After Being Called Out for Lack of Black Execs, CNN Blames Delay in Meeting with NABJ on Roland Martin

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The National Association of Black Journalists put CNN on blast Tuesday, calling out the cable network for its failure to hire and retain black people in key decision-making roles, as well as for CNN president Jeff Zucker’s refusal to meet with a four-person delegation of NABJ leadership.

As a result, the black journalists’ organization has placed CNN on a “special media monitoring list,” according to an announcement posted on its website.

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In its statement, NABJ highlighted CNN’s specific failings with regard to diversity, which included the following bulleted list:

▪ CNN President Jeff Zucker has no black direct reports.

▪ There are no black Executive Producers at CNN.

▪ There are no black Vice Presidents on the news side at CNN.

▪ There are no black Senior Vice Presidents on the news side at CNN.

CNN responded the same day, seemingly blaming NABJ board member Roland Martin for the delay in addressing NABJ’s concerns.

“For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us,” CNN said.

“As we have told them many times, we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about how both of our organizations can continue to work together,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, the significant and reckless damage that Roland Martin did to CNN while partnering with us during a 2016 Democratic Town Hall has made any meeting that includes him untenable.”

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The Town Hall CNN refers to is one in which Donna Brazile, former interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), was accused of passing along a prepared question from the town hall, which featured Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, to Clinton’s campaign.

In its statement, CNN added that Martin “displayed an unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity by leaking questions prior to the town hall.”

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Martin, a former on-air commentator for CNN, sits on the NABJ board as the Vice President of Digital. He and Brazile have denied leaking questions from the town hall.

NABJ flagged CNN President Jeff Zucker’s “personal issue” with Martin in its Tuesday press release:

Previously, former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile admitted, according to a Time essay, she inadvertently disclosed a town hall topic to the Clinton campaign that was part of Martin’s research inquiry for the town hall.

NABJ’s request to meet was and is focused solely on CNN’s diversity efforts, its results and our strategic priorities as an organization.

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The Root reached out to Martin and NABJ leadership for further comment on CNN’s remarks. On Thursday, they responded, via email:

As anticipated, CNN chose to divert attention away from answering the critical questions the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is asking. Our outreach is focused on CNN’s workforce and the lack of diversity within its news leadership, as indicated by preliminary research.

NABJ acknowledged the personal issue Zucker says CNN has with Vice President-Digital Roland Martin in our release as the only stated reason for CNN’s refusal to meet with our entire delegation. NABJ’s focus is on diversity in media and not personal issues. Zucker’s refusal to meet begs the question: Is CNN focused on diversity? We are still requesting answers to the above questions along with a meeting with Zucker on how our organization can help in CNN’s needed efforts to diversify news leadership.

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The NAACP backed up NABJ’s criticism of CNN, releasing its own statement Wednesday addressing the media company’s lack of diversity, calling the lack of black leadership “another example of the media industry’s reluctance to address an issue that continues to plague newsrooms across the country.”

“NAACP finds it offensive that CNN President Jeff Zucker refuses to address this issue. We are far beyond the point of accepting simple visibility as an instance of true diversity,” the NAACP statement added. “For major corporations like CNN and its parent company, WarnerMedia, diversifying the media landscape must become a part of a company’s corporate responsibility rather than always as a response to intolerance and implicit bias.”

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?