Cable's Diversity Work Will Survive Hatred and Terror

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This column was originally to address Diversity Week within the cable industry, a week that was to be anchored last Thursday by the annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, an event that has become a center for fostering awareness of minority issues.

The intention of the event was to acknowledge the efforts of Comcast Corp.'s Brian Roberts, this year's honoree, and to address the challenges facing the industry going forward. Unfortunately the tragic events of last Tuesday have overshadowed not only the plans for the week, but have impacted the people of our industry, many of whom have had friends or colleagues, neighbors or relatives, who were lost in the devastation of the World Trade Center.

Trying to make any sense of this is unfathomable. Those of us gathered in the Cahner's seventh floor offices here on West 17th Street witnessed the collapse of the buildings following the plane crashes with a sense of disbelief, an almost surreal experience akin to watching a film like Independence Day. Unfortunately, this was reality, the consequences of which are likely to be unknown for some time.

Stories emerge hour by hour of those who managed to escape and those less fortunate who did not. Two Cahners Business Information employees (parent company of Multichannel News, Broadcasting & Cable
and Cablevision) were on board American Airlines Flight 11 en route from Boston to Los Angeles. At this writing it is uncertain as to the total loss of life in this devastation, which is being compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Civil War battle at Antietam Creek in Maryland in terms of single-day casualties in the history of the United States.

The media coverage of these tragic events was extraordinary and the level of collaboration between the traditional broadcast and cable networks is well-documented in the pages of this week's issues. During these times, it is stressful for news gathering personnel, including our own editorial staff, to maintain a focus and catalog the events that shape our world and very existence as they occur. Nevertheless we move forward with a sense of obligation to our readership and our constituency to both inform and discuss the meaning of these events.

The role of the media in shaping awareness continues to grow. Just as CNN covered events in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the horror of the World Trade Center devastation will now be chronicled in the minds of any who viewed the live coverage on Tuesday. The Internet, whose genesis was in part derived from the initiative in providing backup of telecom lines in times of emergency, also was a major source of communication, providing access to many during the downtime of communications lines — further evidence of the significance of broadband to our future.

In an effort to connect the terrorist attacks with the cancelled Diversity Week activities, it occurs to me that the roots of last weeks events are grounded in hatred and sewn by centuries old bigotry of racial and religious intolerance. Indeed, many of the fanatical culprits behind these efforts are viewed as martyrs, witness the dancing in the streets in Palestinian refugee camps as portrayed in the media. But it matters not whether the terrorist acts occur in a schoolyard in Belfast, a restaurant in Jerusalem or the Bosnian hillside, hatred is hatred and it is fueled by those who would couch it in terms of religious or moral certitude.

This may seem a stretch from the daily workplace where prejudice or indifference is far subtler and less onerous in appearance. But discrimination, whether on basis of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation cannot be tolerated. Organizations such as the Walter Kaitz Foundation, the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association, NAMIC, Women in Cable & Telecommunications and Cable Positive, which deals with its own brand of discrimination, exist to foster awareness and action within the cable industry and require our continued support to be effective.

Criticism of past efforts of these organizations gains us little in the scheme of things and deters the mission of these associations, which are vital to the future structure of the industry. One need only to reference Art Torres' forum contribution in Multichannel's Sept. 10 issue for a rationale on the business perspective in addressing the workforce of the future.

In the aftermath of the kamikaze-style attack on the Trade Center, people were gathering in the streets sharing observations and concerns, bonded in grief and seeking consolation.

I spoke with a fireman named Fallon who was headed back to day two of the rescue efforts, which had claimed 200 of his comrades. He was accompanied by an African-American construction worker who offered his support and admiration for the job at hand, knowing what had yet to be done. There were no boundaries last Tuesday, no issues of race or sense of separatism; just a common sense of community and purpose. Tragedy, unfortunately, has a way of bringing out the best in people.

The villains who purported this heinous act, as well as those who provide safe harbor for them will hopefully be identified and dealt with severely in a manner commensurate with the crime. Their mission is to destroy and discourage the will of a people whose sense of freedom has created the media industry of which we are all a part. They are only successful if we allow them to become successful. The source of their strength is hatred and discrimination fueled by generations of indifference and ignorance. Diversity Week exists to address the issues facing our society within the cable industry and it is important not to allow the events of last week to diminish the cause and worthiness of these organizations.

We at Cahners Business Information salute those committed to the cause of diversity and offer our sincere condolences to all our friends and colleagues who suffered a personal loss as a result of the events of last week. We are truly diminished by these events.

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