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.

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(Off Topic) CBS Gets Punked by the McCain Campaign. Are They Acting Like Punks Now?

In the brouhaha over the lipstick faux controversy, an even bigger issue was overlooked by the media: the McCain campaign’s false and misleading use of the words and images of CBS news anchor Katie Couric in the original version of the lipstick ad.

In the initial version of the ad that was posted on YouTube, footage of Couric complaining about sexism (specifically, the way that Hillary Clinton was treated by the media) was added at the end. The way the editing was done, it appeared that Couric was criticizing Obama for sexism; the ad was clearly constructed to have that effect.

The ad was pulled from Youtube after CBS asked it be removed. A CBS News spokesperson stated that “CBS News does not endorse any candidate in the presidential race. Any use of CBS personnel in political advertising that suggests the contrary is misleading.”

And that’s all well and good. But shouldn’t CBS be saying more than that?

This is a case where the image of a major figure on a major network was misappropriated and misused for political purposes. Where is the outrage?

I would have expected, at the least, an on-air statement that “Katie Couric’s image was used in a fraudulent manner by the McCain campaign. Many of you don’t know this. We want the viewers to know.”

And they could have taken that further by saying “We want the McCain campaign to issue an apology.” And even further: “We want an assurance that it won’t happen again.”

If something like that happened to NBC, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann would have made a 15 minute special comment to decry the egregious behavior of the McCain campaign. (Heck, Olbermann probably wishes this had happened to NBC.)

But CBS did none of that. I hate to be cruel and crude, but I have to say it: the dispassionate statement by CBS amounts to, in street terms, a punk’s response. It’s tone and tenor was nowhere near proportionate to the level of the offense. I’ve seen slaps on the wrist that are harsher.

Let me make it clear: this is not about McCain or the GOP or Palin. This is about a news network taking a stand for its integrity and respect. If CBS can’t stand up for themselves, how can they stand up for their viewers, who are expecting CBS to be a strong and independent voice for the reporting of the news?

Perhaps, after being burned by the controversies involving Dan Rather, CBS is fearful of another charge of liberal bias from the Republican Party. I can sympathize with those concerns.

But the news business is not a place for the weak of heart. If CBS is going to be so reticent that it can’t properly respond to such a blatantly fraudulent use of their top newscaster, then they might as well sell the network to somebody who has the spine to do so.

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.