When I was a kid, my favorite show on television was the CBS series Mission Impossible. I couldn’t wait to see what the secret government agents played by Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Barbara Bain, and Martin Landau, were going to tackle every Sunday night at 8pm.
We watched Mission Impossible as a family, and when the TV show was over at 9pm, we were sent to bed. [I will NEVER see a movie with actor Tom Cruise in the cast, so I’ve never seen the film franchise, but that’s a different matter entirely.]
CBS news 60 Minutes, the award winning news magazine, occupied the 7pm time slot preceding Mission Impossible. 60 Minutes premiered in 1968, and has been on the air for 45 years, and I’ve been watching for what seems forever.
During last night’s episode, there was a fantastic segment and profile of the teenage boy genius Jack Andraka. Jack’s Wikipedia entry reads [bold emphasis mine]:
Jack Thomas Andraka (born 1997) is an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He is the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Andraka was awarded the $75,000 Award, named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation, for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure.
When Jack was 14 years old, he developed an inexpensive test to detect pancreatic cancer that will impact and save thousands and thousands of lives. This amazing kid is one of the greatest examples of American exceptionalism you will ever find.
Jack Andraka is a rock star in my view, and reporter Morley Safer, and the scientific community around the world seem to agree.
The producer of the 60 Minutes “Boy Wonder” segment left out one very important part of the story, as Jack Andraka is an openly gay teenager who came out when he was 13 years old.
Can you imagine how many gay teens here and around the world might have stood a little taller on Monday, if Morley Safer had discussed the fact that Jack is gay?
My pal Stuart Wilber profiled Jack, in a blog post at The New Civil Rights Movement, in March 2013. Jack told Stuart in an email:
I’m openly gay and one of my biggest hopes is that I can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.] I didn’t have many [gay] role models [in science] besides Alan Turing.”
I never had the impression that 60 Minutes was homophobic, but can’t attribute leaving this fact out, to anything else. This is a huge omission that would positively impact and inspire other kids around the world, and this is a black mark on 60 Minutes, and an otherwise excellent piece of reporting.
Jack Andraka is an amazing and exceptional openly gay teen, and 60 Minutes neglected to tell their audience that.
Shame on CBS. Shame on Morley Safer. Shame on 60 Minutes.
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