Journos Press for Diversity in Debates

Journal-isms: How can candidates speak to the issues of minorities if no one of color is present to ask the question?

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Choices Called Out of Step With Today’s Demographics

Since the Commission on Presidential Debates failed to include journalists of color in the upcoming presidential and vice presidential face-offs, Univision has called on President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to participate in a separate forum that the Spanish-language network would sponsor.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, meanwhile, asked for a meeting with the commission next week, and was joined by the National Association of Black Journalists, its colleagues in the Unity Journalists coalition and even the NAACP and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an African American think tank, in decrying the lack of debate participants of color.

In a interview with Jeff Bercovici of Forbes magazine, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos explained the kind of questions a Hispanic journalist would be likely to pose. (“When was the last time you saw an undocumented student talking on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or Fox News?” Ramos asked. “It’s very hard to find their voices, so I don’t think they get it yet.”)

On, Keli Goff did the same regarding black journalists. Brian Stelter and Michael Shear reported for the New York Times that Gwen Ifill of PBS, a black journalist who moderated the 2008 vice presidential debate, “was livid.”

The commission, meanwhile, Friday reasserted its position, saying, “The four journalists chosen to moderate the 2012 debates see their assignment as representing all Americans in choosing topics and questions. The general election debates have always featured issues of national importance that affect all citizens and the Commission’s new formats give more time to major issues, which  the moderators will select and announce beforehand in two of the four debates.”

A commission spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether it planned to meet with NAHJ. Neither Clo Ewing, director of constituency press for the Obama campaign, nor Tara Wall, senior communications and coalitions adviser for the Romney campaign, responded to inquiries about the Univision proposal.

The commission announced Monday that the moderators for the four debates will be evenly split between male and female journalists for the first time. They are Jim Lehrer of PBS, Bob Schieffer of CBS, Candy Crowley of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC.

However, it will also be the first time since 1996 that there will be no moderators of color for either a vice presidential or presidential debate.