CNN doesn't add black host to new prime-time schedule
Friday, July 08, 2011
Posted by: Aprill Turner
calls out network
It has been 17 days since
I sent network news executives an open letter about the
deplorable lack of diversity in their prime-time schedules. Now, I am
floored that CNN missed another opportunity to fill a void created at 8 p.m.
The NAACP took notice too and blasted the network for a lack of black talent on
the desk after former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's departure this week. Former
CNBC anchor Erin Burnett will join the prime-time lineup. This is no
slight against Burnett, who has worked as a financial analyst and anchored
But this is not the first time CNN has had an opportunity
and failed to diversify its nighttime lineup. During the past two years alone,
CNN has made several changes after the departures of Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and
Campbell Brown. With each of those changes came an opportunity for diversity;
yet in each instance, CNN went in another direction.
Exacerbating the issue is the fact that CNN has several
times passed over its own qualified African American journalists for prime-time
posts in favor of whites who possess celebrity (Piers Morgan) or infamy
(Spitzer). He resigned his post as New York governor in 2008 after an FBI sting
revealed a liaison with a prostitute. In October 2010, NABJ met with CNN
executives, including President Jim Walton, after the network announced that Morgan
would replace Larry King upon his retirement. At the time, CNN said it was
looking for the "right person" and not necessarily a mainstream
journalist when the next prime-time opening occurred.
NABJ spoke out again when the network hired Spitzer and
Kathleen Parker to replace Campbell Brown.
NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Bob Butler and I talked
with Walton late Thursday, and he told us the network continues to
seek and develop a candidate who has the image and substance to carry a prime-time
show. I invited Walton to mount an innovative search during the NABJ
national convention next month in Philadelphia. It will be packed with
outstanding African American talent.
Since our meeting last year, CNN has made progress in
hiring diverse executives including managing editor and executive vice
president Mark Whitaker, CNNPolitics.com editor and former NABJ president Bryan
Monroe, and Chief Marketing Officer Janet Rolle, who had a similar role at BET.
In fact, NABJ sent Walton a letter thanking him for hiring Whitaker and for
adding Suzanne Malveaux to the lineup of midday anchors. Walton said he is
proud of the senior level hires, but until a person of color is added to prime
time, CNN's progress will be "hollow." Viewers do not see who's making
decisions or writing scripts.
NABJ sincerely hopes the next time there is an opening for
a prime-time host, CNN will have found -- and groomed - the "right
person." CNN must make efforts to ensure that its staff, both on-air and
behind the scenes, is as diverse and inclusive as its audience.
Yours in service,
Kathy Y. Times
Association of Black Journalists