NABJ Issues Thumbs Down Award to Cable News Networks
Friday, January 6, 2012
Posted by: Aprill Turner
WASHINGTON, DC (January 6, 2012) --The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) today issued its 2011 Thumbs Down Award collectively to Bloomberg News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business Channel, Fox News and MSNBC. The Thumbs Down Award is given annually for reporting, commentary or other content found to be racially insensitive, or for practices at odds with the mission of the National Association of Black Journalists.
The 2011 Thumbs Down Award was given to these cable networks for their failure to assign African-American journalists to on-air roles during primetime broadcasts.
On multiple occasions, NABJ has advised the cable news networks to improve their lack of diversity in primetime programming. And the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has joined NABJ in calling for the networks to end the shutout of black journalists from primetime.
Despite multiple changes that several of the networks have made to their on-air lineups, they each failed to use the opportunities to hire or promote African-American journalists as primetime anchors or hosts. The latest example occurred at CNN, which replaced "In the Arena," hosted by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, with "Erin Burnett OutFront," hosted by former CNBC anchor Erin Burnett.
"We have honored both CNN and NBC for their diversity efforts in the past," NABJ Vice President-Broadcast Bob Butler said. "However, it is 2011 and the fact remains, when you turn on any of these channels during prime time, you will not find an African-American host or anchor."
Recipients of the 2011 Thumbs Down Award were chosen by a vote by the previous NABJ Board of Directors. The decision to uphold that vote was made by the current Board after considerable deliberation, in part to call attention to the fact that this problem persists at all news networks. Indeed, it could be argued that every television news operation earned the Thumbs Down Award for 2011.
It is important to note that NABJ draws a distinction between personalities working as anchors or hosts and journalists, nearly all whom have disappeared from primetime anchor chairs. In addition, NABJ believes all television news organizations have the responsibility to ensure that their on-air talent reflects the diversity found in their audiences.
Earlier this year, NABJ Board members offered CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton solutions for increasing diversity, and we were pleased at his receptiveness. NABJ Board members also have had talks with NBC, and the network has made notable progress in further diversifying its non-primetime on-air and management staff.
NABJ also announced today improvements to the evaluation of submissions for the Thumbs Down Award. The process has been shifted to the revamped Media Monitoring Task Force, chaired by nationally renowned media critic Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times.
An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide.