. And we got along really well because I’m from Baltimore. And his dad was a police officer for the first six years of his life in Baltimore. So that’s how we connected. And I remember talking to him and, I told him, I said, “man, I feel like the Black woman kind of overreacted.” And he was like, he’s like “Deion.” And, and a white guy told me this. He was just like, “I don’t know what her experience is with police. So, it is our job to be the better person. And always take the high road.” I’m like, damn man, like we need more cops like you in a world.
Megan Figueroa: Right.
Deion Broxton: And he said, “we welcome criticism because how can we be better at our job if we aren’t criticized?”
Carrie Gillon: Oh, right. Wow. That is so refreshing.
Megan Figueroa: Yes. It’s really refreshing
Deion Broxton: He’s retired though. Yeah. More cops like you in a world.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. People in power just in general. Wow. So, what was it like going viral for this video, with the bison.
Deion Broxton: I know, I know this is what my fame is, so I can just, I got to suck it up and tell. So like I said, I’m not use to animals like bison and elk and stuff. So, I remember my first time going to Yellowstone, my mouth dropped I’m like, “what is that? Is that a horse?” Antelope, bison. I mean, it was I’m from the hood. So, this is like not in my wheelhouse at all, but I’ve covered Yellowstone probably at least 25 to 30 times, my two years in Montana. So, I’ve pretty much learned to know that they’re pretty docile. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t, they won’t bother you. So, because I’m more comfortable now with them. When I was going to shoot that video, the distance they were away from me, I was fine with. But as I was doing it, they were getting closer and closer. And then you saw the reaction. The thing, I always tell everybody, reporters, we always post our blueprints to social media. And I think that I’ve had funnier bloop bloopers on Twitter than that. When that went. But I wasn’t thinking like this will go viral. I’m just thinking kind of funny. I think I would just post it, I mean, five minutes, a thousand likes. Ten minutes, 10,000 likes. 30 minutes, 50,000 likes. I’m like, holy crap. I think this video was going viral and it was an absolute nightmare. My phone, my phone did not stop buzzing for like three days. I’m not lying. bzzz bzzz bzzz, three days straight. And this is on a Wednesday, March 25th on a Wednesday. Then Thursday, I got almost didn’t get my story done that on that Wednesday, because it was, it was, it was madness, but then Thursday, the same thing. So on Friday I called my boss and I said, I’m sorry, but I have to call out. I said, I need to use my phone to work, but I can’t use my phone because it will not stop. And I can turn Twitter off. I can turn Twitter off, but like Facebook, everything, Facebook, text messages, phone calls. I don’t, I, that happened on a Wednesday. I don’t think I talked to my mom. So, like Monday and now I finally was able to like talk to mom, family, like five days or four days after it happened. And I was just like, have you, have you guys seen social media? And my mom was like, “everybody has been calling,” and it was absolute madness, but, um. And I was covering an event, not this past Thursday, but last Thursday I was covered an event. And one of the reporters in the market, cause I had just tweeted that one year anniversary tweet and she said like, how does it feel to have a tweet have a hundred thousand likes? And I told her, I said, I’m not being ungrateful, but this will never compare. And so, , once you go through something once, it doesn’t feel the same as second or third time around. Cause like the tweet that I tweeted, almost like a week and a half ago, that tweet was, I guess my, my second most popularly tweet behind the actual bison one. So, to me, it was like, “okay, here we go again.” And it felt normal.
Megan Figueroa: Here we go again. Just going viral. Every couple of days.
Deion Broxton: And I talked to The Guardian and Inside Edition about this. It’s kind of bittersweet because I work really hard. I work really hard and I don’t want to be known as the bison guy. Like I had come to resist it, resent it for a while. Because it’s like, I remember, I never forget one of my coworkers when, when they announced that I was going to Iowa, one of my coworkers said in that email, “oh my God, it’s the bison guy!” And it kind of dehumanizes you, you know, a new coworker started a few months ago and he said, “oh, it’s the bison guy!” I looked at him like he was crazy because I didn’t like it. This is like kind of the, and I get it. I get it’s the territory. I get it. But it kind of dehumanizes you I’m like, I don’t want to be the bison guy. I want to be known as a good reporter. If you, last week I told the guy 1) I felt like I had to be twice as good because I’m Black, accent, you know, the things that come with being an African-American. And now that I feel like I got to be four times better to prove to people I’m not just a viral sensation. I like for the first few months here in Iowa. It was just like, I’m not just a bison guy. I’m a good reporter. And I tried really hard to prove that.
Megan Figueroa: Do you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself because of, you know, it’s going through speech therapy and all of that.
Deion Broxton: I mean, you probably read it in The Guardian article because it kinda, it alienates you from the people you’re around that you grew up with. Did I lose myself? I don’t know. That’s a hard question. I want to say no. But I feel like I will understand that question better a few years from now, or maybe decades from now. I mean, I’m happy and if I’m happy, doesn’t that mean that it’s a good thing, right? I know may sound weird, but like, I’ve accomplished or I’m in the process of accomplishing the things I want to accomplish. So, losing yourself has like a negative connotation. So, I don’t know. It’s always a tough one. Because I just, I feel like it was destiny for me to be this person. And I mean, you guys can understand me better because of my speech training. cause there has been times where, before my speech training, I would talk to people and they would constantly say, “hhuh? Huh?” I don’t get that anymore because of my training. So, I think it is, I mean, obviously it has helped me more than it’s hurt me. And when I go back to Baltimore and when I’m with my friends, I can switch right back into that vernacular immediately. But is it, but it’s not as, it’s not as, it’s not that same vernacular though, because there’s still a twist of my speech training in that. I’m actually, I’m having a conversation right now. I am because of this Guardian article. I have so many people reaching out to me telling me that they had to change their accent. And right now, I’m talking to a Scottish doctor in Kansas city. He emailed me and told me his story. He said, he came from this small town in Scotland, 1300 people. And, and, in that part of the country, how you talk is viewed of your intelligence. And he said he received that same, you know, stigma, oh he can’t be intelligent because of how he talks and we just we’ve been talking and he’s a doctor, he’s a vice president of a children’s hospital. He has a lot of money you know, like not saying money brings success, but like him, him changing his accent has helped him succeed. Now it’s kind of like the terms we hear in the Black community. Uncle Tom, you’re trying to be white. But then I saw one of my Facebook friends, a kid I went to middle school with. He said, “why is it that every time a Black person try to achieve something, they’re called a sellout.” Oh, this, you know, why can’t we just be happy for someone in our community for achieving something. Now, to me, a sellout is like, you know, I make all this money. I forget about my family. I go live in Beverly Hills and I only associate with white people too. And that can be, you know, that can be something that constitutes as a sellout or I’m still going back home to my family. I’m still hanging out with my Black friends. I’m still in the community, you know? So, so your question to your question. I still, I mean, I think it’s, I saw this yesterday on Instagram. It was a picture of a butterfly. There was a picture of a butterfly and a picture of a cow caterpillar, and the caterpillar tells the butterfly “you changed.” And the butterflies said you’re “supposed to, when you, when you grow, when you become better,” you know, so yeah, because for me, I could, I hear, you know, I hear people, Black people talk. And sometimes I hear like, you know, these athletes talk. I’m thinking, “oh my God, bro. Like, you know, hire a PR person, like, speak better,” but that’s racist of me to think like that so that, you know, because the way they talk a certain way that I think they shouldn’t be on TV, you know? So, you know, there’s, we all have our ways or means to success or happiness. I should say. I think happiness is a lot better than success. So we all have our ways to happiness and what gives us satisfaction. So I don’t think that I’ve lost who I am. I know who I am, but I think, I mean, growth, Muhammad Ali said this, “the man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 shows that that man didn’t learn anything.” I think is a part of my maturation process. And I don’t think I lost myself, but I think that answer will be a lot clearer, you know, when I’m old.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, I agree.
Megan Figueroa: Absolutely.
Carrie Gillon: Thank you. That was really beautiful.
Megan Figueroa: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself with us today, and I hope our listeners will follow you and follow your work and congratulations again on the recent award. And yeah. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Deion Broxton: I am humble. After all this stuff, when people reached out to it, because I, I get it. I work in journalism.
Megan Figueroa: Hmm.
Deion Broxton: When you reach out to people, the only thing you want, please say yes, please say they say no, it’s would have been a great interview.
Carrie Gillon: They don’t even if they don’t even respond.
Deion Broxton: Yeah. When the video first happened, I had so many like podcasts and people reach out. I’ve tried my best to do them all. And I knew I missed some because it was like, it happens.
Carrie Gillon: It’s a pandemic too.
Megan Figueroa: well, we really appreciate it so much.
Carrie Gillon: And we always leave our listeners with one final message.
Carrie Gillon/Megan Figueroa: Don’t be an asshole.