CNN Dumps on Diversity

CNN doesn't believe any of these people can host a show on CNN

Last week CNN took pity on the dozens of viewers of In the Arena hosted by Eliot Spitzer the black sock wearing, prostitute chaser and former New York governor, and mercifully put down the dog of a show to sleep.  Nobody cared.

Then as predictable as thunder following lightning, the NAACP and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) leaped into action issuing statements expressing their hopes CNN might replace Spitzer with an African-American.

Pretty please?  With sugar on top?

Not happening.  CNN simply moved Anderson Cooper 360 to 8:00 pm., plucked Erin Burnett from CNBC to host a news program at 7:00 and kept the widely ignored Piers Morgan at 9:00 pm and will air reruns of AC360 at 10:00 and there is your diversity NABJ,  Please go kick rocks.

NABJ issued a letter nobody paid any attention to decrying the lack of diversity after CBS replaced the failed Katie Couric experiment with Scott Pelley as the face of the network’s evening news broadcast instead of Russ Mitchell, a capable replacement who has done the weekend news and inserts for years now.

NABJ President Kathy Times said in her letter,  “The Big 3 networks and cable news channels have undergone a series of rare changes behind the desk.  While the replacements are all seasoned journalists, what is glaringly missing in the flurry of changes is the failure to elevate African Americans to any of these positions.”

The National Association of Black Journalists finds this troubling – particularly since there are dynamic African Americans poised to ascend to these coveted positions. For nearly four decades, NABJ has worked tirelessly as advocates for diversity, calling out those guilty of maintaining the “status quo.” 

As America inches toward a world that is more black and brown, corporations are adjusting their cultures to embrace diversity because they know it makes good business sense. But too many network executives are ignoring this reality.

Current (but outgoing) NABJ President Kathy Times

I’ve been a member off-and-on of NABJ since the Nineties and I’ve seen ’em come and seen ’em go.  NABJ presidents only serve for two years which means there’s always a turnover in leadership and initiatives, even good ones, tend to fall by the wayside if the new president chooses to blaze their own trail instead of picking up where their predecessors left off.

So what does NABJ do after CNN fills their in-house vacancy with a new hire from another network and bypasses their own roster of Black talent?  When in doubt, NABJ writes another letter that will be promptly ignored by the executives in Atlanta who make the hiring decisions.

Once again a mainstream “liberal” media outlet gives the back of their hand to diversity and inclusion and once again NABJ plays the part of the indignant supplicant.

Times wrote, NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Bob Butler and I talked with Walton late Thursday, and he told us the network continues to seek and develop a candidate who has the image and substance to carry a prime-time show. I invited Walton to mount an innovative search during the NABJ national convention next month in Philadelphia. It will be packed with outstanding African American talent.

Is she serious?  The problem isn’t that CNN is lacking outstanding African American talent.  The problem is CNN will not promote the outstanding African American talent they already have.

I’ve spoken with Bob Butler following NABJ’s decision to pull out of the UNITY coalition of minority journalists and I know he’s a good brother not afraid to speak truth to power.   Times I don’t know at all, and while I generally agree with her plea for greater racial diversity at the networks, the lack of an action plan when those pleas are ignored bother me.

CNN knows they have a black-out of their Black talent and the days of Bernard Shaw providing the news is over and done.  It’s easier for a blonde newspaper columnist and a disgraced ex-governor to wander in off the street and get a primetime show than it is for veteran Black journalists at CNN.   This is a network that already has a strong roster of talent to be tapped in Don Lemon, Joe Johns, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O’ Brien and Roland Martin, but pointedly ignores their in-house talent to bring in a refugee from CNBC.

Between CNN president Jim Walton’s feckless lip service to diversity and Times’ ineffectual wishing on a star, the lily-White status quo of CNN’s primetime programming will remain unchanged.   Constantly playing the role of the powerless beggar has left NABJ in a position where news executives know they will be placated by a brief meeting and the only result will be an anemic statement minus any bite, backbone or plan of action.

Same as it ever was.

As Public Enemy used to say, “Here we go again.”

Good enough for NABJ, but for CNN, not so much.

Notice the difference in approaches. The NAACP “blasts” CNN for its lack of diversity in its primetime line-up.

How does the National Association of Black Journalists react to yet another black out of Blacks on CNN.

“NABJ sincerely hopes the next time there is an opening for a prime-time host, CNN will have found — and groomed – the “right person.” CNN must make efforts to ensure that its staff, both on-air and behind the scenes, is as diverse and inclusive as its audience.”

“Sincerely hopes?” The snark about finding and grooming the “right person” isn’t lost on me, but the line that “CNN must make efforts to ensure that its staff, both on air and behind the scenes, is as diverse and inclusive as its audience” works only as unintentional comedy.

Oh yeah? Says who? What if they DON’T?  I can see the carrot, but the stick seems to be M.I.A.

When its Kathleen Parker, Campbell Brown, Eliot Spitzer, Piers Morgan, Candy Crowley, Fareed Zakaria, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer getting the face time, how obvious does it have to be that the exclusion of Black talent in high-profile primetime and weekend programming is purposeful, systematic and deliberate?

CNN’s position seems to be, “Hey, we gave D.L. Hughley a show and y’all didn’t tune it.  Why should we give another colored person a shot?”

Saber-rattling works best if you have one. Wishing and hoping has never convinced the mainstream media they have a serious lack of racial diversity and this ineffectual statement by NABJ won’t prod CNN to change their evil ways now.

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