MSNBC Questioned about Reduced Air Time of Journalists of Color
posted by Randall
Is Alex Wagner’s future at MSNBC shaky?
By Ed Diokno
Is MSNBC the latest poster child for #JournalismSoWhite? Rep. Luis Gutierrez thinks so.
In an unusual move, the Chicago representative took to the floor of Congress on March 2 to ask publicly and for the record: what the heck is happening at MSNBC which seems to be trimming the air time of their journalists of color.
What precipitated his question was the resignation of MSNBC television host Melissa Harris-Perry but it also was spurred by the reduction in airtime given to Asian American journalist Alex Wagner, whose mother is Burmese, and Cuban American Jose Diaz-Balart.
“Last week, … MSNBC television host Melissa Harris-Perry was abruptly pulled from the airwaves without even a chance to say goodbye” on her weekend interview program, said Gutierrez. “NBC said they wanted a show that was more about politics.”
The congressman also mentioned Alex Wagner, one of the very few Asian American journalists who hosts a news program on one of the national networks. She lost her weekday show on MSNBC last summer and subsequently was supposed to be in line to host another show this spring. However, last week MSNBC announced that that proposed programming had been cancelled as it shifts its efforts to covering the political campaigns.
MSNBC had to let go Melissa Harris-Perry
People close to Harris-Perry compiled a list of other minorities who’ve been dismissed or assigned to lesser roles in the past year. Besides Harris-Perry and Wagner, the list includes program hosts such as Al Sharpton and Joy Reid, and African American contributors and pundits such as Michael Eric Dyson, Touré, Karen Finney and Goldie Taylor.
Also, veteran Cuban American newsman Jose Diaz-Balart has seen his daily show frequently bumped in favor of election coverage and is reportedly excluded from the networks coverage of the Florida primary, even though he and his show are based in Florida.
Three other African Americans who have appeared as panelists and pundits – Janet Mock, Dorian Warren and the Rev. Jacqui Lewis – now mostly appear on Shift by MSNBC, the network’s little-viewed digital channel.
Indeed, Washington Post media writer Eric Wemple noted that in 2014, there were five journalists of color hosting weekday programs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the “left-leaning” network. Compare that to today, only two minority hosts remain, everybody else are Euro Americans.
In interviews, MSNBC President Phil Griffin and Yvette Miley, the network’s senior vice president of talent and diversity, say they have not stepped back from the network’s commitment to presenting different faces and points of view.
“MSNBC has been a leader when it comes to diversity,” said Griffin.”We’re in transition now, but that doesn’t mean our commitment has changed. We’re rebuilding, but our principles are unwavering.”
The cutback of prominent journalists of color at MSNBC comes at a time when the news industry, broadcast and print, is being questioned about their lack of diversity in their newsrooms and studios.
Since the programming shakeups, there have been some minority reporters introduced but they lack the executive influence to drive the programming or determine the guests to interview.
Filipino American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas launched the #journalismsowhite hashtag on Twitter which trended nationally and has sparked lots of conversation about the power of diversity in the media. He is trying to fund an effort that would cover the issues that concern communities of color.
“This is not about quotas, window dressing or checking the diversity file,” said Guiterrez. “Journalists of color bring a different texture, a different perspective on what issues matter and what should be discussed and debated on television.”
“The reality is that our nation has become more diverse,” Gutierrez stated, “and our television and our news media and our political institutions — including the Democratic and Republican parties — have not kept up.”
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