A major journalist group has placed Atlanta-based CNN on a “special monitoring list” because it lacks Black representation in its top ranks, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), in a release, said CNN president Jeff Zucker has nobody reporting to him directly who is Black. There are no Black executive producers at CNN, no Black vice presidents on the news side at CNN and no Black senior vice presidents on the news side at CNN. The news network does have Hispanics and Asians at vice president levels. It also has Black vice presidents in sales and legal. And there are plenty of women in vice president roles or higher.
Zucker has yet o meet with NABJ’s four-person delegation to discuss the matter, NABJ said. CNN, in a statement, said it was open to meeting but only if NABJ vice president and former CNN analyst Roland Martin was not included, claiming he leaked questions before a 2016 Democratic Town Hall between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. CNN described his actions as an “unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity.”
The NABJ release said: “NABJ’s request to meet was and is focused solely on CNN’s diversity efforts, its results and our strategic priorities as an organization.” NABJ added that “a special team will perform further research and an analysis of CNN’s diversity, inclusion and equity practices, per the NABJ Board’s directive.” This has been a chronic problem at CNN for years, said Tenisha Bell, a public relations specialist who left CNN in 2015 an executive producer. “It saddens me that we’re still having this conversation in 2019,” she said. She notes that while CNN has plenty of Black employees at lower and mid-level positions, it’s the top-level jobs that are where critical decisions are made.
“That’s when you have a seat at the table,” Bell said. “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu… I applaud NABJ for pushing and challenging networks like CNN.” Several lawsuits have been filed by former and current Black employees against CNN and Turner (which owns CNN) over the years regarding their hiring and promotion practices. None have succeeded. An effort to create a class action lawsuit was thrown out by a judge in 2017.
Former CNN anchor and reporter Soledad O’Brien has been a vocal critic of CNN’s recent actions, including giving airtime to “White supremacists” last November and this week for allowing Trump supporters to say “crazy stuff” for ratings. Last August, after CNN noted how the White House lacked Black representation, she Tweeted, “Very terrible! But, uh, walk me through the senior Black staff at @CNNPoliticsor @cnn or, hey, I’ll take cable news.” The NABJ said it has met or have scheduled meetings with Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC to discuss similar matters.