A Black television news anchor claims she was unjustly fired after filing complaints against her TV bosses, who allegedly refused to let her wear her natural hair and pressured her to look like a “beauty queen.”
Brittany Noble-Jones, a former co-anchor for WJTV This Morning in Jackson, Miss., detailed the allegations in a Medium post Monday explaining why she hasn’t been on air of late. It has been eight months, however, and the seasoned reporter is still struggling to find work.
“For the first time in my life, I collected unemployment but the money has run out,” she wrote. “Despite my love for journalism, I have been working outside of my field to make ends meet.”
Noble-Jones, who boasts nearly a decade of professional news experience and was named the 2015 Emerging Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), was brought on by WJTV in August 2015 after her award-winning coverage of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. She told Yahoo Lifestyle it was initially “a normal work environment,” but issues soon started to arise.
“After I volunteered to appear in a company-wide promo in March 2017, my boss told me, ‘People here think you’re into yourself,’ but he would not give me specific examples,” she recalled.
Noble-Jones, 32, was newly pregnant at the time and said she was hesitant about telling her bosses. After spilling the beans, she said she began feeling even more ostracized at work, as she was passed over for certain assignments and many of her pitches — timely stories regarding race relations in Mississippi — were canned.
“After announcing I was pregnant, I was no longer asked to participate in commercials,” she wrote on Medium. “I felt the need to starve myself to fit in. I now weigh 108 pounds. I did eat while carrying my son and postpartum, but I noticed that my events were given to a white reporter. I was finally allowed to use a storage closet to pump milk for my son [six] hours after my shift began. This came after filing a corporate complaint and a two-month long investigation.”
Noble-Jones recalled the day she asked her boss why she was being kept out of promos, seeing as she was the target audience for young moms. His response? “Why should [you]? You’re not a mother yet.” Jones was 34 weeks pregnant at the time.
The discrimination didn’t stop there, however. In her Medium post, the reporter said she was given the green light to stop straightening her hair after giving birth to her baby boy. She told Yahoo Lifestyle the switch to wearing her natural hair was important to her because Black women, particularly in the TV industry, are forced to look a certain way by wearing weaves/wigs or flat-ironing their hair.
“Here I am in a predominantly Black city, and a school representative, and I’m not even showing my real hair to Black children?” she said.
Noble-Jones soon found herself back in her news director’s office, however, where she was reprimanded about her naturally curly tresses. She said her boss deemed her natural hair “unprofessional” and likened it “to him throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store.”
“He said ‘Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen,’ ” she wrote. “He even asked, “why my hair doesn’t lay flat?’ ” When I asked how I should address the change on social media, he told me to write, ‘I was told to change my hair back to the way it was because that’s what looks best.’ I chose not to post his suggested line because it would be hurtful to other Black women who share my 3c hair texture.
“I admit I am tired of changing my voice and wearing a wig in order to report on TV,” she added.
In June 2017, Noble-Jones said she decided to stand up for herself and filed a complaint against two supervisors with parent company Nexstar Media Group. In it, she accused the company of fostering an environment of discrimination, despite the fact that seven of the 12 journalists there were also African-American. The reporter alleged that station managers would go out of their way when scheduling vacation time to keep the Blacks from sitting together on the desk.
Noble-Jones filed a second complaint in September 2017, which she ended by saying, “I will not be surprised if Nexstar finds no problem with my multiple complaints.” She said she one day hoped to write about about less-than-diverse TV newsrooms and argued that “the country is crying out for real news- not fake news and that is exactly what we are doing at WJTV and in the Nexstar company.”
Noble-Jones continued anchoring for the next several months, but the harassment continued, prompting her to take her complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2018. The reporter claims she was fired the following month while taking time off to care for her dying grandfather in her hometown of St. Louis.
Noble-Jones told Yahoo Lifestyle she now works a part-time retail job at Michael Kors in New York City and freelances while couch surfing at friend’s houses as her son lives with his father. The now-divorcée has since launched a GoFundMe page to help with her day-to-day expenses.
“Thankfully I have my peace of mind, and I hope in sharing my story — it opens the hearts and minds of readers to affect change,” she wrote.