A journalist’s trailblazing rise and swift fall in TV broadcasting.
In the prologue, Simpson introduces herself as an everywoman filing through a dehumanizing TSA security line until a starstruck security screener recognizes her and asks why she’s no longer on ABC’s Word News Tonight Sunday. That moment posits the central question of the book and turns what otherwise would have been just an autobiography into an autobiographical whodunit. In chapters more thematic than chronological—a structure that occasionally disorients the reader by jumping back and forth in time—Simpson details her family’s mixed racial origins, her exposure to fierce racism in the Jim Crow South and her slow climb up the rungs of journalistic success, from a radio broadcaster in Chicago to the coveted anchor position on World News Tonight Sunday, glass ceilings raining down upon her throughout the journey. In Chicago, she was the first woman to broadcast radio news and the first black woman to anchor a local newscast. She was also the first black woman to become a national network TV correspondent and anchor a national network newscast. And, in 1992, she was the first minority or woman to moderate a presidential debate. In her more than 40 years on the air, she covered a myriad of events, from Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests against housing segregation and the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago to strife in Africa and the vice presidency of George H.W. Bush. However, the book is most intriguing in the detailed accounts of the vicious sexual harassment and racism she faced from white men, and how she steadfastly worked to improve the career prospects of women and minorities. She is to be lauded for placing candor before feminist and racial dogma, especially when she concludes who was ultimately responsible for encouraging ABC executives to remove her from the air in the early 2000s.
An honest, engaging self-portrait of a woman who forever changed racial and gender dynamics in media.