Why Is CNN's 'Face' Invariably White?

Jake Tapper (CNN.com)
Jake Tapper (CNN.com)

The day before Roland Martin disclosed that his contract as a CNN commentator wasn't being renewed, CNN President Jeff Zucker excitedly proclaimed his new hire Jake Tapper "the face of the new CNN."


"I can tell you from the position that I was in, the prospect of Jake Tapper being the face of the new CNN had me more excited than anything, and I can tell you after today, I know it was absolutely the right thing," Zucker said, Patrick Gavin reported Monday for Politico. "I couldn't be prouder. I couldn't hope for more than for Jake and his team to take CNN into our next place, into our next century … This is the start of an incredible new era."

It wasn't lost on television observers such as Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times that "the face" of not just CNN but of all the networks — is white.

"Just as Zucker steps forward with a new vision for CNN — which includes a new show featuring former ABC correspondent Jake Tapper and a new morning program built around former ABC anchor Chris Cuomo — two of the channel's best known non-white on-air staffers are leaving the network," Deggans wrote Wednesday for the Poynter Institute. The other is Soledad O'Brien, whose "Starting Point" morning show is being eliminated. O'Brien is forming a production company and is to continue to supply documentaries to CNN — and others — on a nonexclusive basis.

"And it's not just at CNN," Deggans continued. "MSNBC has had its own set of anchor changes in recent weeks, so far centered only on white male anchors. And Fox News Channel, which hasn't substantively changed its primetime lineup in many years, features no people of color as anchors in those timeslots.

"Which raises the question: When big anchor jobs open up in cable news, why are people of color so often left on the sidelines?"

This wasn't always the case. When Bernard Shaw, an esteemed black journalist, stepped down as CNN anchor in 2000, the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg wrote that Shaw's "face is as synonymous with the cable network as that of Larry King or Christiane Amanpour."


But that was long ago. On Wednesday, Deggans added, "More than anything, the lack of diversity in some anchor shuffles may speak to a lack of development for anchors of color in general. Maintaining diversity in the face of shrinking resources and cost-cutting often requires specific effort; if people aren't being groomed for bigger jobs, they may not be ready when those prime positions open up."

The critic also wrote on the topic Tuesday for the Daily Download.

"At MSNBC, when the channel moved Ed Schultz from his 8 p.m. weekday timeslot, online speculation seemed to center on whether star contributor Ezra Klein or weekend host Chris Hayes would get the spot. Hayes got the gig, in an apparent bid to try cribbing young viewers from conservative media star Bill O'Reilly, whose top-rated show on Fox News clobbered Schultz regularly.


"But it is unfortunate to note that few critics thought about [Melissa] Harris-Perry, who has turned her self-titled weekend show into an amusing, thought-provoking program nicknamed (and hashtagged) 'nerdland.'

"Even on MSNBC, a channel which boasts of how its ratings with black viewers rose 60 percent last year, those prime time hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. remain hosted by white anchors.


"And outside of MSNBC, viewers are still waiting for CNN and Fox News to move toward reflecting the diversity of the population and our government in its anchor teams.

"Prime time remains the glass ceiling for all, with no anchor of color hosting a show from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on any of the big three cable news channels.


"And this isn't a problem reserved for cable TV news. The Hollywood Reporter and Politico reported ABC has poached ace correspondent Byron Pitts, who is African American, from CBS News for a job reporting and anchoring, which means venerated newsmagazine 60 Minutes once again has no non-white CBS correspondents contributing to the show (CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta does occasionally offers pieces for the program.)

"And when concerns arose that no non-white moderators had been chosen to lead any presidential debates in 2012, there were few journalists of color with the experience and prominence to take on the job.


"Even as black people and Hispanics are increasingly turning the tide in presidential elections and political issues, the TV news industry is still woefully behind the trends. . . ."

Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Jake Tapper: Iraq Media Failure 'Incredibly Influential' On Me


Hispanic.com: Dr. Otto Santa Ana: Coverage of Hispanics/Latinos on Network TV News Lacking

Lisa de Moraes, Washington Post: Jake Tapper's CNN show debuts to unimpressive ratings


Two Square Off on Whether It's Time to Leave News Business

An essay by a woman in her late 20s who said she quit the news business in sorrow received plenty of traction on the Internet Wednesday, but by day's end she was challenged by another blog posting from Monica Rhor, a journalist-turned-teacher who has been active in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


Their debate has particular resonance for journalists of color, whose loss of jobs in newspapers and online newsrooms has outstripped that of other journalists, according to surveys by the American Society of News Editors. "Following a decline of approximately 800 minority newsroom positions in both 2008 and 2009, the total loss over the last two years was 500 jobs," ASNE said last year.

The first essay, by Allyson Bird, was titled "Why I Left News." It said, "I finally came to accept that the vanity of a byline was keeping me in a job that left me physically and emotionally exhausted, yet supremely unsatisfied. . . . " Bird now writes for the fundraising arm of a public hospital.


 Rhor titled her response, "Why I'll Never Leave News."

"If you're looking for money or fame or easy hours, this was never the right job for you," Rhor wrote. "The current throes of the business are not to blame for that.


"For me, newspaper journalism has always been about telling stories, about giving voice to corners of the community that have long been silenced, about crawling into the lives and shoes of other people and pulling back a curtain so our readers can get a glimpse of the world around them."

Each woman attracted her share of supporters.

Rhor announced in November that after "a very long, very rewarding career as a journalist," she was becoming a high school English teacher. Rhor left teaching for a job as an education reporter at the Houston Chronicle and returned to Atascocita High School in the Humble school district, just outside Houston.


She wrote Wednesday, "I left because I wanted to teach high school students about the business I still love. . . ."

Michael Baisden Show on "Hiatus"; He Claims Lockout

Michael Baisden, whose show claims 72 affiliates for its "hot mix of relationship talk, headline-grabbing guests and the very best Old School and current R&B," announced Wednesday that his radio show is going on "hiatus."


Shortly after the announcement, the radio host posted this note on his Facebook page: "The Michael Baisden Show Staff has been 'Locked Out' of Cumulus Studios…really Cumulus?

"In the words of Rodney King, 'Can't we all get along?' Just because we couldn't come to an agreement is no reason to deprive the listeners, our affiliates, and our advertisers of only 9 days to say goodbye and show our appreciation.


"All their action does is make me more determined than ever to come back! And next time there will be no middlemen between me, my affiliates, and my listeners. Lesson learned."

Baisden "has been hosting a radio show since 2003. He organized a rally for the Jena Six in 2007 and was also a big supporter of Pres. Barack Obama's campaign in 2008," Rodney Ho reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


In January, when his show was dropped by WDAS-FM in Philadelphia, Baisden had 79 affiliates. He wrote then, "While I am excited about adding Columbus, Ohio last week, and I appreciate my other 78 affiliates, there seems to be a disturbing trend in urban radio to opt to give the black community less information about what's going on in our community, even when my program is competitive, and in some cases, winning in its time slot.”

Baisden said in a farewell message, "No, it was not my intention to leave radio, I had plans for The Michael Baisden Live Tour, my 10-year anniversary party in DC in July, and I was looking forward to being on the air this summer to get justice for Trayvon Martin and his family.


"But sometimes fate, the universe, God, or however you want to label that undeniable force, has [its] own plans. Someone once told me that the greatest experiences in life are unplanned ones. I guess I'm about to test that theory. . . ."

KR, Radio Facts: Michael Baisden Locked Out of Radio Broadcast

Black C-SPAN Viewership Matches Population; Latinos Lag

Though some have surmised from its call-in shows that African Americans watch C-SPAN in disproportionate numbers, black viewership closely matches the African American percentage of the population, a new survey shows. However, Latino viewership lags behind the Hispanic proportion of the national population.


"According to the new Hart Research survey data, 11% of C-SPAN viewers identify themselves as Hispanic … 13% as African-American … 5% as Asian," Howard Mortman, spokesman for the public-service cable network, told Journal-isms by email. "(These numbers track closely the fuller survey of cable and satellite television households, with Hispanics and Asians equal to their numbers in the population and African Americans slightly higher than in the surveyed population but not outside the statistical margin of sampling error.)"

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 16.4 percent of the nation is Hispanic or Latino; 12.6 percent is black or African American, 5 percent is Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 0.8 percent is American Indian or Alaska Native.


Overall, C-SPAN said, "Nearly a quarter (24%) of people with cable or satellite subscriptions — an estimated 47 million adults — report watching C-SPAN at least once a week [PDF], a four-point increase since Hart Research's last quadrennial survey of the C-SPAN audience. Hart Research lead pollster Allan Rivlin says, 'This growth in C-SPAN viewership, especially among the youngest groups, is surprising in this time of generalized media fragmentation but it is not so mysterious in that C-SPAN offers the emerging group of information free-agents access to the raw uncut coverage of their political heroes, and sometimes perhaps their villains, they can then share on blogs and social networks.' "

Obama Urged to Seek Israeli Return of Broadcast Equipment

"During his trip to the region this week, U.S. President Barack Obama should call on Israeli authorities to return the equipment of an independent broadcaster that was seized more than a year ago," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.


"Israeli authorities raided the Ramallah-based private broadcaster Wattan TV in February 2012 and confiscated key equipment, including transmitters, computers, files, and archives. Officials said at the time that Wattan TV was broadcasting illegally and had interfered with aircraft transmissions. Muammar Orabi, the station's general director, told CPJ that the broadcaster had a license granted by the Palestinian Authority, which could not have been issued without Israeli acquiescence.

"The station, founded in 1996, has gained credibility through its probing, independent coverage of both Palestinian and Israeli authorities. The outlet's equipment was funded in large part by U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Middle East Partnership Initiative. . . . "


Max Blumenthal, the Nation: The Muslim Brotherhood's War on Egyptian Media

Editorial, Los Angeles Times: Low expectations for Obama's Israel visit

David A. Love, the Grio: Does Obama's name alone hurt the Middle East Peace process?


Matthew Weaver, the Guardian, Britain: Obama condemns new Israeli settlements — live updates [March 21]

Pakistanis Arrest Militant With Ties to Daniel Pearl Killing

"Pakistani authorities arrested a militant who they say is connected with the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002," Tom Wright reported Tuesday for the Journal.


"The Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary organization, said in a statement it arrested Qari Abdul Hayyee, alias Asad Ullah, in a covert operation just north of Karachi's international airport. Mr. Hayyee, a former leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned sectarian group, was involved in Mr. Pearl's death, the statement said. A Pakistani security official said the arrest occurred three or four days ago.

"Investigators are unsure whether Mr. Hayyee played a direct role in Mr. Pearl's abduction and beheading, but believe he was linked to the crime as a leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Sindh province, the official said. . . ."


"Pearl's parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, issued a statement through the Daniel Pearl Foundation," Alex Rodriguez reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"We are gratified by this latest arrest and hope that justice will be served on all of those who were involved in this crime against humanity," they said.


Philadelphia Magazine Takes More Criticism at 2nd Forum

"For the second night in a row, the editor of Philadelphia Magazine and the author of its 'Being White in Philly' cover story willingly endured a barrage of criticism and some harsh accusations about the controversial piece," Robert Moran reported Wednesday for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


"Round Two delivered more punishment for editor Tom McGrath and writer Robert Huber as they faced the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at a meeting Tuesday at the offices of The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

"A vice president of the association accused both men of being racists. They were subjected to mockery from some of the questioners and threatened with a boycott of the magazine's advertisers.


"As they did Monday at the National Constitution Center, McGrath and Huber responded politely to questions and criticisms. Their answers often did not satisfy the audience. . . ."

Being Vibe's Editor: Schmoozing, Fixing, Bartering

"If you think print pubs have had it bad, just look at the R.I.P. list in the music category: Blender (March 2009), Giant (November 2009), Spin (December 2012)," Andrea Williams wrote Wednesday for MediaBistro. "But, thankfully for urban music and entertainment fans, one iconic brand was able to rise from the ashes.


"Within months after folding in 2009, Vibe — founded by producer, composer and all-around musical genius Quincy Jones — was re-launched by new owners looking to infuse it with fresh content for the digital age and new editorial blood, namely EIC Jermaine Hall."

Williams asked Hall, "What advice can you give to other editors who are looking to position themselves to become an editor-in-chief during their careers?"


Hall replied, "I think it's just about, whatever position you're at, excelling at that and mastering that position. And then, once you have that down, I think it's just really starting to expand. A lot of things that come with being editor-in-chief aren't necessarily drilled down into the day-to-day tasks. It's a lot of schmoozing; it's a lot of fixing relationships; it's a lot of bartering; it's a lot of people skills, I would say. It's really going out there to be the ambassador of the brand on all levels. And that doesn't necessarily come from being the strongest writer, it just really comes from people skills and the contacts and the relationships there that you've been able to build over your career. So, I think it's knowing that it's more than just writing and more than just editing at this level."

Another challenge, Hall said, is gaining access to celebrities in an era of social media. Williams asked, "What is one of the most challenging aspects of working with musicians who are often notoriously fickle and temperamental?"


"I would say access," the editor replied. "Because of social media and because these artists now have their own voice, it's like 'I'm an artist and I want to get a message out. I don't need to wait for a magazine to interview me, I don't need to wait to go on radio, I don't need to wait to go on a television program — I can just say it right now. I can say it on my Twitter account; if there's a picture that I want to put out there, I'll go to Instagram and do it right away.' So, I'd say one of the challenges that we face is getting the amount of time that we need to really craft a good story or put together a fantastic package. . . ."

Short Takes

The first-ever National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication is planned for April 5 in St. Louis, the Radio Television Digital News Association reported Wednesday. The summit is to be part of the American Copy Editors Society national conference. Journalism organizations "will gather to recount recent incidents and address the problems affecting traditional and new media," RTDNA said.


"When Roger Ailes saw his words in print, the stark accusation that President Obama is lazy, he was momentarily taken aback," Howard Kurtz wrote in the Daily Beast. The Fox News chairman and CEO made disparaging comments about Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. "Anybody who knows me knows that half the time I'm saying things with a somewhat humorous overtone,' Ailes says," Kurtz continued. "So is he backing away from the incendiary comments? Not a chance. 'Are every one of those statements true? Yes,' Ailes says. 'Should I have said them? Well, that's a debate.' . . . "

"Pierre Thomas, ABC News Senior Justice Correspondent, has been elected as secretary-treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press," the committee reported Tuesday. "Thomas succeeds Saundra Torry, editorial writer at USA Today, who became vice chairman upon the resignation of Jim Rubin, who recently retired from journalism. . . ."


In Detroit, "WJBK-TV (Channel 2) reporter Charlie LeDuff told police that he and his brother feared for their lives during a brawl at Corktown's St. Patrick's Parade earlier this month, according to a police report," Gina Damron reported Wednesday for the Detroit Free Press. "LeDuff filed the report a few days after the March 10 parade, where a security guard accused the reporter of biting him during a fight. The 46-year-old reporter told police that he was 'choked and nearly blacked out' after being thrown out of a private party at the parade and denied the allegations against him 'as reported in the media,' according to the police report, which he filed March 14. . . ."

"In an effort to continue the national conversation about how to help prepare America's students for success, NBC News is bringing 'Education Nation On-The-Road' to Detroit beginning March 22," the network announced Tuesday. "The NBC News team will spend a week in the city, partnering with its affiliate station, WDIV, to ignite a public dialogue about new efforts in the region and across the state to improve student outcomes. . . ."  NBC added, "The Summit will be hosted by NBC News Special Correspondent Chelsea Clinton, NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis and WDIV Anchors Devin Scillian and Rhonda Walker."


As of Monday, the South Asian Journalists Association had collected $9,630 in its SAJA Broadcast Challenge, according to its website. Current and former broadcast journalists were to match all donations made, up to a total of $10,000. The original end date of Feb. 1 was extended until March 15.

Malian newspaper editor Boukary Daou, who was arrested two weeks ago after publishing a letter criticizing the salary of Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the coup in Mali, has been charged with "inciting disobedience" and "publishing falsehoods," according to Reporters Without Borders, the Associated Press reported Monday. Daou, editor-in-chief of the Republican newspaper, was charged Monday and imprisoned, AP said.


In Honduras, "Reporters Without Borders is very worried about Julio Ernesto Alvarado, the producer of the current affairs programmes 'Medianoche' on Tegucigalpa-based Radio Globo and 'Mi Nación' on its sister TV station, Globo TV, because of a recent increase in the threats and acts of intimidations against him that began a year ago," the press-freedom group said. "Alvarado, 60, who is vice-president of the Organization of Ibero-American Journalists, told the Honduran Committee for the Families of Disappeared Detainees (COFADEH) on 5 March that he has suspended 'Medianoche' as a result of the threats. . . ."

"Bloomberg Media Group, a division [of] Bloomberg L.P., and El Financiero, the media branch of Grupo Lauman, announced Wednesday a long-term agreement to launch a new multi-platform Spanish-language business news service," Chris Roush reported Wednesday for Talking Biz News. "The companies will create a high-definition television channel that combines Bloomberg's global business and financial insight with locally-produced content. The service will be offered in Mexico and Central America. The companies also plan to offer content online, on mobile sites and in print with a co-branded section in El Financiero newspaper. . . . "


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.