It was very sad news to hear last week that the man of the only afro-centric news show on network television, had passed away. Gil Noble had died of a stoke. He was 80-years-old.
Gil Noble is perhaps most well known for his 1-hour long television show “Like It Is,” which aired locally on channel ABC 7 here in the New York area.
Noble was one the first of what would be a new wave of black journalists hired by major news organizations when he was hired by ABC in 1967. It was a tenuous time in America. Malcolm X had been killed just two years earlier, the Vietnam War was in full swing, riots were breaking out across the country and in just a matter of months, Martin Luther King would be assassinated on a balcony in Memphis. Times were changing, and so to were newsrooms.
Up until the mid 60s, many newsrooms (and TV studios) were essentially lilly white institutions. Few people of color were covering these rapidly changing times of the late 60s and that was a problem. Credit Ed Silverman, who was the director of public affairs at Ch. 7 and who eventually hired Gil Noble, for saying as much in this excerpt to the Daily News:
“We decided to get off our assess and hire some African-Americans. TV news was lily white then. There were no black faces.”
Soon after, Noble was hired and by 1968 had his own show, “Like It Is.” Noble interviewed diplomats, world leaders, religious figures, civil rights leaders, as well as those in and around the NY area who were prominent people in the news at that time, such as the wife of Sean Bell in 2007.
How rare was the position that Gil Noble held? I can’t think of another person of color who wrote, produced and headlined their own news show on network television. Not one. Considering blacks make up just under 5% of all employees in newsrooms in America, that is a stunning development.
In the late 80s when my mother was pregnant with me and still living in Brooklyn, she ran into Gil Noble on the street. Mr. Noble asked the name of her son to be. She remarked, “Warin. Warin for warrior.” He replied, “Make sure he lives up to such a name.” Rest In Peace, brother Gil.