What Happened to All the Black Voices on the Cable News Shows?

Is it just me, or do the airwaves seem less… colorful… since the wrapup of the 2008 elections?

I was thinking about that when a commentary from E.J. Dionne Jr in the Washington Post, titled Rush and Newt Are Winning, caught my eye (and lots of other folks on the blogosphere as well):

A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion.

…the media… regularly treat(s) far-right views as mainstream positions and… largely ignor(es) critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

This was brought home at this week’s annual conference of the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group that supports Obama but worries about how close his economic advisers are to Wall Street, how long our troops will have to stay in Afghanistan and how much he will be willing to compromise to secure health-care reform.

In other words, they see Obama not as the parody created by the far right but as he actually is: a politician with progressive values but moderate instincts who has hewed to the middle of the road in dealing with the economic crisis, health care, Guantanamo and the war in Afghanistan.

While the right wing’s rants get wall-to-wall airtime, you almost never hear from the sort of progressive members of Congress who were on an America’s Future panel on Tuesday.

Continue reading

White in America: White Males Dominate Evening Cable

No, you’re not just imagining it when it seems to you that white males dominate evening cable. It’s a fact.

A study done by Media Matters for America found that although white men make up only 32 percent of the US population, they made up 57 percent of the guests on prime-time cable news shows during May 2008.

This and other findings are noted in the report Gender And Ethnic Diversity in Prime-Time Cable News – July 2008. The report is based on a review of cable weekday television evening shows (8PM through 11PM on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) that was done in May 2008. The study included shows such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and Larry King Live, Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Among the study’s observations:

• Fox News was the whitest network, with 88 percent white guests. CNN and MSNBC were close behind, with both featuring 83 percent white guests. (Whites are 66 percent of the US population.)

• MSNBC showed the greatest gender imbalance, with 70 percent of its guests being male. CNN and Fox News were not far behind; each of those networks featured 65 percent male guests.

• Latinos were particularly underrepresented. Though they now comprise 15 percent of the American population, they made up only 2.7 percent of cable news guests. The worst of the three networks on this score was MSNBC, which featured only six Latino guests out of 460 prime-time appearances during the entire month.

• A number of ethnic groups were shut out entirely, or nearly so, on some networks. During the month of May, Fox News and MSNBC each featured a single Asian-American guest. Across the three cable networks, there were only four appearances by guests of Middle Eastern descent, two on Fox and two on CNN. There was not a single appearance by a Native American during the entire month.

Also of note: African Americans made up 16 percent of the guests on MSNBC, 11 percent of guests on CNN, and 9 percent of guests on Fox News. African Americans are 13 percent of the US population.

The findings are summed up in the following chart, which compares ethnicity in the US population versus the ethnicity of cable TV guests:

Media Matters for America describes itself as a “Web-based, not-for-profit, progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” Kudos to them for this informative report.

Thoughts on CNN’s “Black in America,” Parts 1 and 2

After an unsatisfying Part 1, CNN’s “Black in America” Part 2, did live up to the hype. I found several portions of the show compelling to watch.

What was wrong with Part 1? It wasn’t “bad.” I just found it bland and uninformative. It was like a series of reports that you might see from a high-end local television station. It was well done, but they covered a lot of ground (the black family and the black woman), and it seemed like they didn’t dig deep enough into any one subject. The show didn’t shed any light on hidden or neglected facts, it didn’t offer any unique insights or perspectives, and it didn’t uncover any previously ignored inconvenient truths.

I don’t think audiences, black audiences in particular, learned anything new in Part 1. Absent being informative, I would have settled for something that struck a poignant or inspirational cord, for example. But I was neither informed nor moved by Part 1.

But Part 2 did strike a cord with me. The difference between the two parts was that Part 2 focused on people whose lives showed the breadth and complexity of the black experience. Instead of focusing on issues, they let the lives of these men tell the story. And those stories were great to watch.

Continue reading

Quick Thoughts on CNN’s “Black in America,” Part 1

Some quick thoughts on Black in America, Part 1. This is the first of a two part series from CNN on the current state of African Americans.

The show was been interesting, and I admire that it’s well researched and free of stereotypes.

But for me… I don’t feel like I learned anything I didn’t already know.

The show talked about the growing black middle class… the large number of single-mother headed families… black health care disparities… etc… etc…

For blacks folks who are well informed, or just have eyes to see what’s happening around them, this show doesn’t break any new ground. It seems like the scope of the piece was so comprehensive that it wasn’t able to go into extraordinary depth about any of particular issue. That may have been more useful.

The only real “eye-opener” in the show for me was where it discussed the high rate of HIV in the black community, especially among black women. They could easily have devoted an entire show to that subject.

Of course, the show wasn’t meant just for me or black folks. Maybe it’s an eye-opener for the white community. Maybe.

Still, I do look forward to Part 2 on Black men. Perhaps that is where the fireworks will start.