This story has been updated to include a response from “60 Minutes.”
The Jackson City Council denounced CBS News’ portrayal of Mississippi’s capital city in a resolution Tuesday that accused the network of depicting “the most hideous scenes” in a “60 Minutes’ episode that featured an interview with former Jackson State University football coach, Deion Sanders. Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba also voiced his disapproval of the episode.
During the meeting, members called on local, state and national media outlets to be more mindful about how they frame the City’s challenges.
“Don’t try to create a false narrative that the whole City of Jackson is a waste, a dump and that all the people in Jackson are sorry people. We have great people in this city, white and black, young and old,” said Councilman Kenneth Stokes.
The “60 Minutes” interview, conducted by correspondent Jon Wertheim, featured a visual comparison of so-called cultural differences between Jackson and Boulder, Colo., where Sanders now coaches the Colorado State Buffaloes. Jackson is 82% Black, while Boulder is 90% white and just 1% Black.
After this story’s publication, “60 Minutes” responded with the following note:
“60 MINUTES first profiled Deion Sanders in October 2022 when he was head football coach for Jackson State University. The CBS newsmagazine profiled him again for the September 17, 2023 broadcast after he took the job of head football coach for University of Colorado. Both reports showed footage of a neighborhood in Jackson directly across from the JSU football facility and focused on Sanders’ career, the changes he’s made to the football programs in Jackson and Boulder and the Sept. 17 story noted the differences between the two cities. In response to the Jackson City Council resolution passed on Sept. 26, we want to note that our reporting is not an exploration of those two great cities, but rather a look at the influence one man is having on both.”
The clip went viral online after it aired on Sept. 17, 2023, spurring a furor of backlash from Jackson residents, including Jackson State basketball coach Tomekia Reed. Reed tweeted her frustration with the portrayals.
“60 Minutes y’all made Jackson, MS look horrible. You should be ashamed of yourselves for showing the worst house you can find in America and make it like that describes us. I’m not even sure if that abandoned house you showed is even in Jackson. #ThisisHome,” Reed wrote, referring to one image shown during the series of comparisons between Jackson and Boulder.
Others chimed in online, sharing aerial shots of the city, museums and historical monuments in Jackson that they felt would have been a better comparison to what “60 Minutes” chose to show of Boulder.
At the Jackson City Council meeting, Councilman Brian Grizzell agreed with Stokes, voicing his own concerns with the images and his personal connection to Colorado.
“I echo 1,000% what Councilman Stokes said. I taught at Colorado State. There are ghettos everywhere. There are hoods everywhere. What ‘60 minutes’ produced was sloppy, irresponsible and reckless journalism,” Grizzell said.
Stokes and Councilman Vernon Hartley cautioned media outlets against only showing one perspective of life in Jackson.
“Media has a responsibility to not be biased, to not paint a picture. I would say to my media colleagues, please be careful how you paint that picture,” Hartley said. He singled out the “60 Minutes” interview in particular as “especially egregious because it’s a national program.”
Mayor Lumumba said that he “agreed with everything” the councilmembers said. Lumumba cited a lack of diversity in the “60 Minutes” portrayal of Jackson’s culture. “That type of imagery projects a message that the people who live in those communities are less than. That is not true. We want to be clear that we have love and appreciation for all parts of Jackson,” Lumumba said.
Councilman Aaron Banks, the council’s president, called for a copy of the council’s unanimous resolution, with its call for a higher standard for reporting on Jackson, to be sent to all media outlets across Mississippi as well as CBS and “60 Minutes” directly.
Lumumba wrapped up the discussion by saying that Jackson State University and the culture of JSU football helped his family feel at home after his parents, activists Nubia and Chokwe Lumumba Sr., moved their family to the capital city in the 1980s.
“The sense of place that Jackson State football provides, the culture, all the things we love about Jackson is infectious. People should know that story,” Lumumba said.