The NAACP has already lashed out at CNN for passing on yet another opportunity to diversity its all white primetime lineup with the exit of Eliot Spitzer. Now the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), NAACP and other civil rights groups are conferring on a plan of attack to deal with CNN and its all-news cable competitors.
The NABJ deplored an “ostensible trend in cable news to pass over African American talent for prime time programming” in announcing that it is in discussions with several civil rights organizations to address the matter and direct a definite course of action.
“We appreciate the support of like-minded organizations stepping up to affect change as black journalists are ignored and in turn, black communities get shortchanged in the coverage of important issues,” said NABJ President Kathy Y. Times. “We are dedicated to getting this issue resolved.”
Currently, there are no African American anchors hosting prime time news hours for any major cable network. “While MSNBC is reportedly on the verge of offering civil rights activist Al Sharpton his own prime time slot, there are no black journalists who can tout a similar promotion,” NABJ noted.
“I don’t understand any major network’s rationale for not being as inclusive as possible,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “This lack of representation has been brought to the major networks’ attention repeatedly over the years. It is time for them to walk the walk of diversity at all levels, including prime time talent positions.”
NABJ Executive Director Maurice Foster also conveyed his frustration with CNN and other major news outlets for their apparent unresponsiveness. “Our presence in the prime time slot makes a big difference in terms of shaping public opinion of each issue. The suggestion that black journalists can’t do it just doesn’t cut the mustard. [Cable Networks] know the talent is there, they just don’t believe in them,” said Foster.
The announcement distributed by NABJ stated that prominent civil rights organizations like the National Urban League, NAACP and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have all pledged their support for a “drastic course of action” should this matter continue to be overlooked.
“We have a machine here poised to do a lot of things,” said Foster, speaking of the potential for these various groups to mobilize. “We are deeply serious about this.”