Ed Gordon has masterfully held down the type of career in broadcast journalism that many journalists, especially those of color, could only dream about. Beginning well over two decades ago as a BET News anchor, he became host of BET Tonight and eventually became executive producer of his own hour-long intimate talk show, Conversations with Ed Gordon.
The Emmy- and NAACP Image Award winner’s comforting, interpersonal approach combined with his hard-hitting, well-researched investigative reporting consistently seated him directly across from a wealth of entertainers, politicians, public figures and world dignitaries for exclusive, one-on-one chats.
However, Gordon makes it crystal clear to anyone he crosses paths with that the road leading to success is not a straight and narrow path. The riveting correspondent continues to live by a model that reads similar to a mathematical equation.
“Greatness follows success,” urges Gordon. “Success is born out of preparation. Preparation is initiated by a dream.” Never one to shy away from asking tough questions, Gordon, a Detroit native, then identified hard work, persistence and “a number of other things” as subsequent components for becoming successful.
“There are certain things one can do to make sure you’re on the right road,” says an impeccably sharp-dressed Gordon with his legs crossed. “Success is the result of continuous action. It’s hard to stay on top in this business as a black male.”
“There are some steps to take along the way. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been able to reinvent myself in different ways.” At the time, Gordon, who majored in communications and political science at Western Michigan University, was in Atlanta preparing to deliver an empowering-yet-witty, 35-minute keynote address at the National Black MBA Association’s (NBMBAA) annual scholarship luncheon.
His affect feels more like a tenured professor. He rests in the corner of the ballroom partitioned from the dining area prior to the event. The salt-and-pepper-haired Gordon gave off the same confidence, charm and charisma as his television persona.
The media veteran spoke openly about the ups and downs of practicing modern journalism as a profession, revealing he luckily had only been out of work a total four-and-a-half months throughout his career. He joked about wishing success was as easy as downloading a mobile app as he takes off his eyeglasses.
An extremely down-to-earth man, Gordon defined his “purpose” as being able to connect with a myriad of subjects on-camera. “If you can find things that you love, it becomes a much easier road for you,” asserts Gordon with a slight tonal crescendo. “Most successful people will tell you a different story in terms of how they reached that level.”
“If you love a job,” adds Gordon, “you’re up before the alarm goes off. You’re ready to get started. You’re ready to roll.”
Gordon recently launched New View with Ed Gordon, his current on-air incarnation for delivering multicultural perspectives on news and current events. The series will air nationwide on PBS later this year.
Persistence is a recurring term Gordon used when he talks about staying relevant. “In this business, you have to be persistent,” says Gordon. “You’re gonna have some up years. You’re gonna be on top, and everybody’s gonna know who you are. Those things will be great.”
Having also contributed to 60 Minutes II, Dateline, Our World with Black Enterprise and The Today Show along the way, Gordon immediately counters the good side of popularity. “If you stay in it long enough, you’re gonna have some down years when you don’t have as popular of a show or you aren’t as visible as you once were.”
“The idea is to keep moving, and keep moving towards whatever your goal is.” Gordon is president of Ed Gordon Media, where he also lends his voice to radio. He has hosted News & Notes with Ed Gordon on NPR and Weekend with Ed Gordon on SiriusXM. Last fall, he joined The Steve Harvey Morning Show for his own segment, Just Ed.
Even as Gordon constantly transitioned and evolved professionally, he acknowledged his favorite title being “Taylor’s daddy.” His 20-year-old daughter is currently a communications major at Howard University.
Gordon’s face glowed when he mentioned that his daughter is following in his footsteps. “Parenting is the most important job I’ve ever had,” says Gordon.
“To watch her grow into a young lady and know I had a little part into making her into what she’ll ultimately become has been fun for me to watch grow and flourish. We all have to reevaluate where we are and what our role is in life.”
Gordon’s closeness with his daughter led to him creating Daddy’s Promise. Developed in 2006, his initiative encourages other black fathers to become or remain proactive in their children’s lives. Furthermore, Daddy’s Promise is also rooted in Gordon remembering when communities played a large role in ensuring that young people were raised with strong guidance, role models and values.
The exceptional broadcaster hopes communities can re-adopt the “it takes a village” mentality. “When I grew up, you had that sense of extension, whether it was your neighbor, teacher, principal or the guy that ran the basketball program at the Y[MCA],” says Gordon. “This was the true extension of family. To some degree, we need to get back to that.”
Gordon adds, “We all owe a debt to the people that are here with us and to those that came before us and made our road a little easier. None of us make it alone. You cannot succeed without advocates. Make sure your advancements touch others.”
When Gordon stepped to the podium, he delivered a motivational speech loaded with personal experiences, acquired wisdom and Swedish proverbs. He gave his assessment of how a lack of community contributed to the results of the last midterm elections.
He highlighted odd-defying personalities-turned-success stories like Oprah Winfrey, Eric Holder, Venus and Serena Williams, Misty Copeland and Magic Johnson to further illustrate what it means to be persistent.
Gordon also shared some of his treasured moments as a journalist. The prominent interviewer had singer Jeffrey Osborne sing “Happy Birthday” to his assistant, whom he affectionately refers to as his “boss.”
He chatted with John Johnson about the struggles the groundbreaking entrepreneur encountered when starting Ebony Magazine. He sat with then-Senator Barack Obama, hoping to get an exclusive in Chicago before the leader announced to the world that he would be running for President.
The audience went completely silent when Gordon reminisced about speaking to late South African President Nelson Mandela on numerous occasions in the activist’s home. The crowd chuckled as he went into detail about spending time with comedian Kevin Hart.
Gordon believes success is about being prepared for opportunities and remaining humble. “Dreams have to be fueled by actions,” asserts Gordon similar to a classic orator. “Your contributions to the world are what will make your extraordinary. When you are good at something, no one has to tell you. Sit back, and do your thing. You will know it and so will others.”
Gordon had no problem acknowledging how blessed he is to have the opportunities he has had throughout his career. More importantly, he knew his “purpose” had to be used for the common good.
He remembered overhearing side conversations on a few occasions from people complaining about the state of world. Gordon empathized with them. On the other hand, the dapper media personality voted to People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1996 goes back to the notion that continuous action guarantees progress.
“It’s fine to complain,” he says. “It’s fine to point things out that aren’t right, but if that’s all you’re doing and you’re not taking action to move, motivate or change yourself, then you’re as big or part of the problem as anyone else.”
Whenever Gordon thinks about how he can evolve or improve himself whether it’s through his professional career or acts of humanitarianism, he draws inspiration from Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror.”
Every chance he’s ever taken, he says, started with him taking initiative to do something different. “We all have the ability or the opportunity to make change,” warns Gordon. “We shouldn’t take that lightly, and we should move forward and do so.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.