“After giving a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news channel MSNBC is preparing to instead hand its 6 p.m. time slot to the Rev. Al Sharpton,” Brian Stelter reported Thursday for the New York Times.
Such a move would respond to complaints from the NAACP that “Currently, there are no African American hosts or anchors on any national news show, cable or broadcast network, from the hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.”
But it is less likely to satisfy black journalists, who have continually criticized the networks for their failure to place journalists of color in these key prime-time slots.
When rumors surfaced this week that Sharpton was under consideration for the MSNBC job, one NABJ member told colleagues without challenge, “This would still be just another non-journalist media ‘celebrity’ receiving a TV show based upon their name recognition, not their years of experience, training, ability and talent.”
Another listed five African Americans who have had their own cable news shows, and noted that unlike their white counterparts, all but one have been nonjournalists: Alan Keyes, prime time, MSNBC; Carlos Watson, weekend, MSNBC; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, weekend, CNN; Arthel Neville, Talkback Live/daytime, CNN; D.L. Hughley, weekend, CNN. Only Neville has a journalism background.
Moreover, as David Zurawik noted Thursday in the Baltimore Sun, “While the TV industry defines the hours of 8 to 11 p.m. weeknights as prime time, the NAACP appears to be expanding the definition. That matters, because Sharpton would be the first African-American prime-time cable host, according to the NAACP’s definition.”
MSNBC has not commented on the reports that Sharpton is under consideration, and that did not change on Thursday morning. “No comment from us on this,” spokesman Jeremy Gaines told Journal-isms.
But Stelter reported that “Mr. Sharpton’s imminent hiring . . . was acknowledged by three people at the channel on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been signed.”