CNN’s top executive has all but said that the on-air journalists of color it employs are not ready for prime time, and deployed Mark Whitaker, the former Newsweek editor who recently became a CNN news executive, to talk with the National Association of Black Journalists about finding more suitable ones.
In a statement protesting CNN’s new fall prime-time lineup that was announced Wednesday and includes no journalists of color, NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said she had raised the issue with Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide.
“NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Bob Butler and I talked with President 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,” she wrote. “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.”
Times told Journal-isms, “He told me to talk to Mark Whitaker about the search.”
Whitaker, who is African American, said, “I will be at NABJ and am talking to Kathy next week.”
CNN on Wednesday canceled the political talk show “In the Arena” with Eliot Spitzer, filling his 8 p.m. time slot with Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” and unveiling a fall lineup that includes a new general news program with Erin Burnett, formerly of CNBC.
As Times pointed out in her statement, the move came just 17 days after “I sent network news executives an open letter about the deplorable lack of diversity in their prime-time schedules . . . this is not the first time CNN has had an opportunity and failed to diversify its nighttime lineup. During the past two years alone, CNN has made several changes after the departures of Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and Campbell Brown. With each of those changes came an opportunity for diversity; yet in each instance, CNN went in another direction.”
On Thursday, the NAACP issued a strongly worded and widely publicized statement expressing its own disappointment with the new CNN lineup and noting that the other networks are no better.