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Bless their hearts.
The fledgling network does seem to be trying to get better. Though if you’ve seen their new full page ad in today’s edition of the New York Times, you know they’re not trying nearly hard enough when it comes to diversity. That goes for diversity in terms of both content and the cast that serves as the face of it. Yes, it’s nice to see Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria add a little flavor to an otherwise full-fledged vanilla fest.
But it’s not close to enough.
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Where are the Latinos? Where are, to quote my beloved Janet Jackson, our “Asian persuasions”? It’s cute (in an iTunes genius sort of way) to see the network quote Jay-Z. But why are the only splotches of Black on this page the font?
Mind you, this advertisement comes on the heels of news that Soledad O’Brien is leaving CNN. Ditto for political correspondent Roland Martin, whose services are reportedly no longer required. Personally, I enjoyed Soledad’s morning show interviews more so than her Black in America specials. They had too much of an after-school special feel for my liking.
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Nonetheless, she and Roland offered something remarkably different than what we generally see on broadcast and cable news networks: words coming from a mouth not belonging to a White male.
It’s a situation MSNBC has sought to rectify on its network, primarily with assigning Melissa Harris-Perry, Touré, and Rev. Al Sharpton their own shows. Moreover, in the case of Chris Hayes, former host of Up with Chris Hayes and now All In with Chris Hayes, he makes sure that his panelists reflect the make up of America (examples include guests like Joy-Ann Reid, Goldie Taylor, and Karen Finney).
In fact, both Hayes and Harris stepped out of the typical circle of pundits, and in a study about their Sunday morning talk show peers, Media Matters found:
MSNBC’s Programs Were The Only Ones Not Dominated By White Men. Both Melissa Harris-Perry and Up hosted white men in line with their representation in the general population (approximately 39 percent, according to U.S. Census data). By contrast, white men were significantly overrepresented on the broadcast and CNN Sunday shows.
Diversifying has its benefits, as Mediate noted in the case of MSNBC’s ratings:
The network enjoyed significant (around 20%) ratings increases across the board, but made astonishing gains with their already-large African American audience, growing that audience by 60.5% for the Mon-Sun 8pm-11pm period. MSNBC President Phil Griffin told me, in a phone interview, that he is “thrilled” with that result, and that it “says a lot about what we’ve been doing over the last few years.”
In that same time period, CNN grew its black audience by 23.7%(from 131,000 in 2011 to 162,000 in 2012, 23.9% of their total audience), while Fox News’ declined by 23.7% (38,000 in 2011 to 29,000 in 2012, 1.4% of their total audience), but MSNBC had more black viewers than both of those nets combined (from 177,000 in 2011 to 284,000 in 2012, 31.4% of their total audience). What’s more impressive is that MSNBC attained 60% growth after being number one in that demographic last year, and the year before.
Look, I love Anderson Cooper. And Jake Tapper is probably one of my favorite people on Twitter. Back in the 1990s, one of my cousins actually served as an anchor on the network. Plus, I’m really happy they brought back James Earl Jones‘ “This Is CNN” promo.
Baby steps, you guys.
Still, any network that claims to be serious about diversity has got to do more than quote Jay-Z. Try again. Try harder. Try actually reintroducing yourselves as something the audience hasn’t seen so many times already.