Congressional Black Caucus joins call for more diversity on Sunday politics shows; story also features Deggans quote
When The Hill magazine decided to do a story on the Congressional Black Caucus' concern about the lack of diversity on political talk shows, the reporter called me to get some perspective on the problem.
He only used a few quotes, but they were good ones: That diversity on a political TV panel isn't just about looking politically correct or salving a viewer's feelings -- it's about making sure that you're hearing all sides of the story, and presenting a discussion that is fair, balanced and accurate.
Put another way, how can a discussion about statements on race made by Hispanic Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotamayor or the impact of race in subprime home loans really includes a wide range of views if no Hispanics or black people are part of the discussion? When I re-posted my column on that issue on the Huffington Post, it drew more than 175 responses.
It reminded me of a disagreement I had with a CNN producer when I complained about the frequent use of black conservatives on TV discussions. Producers like such people because they present an unusual sight; a black person criticizing programs and issues black people generally support, such as Affirmative Action or easier voting rights restoration for ex-convicts.
But, I have often argued, this practice also helps convince the cable newschannels' largely white audience that black conservatives are more prevalent than they really are (in a Pew Center poll from last year, just 4 percent of black people identified as Republican; in November's election, 96 percent of black voters supported Barack Obama). It also helps keep viewers from seeing the wide range of opinions within the black community outside of party or liberal/conservative lines.
Crackpots who happen to be black Republicans also have a better shot at a nationwide audience because they make good television.
The Hill's story is nothing new; because Sunday talk shows focus on Washington D.C. powerbrokers, they will be the last place to diversify. But it helps to have a growing chorus of news outlets point out the obvious: as the first black president pulls us into a new era of racial firsts, a media establishment lacking in diversity will be ill-equipped to handle the coverage which ensues.