(September 29, 2011) One of the few media-focused Brain Trust sessions at
last week's Congressional Black Caucus' Legislative Weekend was hosted by
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and it offered an in-depth look at the growing lack
of African-American senior managers in TV station newsrooms. The trend,
said Rush and the panelists, threatens news coverage of issues concerning
the black community, and might see the gains made for African Americans
The panel entitled "The Deciders...Who Calls the Shots in Broadcast News?"
featured the results of the 4th Annual Television Newsroom Management
Diversity Census from the National Association of Black Journalists. It
also offered a discussion with former ABC News anchor, Carole Simpson;
Camille Edwards, vice president for news at WRC in Washington, DC; David
Honig, executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications
Council; and Gregory Lee, president of NABJ. Bob Butler, NABJ Broadcast
vice president compiled and presented the results of the newsroom survey.
"This panel evolved out of the shooting of three teenagers in my home
district," said Rep Rush. "It had been a violent summer night with one
young man killed and two others shot in two different locations. The
reporting of the second shooting included an interview with precocious
child whose on camera comments were edited by the CBS station [WBBM] in a
way that completely distorted what the child said."
"Today we focus on broadcast news because it is licensed to operate in the
public interest by the FCC," Rush continued. "This disinformation and
distorted imagery must stop. It is tantamount to racial profiling by the
news media and it cannot go unchallenged. It is dangerous and damaging,
irresponsible and just plain wrong."
The NABJ report counts those people with the title of general manager,
news director, assistant news director, managing editor, assignment
manager or executive producer. These are the people who make personnel
decisions, set the news agenda and make coverage decisions.
The report reveals that 228 television stations owned by some of the
largest media companies in the United States mostly fall short of matching
the demographics of their metropolitan areas.
According to the 2010 Census, non-Whites comprise nearly 35 percent of the
U.S. population but the study finds that people of color fill only 12
percent of the newsroom manager positions at stations owned by ABC, Belo
Corporation, CBS, Cox, Fox, Gannett, Hearst, Lin Media, Media General,
Meredith, NBC, Nexstar Broadcasting, E.W. Scripps Company, Post-Newsweek
Out of a total of 1,157 managers, 1,017 are White, 81 are Black, 42 are
Hispanic, 16 are Asian and 1 is Native American.
"These numbers are disappointing," said NABJ president Lee. "If the media
doesn't reflect America, the stories and issues of those who are
under-represented will not be told."