Prominent Media Hires Have One Thing in Common: They’re White

CNN, MSNBC, New York Times choices criticized, but problem isn’t relegated to TV and print

The latest wave of major job hires in the media industry is notable for a number of reasons – not the least of which is the shift in tone at CNN. But it's also notable for what they’re not: diverse.

As Rachel Sklar noted on the Daily Beast, CNN’s hiring of Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker and MSNBC’s latest hire, Lawrence O’Donnell, continue cable news’ rich tradition of putting white people on prime time television.

Toss Arthur Brisbane – the New York Times’ incoming public editor, the fourth consecutive old white dude to hold the position – in there, too.

On cable, the Edward Cullen-like complexion is striking. Bill O’Reilly. Sean Hannity. Greta Van Susteren. Rachel Maddow. Keith Olbermann. Chris Matthews. Anderson Cooper. Larry King. John King. Campbell Brown. Wolf Blitzer.

The lack of racial diversity is stunning.

In an interview with TheWrap, Jon Klein, CNN’s president, didn’t want to get into who else he considered for the 8 p.m. slot that will soon be occupied by Spitzer and Parker.

"I can assure you that the pool of candidates we considered was large and very diverse, and we gave considerable thought to the issue you raise," Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, told Daily Finance. "In the end, Art stood out as the strongest candidate. And I fully expect him to represent the interests of all readers."

Perhaps, although according to the latest demographics figures of Times readers I could find (MRI Spring 2009), more women read the paper than men. (The study doesn’t drill down to race.)

“TV executives are about making money. They don’t want to fix what is not broken. They don’t see it as a problem,” Danielle Belton, founder and editor of The Black Snob media blog, told the Beast. “You often have a certain degree of sameness that exists at the top — and sometimes they don’t make that effort to actually dig up talent. I often feel like certain executives look around in their own circles and then say they couldn’t find anyone.”

It’s not that executives are unaware, however. As Sklar pointed out, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes – a white guy who succeeded Dick Parsons, who is black – sent out a company-wide memo calling for a revamp of multicultural initiatives entitled "The Multicultural Key to Our Growth."

"Within the next three decades,” Bewkes wrote, “Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and other minorities, as well as young consumers, will become the country's new majority.”

The diversity issue isn’t just relegated to television and print. At TheWrap, for example, there about a dozen full-time staffers, all of them white.