ABC News Diversifies Its Decision-Makers

The network is using its fellowship program to prepare journalists of color for top-level positions.

ABC news anchor Robin Roberts and President Barack Obama
ABC news anchor Robin Roberts and President Barack Obama The White House/Getty Images

Five of Color on Track to Green-Light Stories, Ideas

ABC News, responding to the need to diversify its executive ranks, has completed the first year of a fellowship program in which three journalists of color learned producer skills. Three more are in the program for its second year, and it is preparing for a third, according to a spokeswoman for the program.

The network is satisfied that the on-air ranks are diverse but believes that the executive ranks need work, Sarah J. Hodd, a producer in the network’s talent and development operation, told Journal-isms on Wednesday. “Ultimately, these are the people who are green-lighting,” Hodd said. “We definitely aim to expand it. We can only see bright things for the future.”

Jim Avila, senior national correspondent at ABC News and White House correspondent for Fusion, the ABC/Univision joint venture, noted the network’s progress in a forum Monday night at International House in New York, “What’s Not Being Covered by the Media . . . and Why?”

“Up to about a year and half ago, you could go into any of those rooms” where decisions are made, Avila said, and “there would be all white males.”

A study of network decision-makers released in 2008 by the National Association of Black Journalists found that of the executive producers at ABC, six were white, two were Asian American and none was African American, Native American or Hispanic.

CBS had eight white executive producers, one Hispanic and no African Americans, Asian Americans or Native Americans.

NBC had seven white executive producers, and no African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans or Native Americans at that level.

“The NABJ study showed little diversity among an elite group of managers (executive producers) who oversee news from sunrise until prime time,” NABJ said.