When a Georgia county school hired a diversity, equity and inclusion administrator, parents criticized the move. Two agreed to interview experts and allow WXIA to report on what they learned and whether it changed their conclusions.
WXIA, Tegna’s NBC affiliate in Atlanta, returned to a novel and innovative reporting concept it had first used in March: Cover a complicated subject, often wrapped with emotion and misunderstanding, and ask a viewer to take the wheel of the reporting process.
So, the station decided to take the same approach again.
This time around for Drawing Conclusions, the station asked parents who questioned diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in public schools.
Andy Pierrotti, an investigative reporter with WXIA, says when a county school district outside Atlanta hired an administrator to lead its DEI program, some parents showed up at the county school board meeting to question the move, believing a DEI program or administrator wasn’t needed.
After the parents protested her hiring, the administrator withdrew from the position, writing a letter to a local newspaper explaining why.
Pierrotti approached two parents, Bart and Coley Glasgow, to go on a fact-finding journey and interview experts in African American studies, DEI, implicit bias and America’s Civil Rights movement.
The Glasgows agreed. They picked their own questions, and Pierrotti recorded the interviews and reported what the Glasgows learned.
When Pierrotti first asked the Glasgows to participate, Bart Glasgow’s first thought was “this is going to be like walking in a minefield. You just say one wrong thing and they put you in one category or another.”
He and his wife talked it over.
“We thought if we can show that we can sit down with people we disagree with and have some productive dialogue and reasoned debate, then maybe it was worth it,” Glasgow says. “The benefit was worth the possible perils.”
Glasgow says the unique approach WXIA took “to do this kind of story was refreshing. It definitely was different because you got to see the process. We were open and talked to four experts and then at the end, this is what positions remained the same, this is what positions changed. This is what we learned that we didn’t know before, and I think that is good.”
Pierrotti says he was very surprised the Glasgows agreed to go through the process. “Like Bart said in the piece, it could set himself up to look like a racist, a Neanderthal.”
In spite of that, Pierrotti says, “they really wanted to do it because they saw value in seeing the bigger picture. They genuinely wanted to learn more about the subject matter.”
Pierrotti believes this approach to reporting on DEI programs in public schools, is “a better way to do it. The news organizations were reporting on the outrage and the loudest people in the room. Getting people in front of other people and away from the social media apps, that is when you really start learning.”
Glasgow says he and his wife knew the subject matter “was a hot potato. We were concerned about how we were going to come across.”
Glasgow says the reactions he got after the series aired were “overwhelmingly positive. The way it came across, like we went on a journey, is what many said was really refreshing, something they hadn’t seen in a while as far as how to cover a story and an issue.”
What Glasgow learned through the process was “regarding conclusions, you don’t know what you don’t know, so talk to people and listen to them. If you got new information, reanalyze your position to see if your position has changed, has gone one way or the other or remains the same. You don’t grow if you don’t accept those two premises.”
Drawing Conclusions, began airing on WXIA’s morning news and 5:30 p.m. newscasts on Monday, Oct. 4, and continued daily until Friday. On Friday, the station did a half-hour special during the 5 p.m. newscast.
WXIA has a web page devoted to the story and a YouTube page that includes all the edited segments as well as the raw interviews the Glasgows conducted with the experts, which Pierrotti says increased the transparency of the project.
“I had people come up to me and just say, I watched a whole interview, and I am so glad you did that.”
Here’s one of the full, unedited interviews the Glasgows conducted with Dr. Tommy Welch, the chief equity and compliance officer at Gwinnett County Schools.
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