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I didn’t do my job

In 2008, Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete gave me a simple task.  Six years later, I have yet to complete it.  Now, the tragedy of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls is a reminder of my failures over the past several years.

I was part of a delegation attending an international summit in Tanzania when I first met President Kikwete.  At that time, I was still working at CNN.  During a conversation with the president, the question came up about the limited coverage we (CNN & Western media) dedicate to what’s happening in Africa.  When I mentioned a possible lack of interest from viewers, President Kikwete stopped me.  He refused to accept that as an excuse and instead emphatically insisted: “make them care!”  I will never forget that moment.

Kikwete’s simple statement was at the top of my mind in 2011, when I walked into the New York office of one of CNN’s senior executives (he’s no longer with the network), and we argued about Africa.  Specifically, I wanted to do an extended segment about South Sudan gaining independence.  He was against it.  “We shouldn’t spend too much time on stories that people won’t watch,” he argued.  He attempted to placate me by explaining his philosophy this way:  We have to cover the stories that get us ratings, and then, get in a story like South Sudan wherever we can.

This wasn’t the first or last time I’d had a conversation like this during my career.  On countless occasions, my story or segment ideas were rejected because news managers and producers (and not just the white ones) thought the audience wasn’t interested, no matter how relevant, timely, or even interesting the story might be. READ MORE

“Like 80s Graffiti” (spoken word by Enmanuel Candelario)

They say it takes a village to raise a child

But I’ve heard and come to feel the opposite

It takes a child to raise a village

Young men on corners like 80’s graffiti

While the cops chase artists responsible for the gritty–my bad city

It’s synonymous but they don’t want pity

That’s why their stare is anonymous and the air ominous

Filled with broken homes and promises

Cus mostly you find police chalk line

Is the only time we figure a father so they figure might as well be a martyr

And we fly only to crash down might as well be mortars

The weight of the world is too much for our mothers

Young men on corners like Thursday’s trash

Waiting for government workers to pick them up READ MORE

“The View”, Round 2

Some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my television career was as a guest host on “The View” in March.   You get to sit next to four incredibly accomplished women, but you’re also hosting the show in front of a live studio audience of about 200 screaming women.  And, you’re being watched on TV by millions of women.  See why this might be fun for me?   So, of course, I’m excited to be heading back to guest host the show on Monday.

Sitting there as the lone man on the show is one of the coolest but also daunting things about the experience.  No matter what, you’re going to stand out just because you’re the only guy, and your perspective is going to stand out as well because it will often differ from that opinions of the women on the show, as well as the women in studio and watching at home.  What you say can get you cheered, booed, or banished.  But what you say can also be of incredible value to the audience.

I’ve discovered on the show what is also true in my personal experience:  women want to hear from guys.  I literally get calls, text messages, emails, and even tweets from female friends, colleagues, and strangers every week and sometimes everyday wanting a male perspective about something.  Often times, it’s a dating/relationship question.  Women want a male opinion, and it’s usually better received when it’s coming from a guy who’s not trying to sleep with them.

You might think that being brutally honest while surrounded by so many opinionated women would potentially be intimidating.  But, the opposite is true on “The View.”  Even if the hosts and the audience don’t agree with what I have to say, it’s an environment where I always feel like my opinion is sought after, welcomed, and appreciated.  Too bad that’s not the case at my house.

See y’all on Monday!

Taking your suggestions (Commencement speech)

700 young adults about to step out on their own into the world.  And the last words of advice they’ll get before starting their journey … are coming from ME!  These poor kids!

I’m honored to be heading back to Atlanta in May to deliver the commencement address at Clark Atlanta University.  I’ve had a relationship with the school for years, and it’s a great compliment to be asked to come back for this important assignment.  But, it’s a little scary.  This is such an important moment for these young people.  It’s their college graduation day!  This is a day they’ll remember for the rest of their lives!  But, will they remember their commencement speaker 5, 10, 20 years from now?  Will they remember the message I give?

So, help a brotha out!  I’m fielding suggestions.  What should my message be?  What do you think these 700 graduates absolutely need to know before they go out into the world!?

T. J.

Hey, Chris Brown: When you get out, let’s do dinner

The question was, “If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?” My answer: Chris Brown.

During a magazine interview last year, I was asked a series of get-to-know-you questions. What books are you reading? Where do you like to vacation? What’s your passion? But my answer to the dinner question prompted a puzzled looked from the interviewer. I’m a journalist, so one might assume I’d say I’d like to have dinner with a world leader, or a famed journalist, or maybe a historical figure. READ MORE