“I know a lot of white men. My dad’s a white man, and my dad would appreciate hearing the real stories of real people who these policies affect so that he has a full picture in which he can engage as a public citizen and a voter in these conversations,” Hogue added. “He depends on these media organizations … When they veer from it they can and should expect viewer backlash.”
It’s not just the percentages in terms of race and gender that are causing worry. Ideologically, the shows tend to veer more conservatively, with right-wing guests outnumbering their Democratic or progressive counterparts on Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press and Face the Nation, with Fox News Sunday almost two times so.
“I could tick off the number of diversity of voices that we have on a regular basis, and I’d be hard-pressed to look at any show in a couple of months that didn’t have representation that would’ve been considered nonwhite male … this is something that we’re actively always paying attention to and always efforting,” said a network insider who wished to remain unidentified. “Diversity not just in skin color but equally important in … background, voices that tell a wide variety of stories, not just lean on having a black senator on to talk about a black issue.”
By far, MSNBC had the most diverse shows with Up and Melissa Harris-Perry hosting significantly more women and people of color, primarily African Americans. The network states that it is committed to this type of diversity in both shows.
“We take pride in the diversity of guests who appear on MHP. We also feel it is an incredible opportunity to have a platform to introduce new voices into the national discourse. The team at MHP believes there is a value to having different voices heard,” Melissa Harris-Perry’s executive producer, Eric Salzman, said in an email. “One of the core goals of the program is to move the conversation forward. Sometimes, to move past the standard talking points, you need to move beyond the usual people who deliver them.”
“That diversity is not exclusive to the areas of race and gender. Since the show’s launch, we’ve made an effort to include academic voices activists, and people whose personal stories speak to the issues being discussed on the program,” he added.
Carusone said that Melissa Harris-Perry’s rise to being a Sunday show host is proof of the effort put in by her and her team.
“Having a diversity of opinion is a better program. MHP show was clearly very deliberate about providing very diverse perspective of opinions and voices,” he said. “Her rise and the fact that she has had such traction in such a short period of time is because they are clearly very deliberate in putting out a very good product.”
Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone hopes that the extensive year-long study will help lay the groundwork to open the discussion for diversity changes that he believes will be crucial to the longevity of these shows.
“News media is changing, audiences are fragmenting and people will find the information that they want and that they need, and if you’re not going to give it to your audience, they’re going to get it elsewhere,” Carusone warned. “Media is changing so quickly they may not get another chance.”