Reporter who spoke about black families suspended

Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

— A white TV reporter who voiced his opinions about black families and relations with police during a segment about a fatal police shooting said Tuesday he was suspended from his station and won't return.

Sean Bergin said he was suspended from News 12 New Jersey without pay on Monday and with pay on Tuesday. Bergin, a contracted employee, said the station told him that his assignments would be cut to one a week and he declined to remain in the position.

Bergin's report, which aired Sunday, featured the widow of a black man who police say shot a rookie Jersey City police officer to death and who was then killed by officers responding to the shooting. The widow, Angelique Campbell, told Bergin that Lawrence Campbell should have killed more officers, but she later apologized.

Bergin said in his report that the underlying cause of an anti-police mentality is young black men growing up without fathers.

"It's important to shine a light on this anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America's inner cities," Bergin said after airing the widow's comments and showing a memorial for her husband. "The underlying cause of all of this, of course, young black men growing up without fathers."

The TV station said that the response to Bergin's report was being handled internally and that it doesn't comment on personnel matters.

"It is News 12's policy that reporters must be objective and not state personal opinions on-air," the station said in a statement Tuesday.

Bergin said that he added his commentary just before going on air because he had heard from police officers outraged that the station was airing the widow's comments.

"If I had it to do over again, I would do the exact same thing," Bergin said. "I broke the rules. I knew I was breaking the rules. But sometimes you have to break the rules to do the right thing."

He said that the issue of young black men without fathers deserves more media coverage.

The National Association of Black Journalists' president, Bob Butler, challenged Bergin's connection between young black men growing up without fathers and anti-police sentiments and said that Bergin went beyond the standards of a news reporter by inserting his views on the story.

"Are there problems in the inner city with kids without fathers? Yes. But does that make kids violent? No," Butler said. "There are a lot of kids without fathers who go to college, graduate and become upstanding citizens. He's talking about a social phenomenon where there's lack of opportunity in communities."

Bergin, 49, said that he has worked for News 12 as a freelance reporter for seven years, for six or seven days a week. He said he made about $1,300 a week working on stories in New Jersey and in New York's Long Island and Westchester County.

He said the station told him Tuesday that if wished to remain he would be limited to one story a week on Long Island for $300.

Reach Josh Cornfield on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JoshCornfield.

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