WASHINGTON -- The following letter was released today by the National Association of Black Journalists:
Dear Cable News Executives:
It is 2010, but the National Association of Black Journalists sees our cable news networks moving backward when it comes to who they believe is worthy of anchoring prime-time news shows.
NABJ was founded in 1975 to encourage news media companies to hire and to promote more Black journalists. At that time, black journalists originally hired to cover riots during the turbulent 1960s found they were not being assigned to other meaningful beats or were only allowed to cover "Black" stories.
NABJ's advocacy for fair hiring practices paid off. Many of our founders, including columnists Les Payne in New York andDeWayne Wickham in Washington, D.C., and anchor Maureen Bunyan in Washington, D.C. remain prominent figures in the media.
NABJ continues this advocacy today. To be candid, we have been focusing our talks with media executives on ways they can increase the diversity of their news management teams. It is our belief that a diverse management team improves coverage decisions and hiring practices. It seems, though, that the companies have taken that to mean that we don't care about who is on the air. We're watching, and we do.
Over the past several years, NABJ Executive Board members have met with leaders of the top media companies. Our message: "Let us help if you are looking for diverse talent."
Some of the companies have reached out, but the names we have submitted never seem to be called in for interviews.
Three years ago, Ebony magazine's Kevin Chappell noted, "While CNN has the most Black news anchors with eight, the other cable networks don't (fare) as well... and none of the national cable stations has any Blacks in prime-time slots."
Nothing has changed. NABJ questions CNN's decision to hire former New York governor/attorney general Eliot Spitzer to co-host a new show in Campbell Brown's old time slot. The company missed another opportunity to place a person of color in prime time. It just seems that cable news can never find diverse candidates who are good enough to meet their standards. We want to know your standards.
Are you telling us that CNN could find no one better than an ex-politician who quit being New York governor after consorting with prostitutes to grace America's living rooms each night?
CNN does have Tony Harris anchoring in the morning, and Fredricka Whitfield, T.J. Holmes, and Don Lemon on the weekends. But that's not prime time. The same can be said about MSNBC which last week named veteran Lawrence O'Donnell as the anchor of its new 10 p.m. show. The prime-time host line-up at Fox News also lacks any racial diversity.
"In his story, Chappell talked with NABJ Member and CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell who summed up what many of us have witnessed over the years. Mitchell told Ebony "I've been to journalism conferences over and over again, and heard some executive say 'I'd like to hire more African-Americans, but I just can't find any qualified ones out there.' That was b.s. then, and that's b.s. now."
NABJ couldn't agree more.
The National Association of Black Journalists