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Fixing Journalism’s Race and Class Problem

How to Fix Journalism's Class and Color Crisis

When I was a kid, my family loved watching science fiction films and television shows. Some of them, from Star Trek to Soylent Green, featured a multiracial band of humans, plus various sentient life forms. But in other features—let’s say the awesomely campy Logan’s Run—everyone (or nearly) in the future was White. My family suspended disbelief for the duration of the movie. Then, depending on our mood, we either laughed at or lamented the idea that anyone thought the future would be monochrome, except for the pantsuits.

Today I feel like I’m watching that movie all over again. This time, it’s called The Future of Journalis, and we can’t afford to suspend our disbelief. CNN recently published a promotional graphic saying, “Allow Us To Reintroduce Ourselves.” It featured thirteen on-air personalities. No one in the group was Latino, East Asian or Native American. The graphic included 2013 CNN hire Michaela Pereira, who is Black, but so far unfamiliar to most of the CNN audience, as her duties as a morning host begin next month. Quite a reintroduction for a network once personified by Bernard Shaw, a man who gave a blistering speech at a National Association of Black Journalists Conference about the promise of journalistic diversity denied. (Full disclosure: I worked at CNN very happily in the mid-’90s.) Of course, CNN’s staffing is more diverse than this promo indicates, which makes it even more puzzling. Do they think this is good branding? Do we just not care anymore about the implications of race in this so-called post-racial world?

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