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News director who wrote anti-gay memo joins Christian radio station

Stanton Tang was fired by Nexstar Media Group for circulating a newsroom-wide directive urging reporters to ease up on coverage of pride month events.

Stanton Tang was fired by Nexstar Media Group for circulating a newsroom-wide directive urging reporters to ease up on coverage of pride month events.

Television executive Stanton Tang appears in a biographical photo for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Handout photo)
Television executive Stanton Tang appears in a biographical photo for his former station, WZZM-TV. (Handout photo)

A former television news director who was fired for orchestrating a controversial, newsroom-wide memo earlier this year has resurfaced at a religious-oriented radio station, The Desk has learned.

Stanton Tang joined WCSG (91.3 FM) as their business development representative in October, four months after he was fired by Nexstar Media Group over the memo that urged reporters and other newsroom staff at WOOD-TV (Channel 8, NBC) to ease up on their coverage of gay pride events happening in the Grand Rapids area.

The memo leaked to industry blog FTV Live and was separately sent to The Desk, which revealed Tang and his assistant news director, Amy Fox, as the masterminds behind the written edict.

“We should not cover every Pride event that we learn about,” Fox wrote in the memo at Tang’s directive, according to a copy obtained by The Desk. “We need to do some work to discern the newsworthy-ness of the event. If we are covering Pride events, we need to consider how to make the story balanced and get both sides of the issue.”

The memo drew a massive outcry from reporters and producers at WOOD-TV, who vowed to continue covering pride-related events in Grand Rapids despite the order from their bosses. The email also triggered an internal investigation by Nexstar Media Group, who determined the memo was a violation of corporate policy.

During the investigation, several current and former WOOD-TV staffers revealed numerous hostile incidents involving Tang during his tenure as the station’s news director. Some also accused him of incorporating his own personal beliefs — Tang identifies as a Christian and a conservative — into the station’s news coverage of social and political events. In one case, Tang was also accused of warning employees from casting a ballot in a state election, according to a copy of that memo first published by The Desk.

Tang and Fox were ultimately fired for circulating the pride month memo, as were two news producers who were suspected of leaking its contents to reporters at other outlets.

Before his firing, Tang was widely considered in the television news community to be a highly-respected journalist, with decades of experience working at stations in other parts of Michigan as well as Northern California, Nevada and Arizona. While working at WZZM (Channel 13, ABC), he received an Emmy Award and helped the station secure a prestigious Edward R. Murrow award for various news specials.

After his firing from WOOD-TV, Tang spent around four months unemployed before ultimately settling on a job at WCSG, a Christian-oriented adult contemporary radio station owned by Cornerstone University and broadcasting to the same Grand Rapids market as his former television station.

WCSG operates as a non-commercial, educational radio station and is prevented from airing traditional commercials, instead relying on listener donations and corporate sponsorships to offset programming and operational-related costs.

The station claims to serve nearly 200,000 listeners each month, with its programming simulcast on three terrestrial repeaters in Springfield, Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor.

In a job listing for the business development representative position, WCSG said it was looking for someone who supported “the values and mission of Cornerstone University, evidenced by the ability to affirm and sign the university’s doctrinal statement, The Cornerstone Confession.”

Various web pages and blog posts on Cornerstone University’s website indicate an opposition to homosexual and transgender individuals, as well as same-sex marriage, though the school makes it apparent in a somewhat lukewarm fashion.

Rather than explicitly denouncing homosexuality, transgenderism and same-sex marriage, the school encourages students and staff to welcome those with “same sex attraction” to visit the university and its associated church, while refraining from making direct statements that suggest the church’s social and moral opposition.

“Remember, we want people with same sex attraction to come to our church; we don’t want them to feel singled out,” a blog post from 2016 warns students and staff members. “Keep your statement on marriage positive, as in the Cornerstone example above, and the point will be made without needlessly offending anyone.”

On another webpage titled “Marriage and Human Sexuality Position Statement,” Cornerstone affirms that its position as an institution of higher education puts it in a complicated position to firmly oppose homosexuality, transgenderism and same-sex marriage, but said the school nonetheless “stands with historic Christianity in affirming that the Bible contains clear teachings in the areas of sexuality and gender, as articulated in recent documents by mainstream evangelical organizations.”

The school referenced two such documents, including one called “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage,” published by the Evangelical Free Church of America in 2013. The document urges Christians to affirm their allegiance to the moral teachings of the Bible — “we mourn with those who struggle with same sex attractions, and with their families, but as we grieve, we encourage behavior that follows the clear divine teachings of scripture,” it says — while at the same time resisting behavior that degrades members of the LGBT community.

“All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because each of us bears the image of God,” the document affirms. “An LGBT person deserves this dignity and respect no less than any other, and we, as Christians, should demonstrate this in our thoughts, speech, and behavior. Speech, including humor, which demeans LGBT people, has no place in the Christian community. Likewise, this means we oppose any mistreatment of those who identify as LGBT.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).