Black Journalists Group ‘Disturbed’ by CBS News’ Lack of Black Reporters for 2020 Campaign

It is “unacceptable that no African Americans are even in the initial group of hires,” National Association of Black Journalists vice president of digital Roland Martin says

Last Updated: January 15, 2019 @ 12:38 PM

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) blasted CBS News on Tuesday for not having any black journalists dedicated to covering the 2020 presidential election, with the organization saying in a statement it was “very disappointed in and disturbed” by the network’s choices.

“It is unfortunate that we are still having these discussions about diversity and inclusion,” NABJ president Sarah Glover said. “Ironically, last year the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report was a major topic and now in 2019 we’re still asking media organizations specifically, and society as a whole to do the right thing. CBS’ political team takes previously heralded steps back half a century.”

CBS News has been ridiculed by many on the left since producer Ben Mitchell tweeted a picture of its election team on Friday. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called out CBS News, tweeting it was “unacceptable” the network hadn’t hired a black correspondent.

Roland Martin, NABJ’s vice president of digital, echoed Ocasio-Cortez in his statement on Tuesday, saying it was “unacceptable that no African Americans are even in the initial group of hires.” He added: “We implore CBS to significantly improve its hiring from a healthy pool of African Americans, not only in political coverage but in areas company-wide. We are closely watching developments in hiring practices of CBS and all media companies, not only in the political arena but company-wide.”

CBS News did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment to the NABJ’s statements. In a statement to TheWrap on Monday, a CBS News rep said this was just the first wave of what will be many new reporters assigned to the campaign. “This group is the initial wave of what will be an outstanding and diverse group of journalists assigned to cover the 2020 election for CBS News,” the statement said.

CBS News, which battled a steep ratings decline in 2018, recently announced “48 Hours” producer Susan Zirinsky will take over the operation in March.

Later on Tuesday, the NAACP issued its own statement denouncing CBS News, saying the lack of black reporters on its 2020 election team “further proves the voting power and voices of Black America continue to be undervalued.”

The NAACP statement continued: “As the voting bloc which will most certainly heavily determine the direction of this country in the upcoming election, it is vital any and all media outlets have a diverse newsroom, including individuals of color in decision making positions to speak to and address the issues and concerns directly impacting the Black community. Representation matters and the media needs our coverage on the issues to drive the discussion.”

You can read the NABJ’s full reaction below:

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is very disappointed in and disturbed about CBS News’ recent announcement showcasing new hires for coverage of the 2020 Presidential election. The uproar began following a producer’s tweet that included a graphic with 12 staffers, of which none are African American or black.

Immediately the graphic set off  a wave of criticism throughout the media industry, as well as the general public, with many expressing concern that Blacks will not be covering the 2020 election and issues important to African Americans would not be addressed.

“It is unfortunate that we are still having these discussions about diversity and inclusion,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “Ironically last year the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report was a major topic and now in 2019 we’re still asking media organizations specifically, and society as a whole to do the right thing.  CBS’s political team takes previously heralded steps back half a century.”

CBS responded to the criticism saying the team that was announced is “an initial wave of what will be an outstanding and diverse group of journalists assigned to cover the 2020 election for CBS News.” 

Additionally the company says recently promoted Lorna Jones, who is African American, is the new Managing Editor for the CBS Washington Bureau and will oversee much of the political and other news coverage.  The new hires showcased in the tweet are digital journalists who are field reporters and will be embedded in political campaigns.

NABJ VP of Digital Roland Martin said, “It is unacceptable that no African Americans are even in the initial group of hires.  We implore CBS to significantly improve its hiring from a healthy pool of African Americans, not only in political coverage but in areas company-wide.  We are closely watching developments in hiring practices of CBS and all media companies, not only in the political arena but company-wide.”

NABJ officers are looking forward to working with CBS and others to ensure that more diverse staffs and diversity in coverage are always part of discussions when making decisions.

“It makes good business sense to be fair and balanced in everything we do,” added Glover.  “We can’t hold others accountable, if we are not practicing basic, sound business practices.”

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