There exists a misplaced assumption that the recent focus on inclusion is a quasi-benevolent gift to Black people. But profit-driven companies are not supposed to care about diversity for diversity’s sake. Even the most progressive individuals believe that “diversity hires” help Black employees, when, in reality, it is white people who get most of the benefit because input from a diverse array of voices usually improves the product.
Take the news industry, for example. When Joy Reid left AM Joy for a permanent spot in MSNBC’s primetime lineup, the overwhelming narrative was that host Joy Reid would become the only Black woman to anchor a primetime cable news show. Very few people mentioned that Reid’s weekend show had been kicking the competitions’ asses for 13 straight quarters in total audience and African-American viewers. She was making NBC News a better product.
And now, with the addition of veteran journalists Jonathan Capehart and Tiffany Cross to its roster of show hosts, MSNBC continues to un-whiten the monolithic, white-centered news coverage to give news consumers the content audiences have been desperately seeking.
“I think it’s, uh, one thing that we have seen punctuate through our politics is that America looks different now and the days of our community being marginalized are over,” Cross told The Root. “Some networks still treat communities of color as though we’re the potato. But I am here to l declare unapologetically that we are the steak, not the potato.”
Cross, who served as a 2020 resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and co-founded “The Beat DC”—a national news platform that intersected politics, policy, business, media and people of color—will host the 10 a.m. to noon Saturday slot where AM Joy once resided.
The longtime cable news veteran, 2020 The Root 100 honoree, and author of Say It Louder! Black Voters White Narratives & Saving Our Democracy says she aims to bring her understanding of policy and politics to an audience that has been previously ignored by cable news, including” the person “who will skip the club and go to a cabaret and the person who’s never been inside church but was raised by Bible-thumping grandparents,” said Cross, adding:
I think the way that cable newsrooms have previously discussed the news, it assumes that the American electorate and just the American people have an intimate understanding of the minutiae of government. And that’s not so. So on this show, in addition to topics that may not have previously been covered with the deep understanding of them in the communities we’re covering, we will also make politics digestible for everyone. It’s not just for the person who is a corporate climber with the corner office on Wall Street, but it’s also for the dudes whose bank account is the check cashing place on the corner. Everybody has a seat at this table and we want to make sure that you understand what’s happening.
On Sundays, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart will bring his experience as an editorial board member of the Washington Post as well as the host of the podcast Cape Up to MSNBC. Capehart was a Georgetown University Institute of Politics fellow in 2019 and interviewed President Barack Obama and members of My Brother’s Keeper in an exclusive primetime special event on the network last month.
“On Sunday mornings between 10 and noon is the time for the ‘Sunday shows,’ where political figures, cultural figures and thought leaders, sit around and talk about whatever is going on. I am looking forward to playing in that space.” Capehart told The Root. “I’m looking forward to playing in that space and talking to people based on my reporting, my experience and my worldview. The wonderful thing is I’m an opinion writer. My entire career has been about giving my opinion on things.”
Capehart says his original intentions were to become a television journalist. As a Black man, however, Capehart noted that given the lack of diversity at network news desks, he knows “the power of seeing someone who looks like me in a medium that looks like it’s foreboding,” explaining:
“Me being just being here signals that it is possible. But there’s also one other piece of my identity that a lot of people know, um, that is harder to see. I’m openly gay and, and married. And for a lot of people, you know, to see an openly gay person in a seat like that, or on television, who’s just casually or normally, in the course of talking, talks about his husband, you have no idea what it means for people to hear that.”
Capehart and Cross had been filling in for Reid since her departure to primetime. But, according to Capehart, the difference between substitute hosting and anchoring their own shows is the difference between renting and owning a home. Now, according to Capehart, he has the liberty to invite the audience over for brunch and call BS on guests because “no one does that in my house.”
Cross, meanwhile, says her show will not chase the latest Trump tweets or be a “four-year lovefest for the Biden administration.”
“I will be a part of the pool of journalists who will hold this administration accountable, particularly for the voters who helped elect them,” said Cross. “It will be a very honest conversation, unfiltered by whitewash language to make a shrinking demographic feel comfortable.”
And what does MSNBC get out of it besides diversity, unimpeachable journalism and a refreshing approach to the news?
Ratings, of course.
“We are the rising majority of this country,” Cross added. “We have been made to feel like this country is not our home. And we’ve been made to feel like cable newsrooms is not our home. And I am here to declare otherwise.”
Cross’s show premieres on Saturday, Dec. 12, while Jonathan Capehart will debut his new show on Sunday, Dec. 13.