MSNBC's Hayes Gang: Media Is Too White, Headed for 'GOP-Style Problems' [Corrected]

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes is getting credit from liberals for having an explicit racial-quota system of guest selection. That quota mentality extended to the Hayes show’s website, where producer Collier Meyerson complained that the percentage of minorities in the media is declining. She interviewed MSM veteran Farai Chideya, who said  the media "may be creating for itself GOP-style problems.” [CORRECTION: MSNBC pointed out to me this is Chideya's quote, not Meyerson's, as I earlier misunderstood.]

An overrepresentation of whiteness equals racial insensitivity in the coming diversity of America:

For instance, in the 2012 election, Latinos and African-Americans found the GOP message–and its messengers–so unappealing that there was a record-breaking turnout with black voting rates surpassing white rates...If this lack of diversity in journalism is ignored, the profession may marginalize itself and become unable to serve our purpose for our present audience, let alone the future audience.

In 2013, the census counted more babies of color born in this country than white. By 2050, this country will have people of color in the majority. It is of economic interest to media outlets to begin to hire more people of color. Their issues will soon dominate the news cycle.

Meyerson cited a American Society of News Editors survey saying minority newsroom positions dropped by 5.7 percent. She interviewed Farai Chideya, a black liberal journalist who has worked for Newsweek, CNN, and even hosted a talk show on NPR. Chideya began by complaining about print ads for CNN, not the actual percentage of minority employees at CNN:

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?

What emerges in a Chideya article for The Nation on the media's "class and color crisis" is that what she really wants is more of a socialist perspective with an eye on class consciousness: "One strong feeling was that traditional journalism would simply become obsolete if it didn’t embrace deeper storytelling about race and class. After all, since the country is predicted to be 'majority-minority' as soon as thirty years from now, outlets that can’t adapt risk their very existence."

She admitted that liberals of pallor can offer racial sensitivity, but falls back on the claim that the minorities can still create a richer portrait by employing their own personal relationships and biases:

One journalist I respect responded to my CJR article, saying that his mostly white cadre of reporters covered a diverse city well during Sandy. In that case, I think he was right. The broader question is whether you can separate diverse reporting from diverse staffing. First, I’d argue that crisis reporting is a different beast from long-term community coverage. That said, my being a black American helped my coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and not just in the obvious ways. I got a key interview because I’d met the niece of Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who took military command of New Orleans after Katrina, because she had hosted me for a Black History Month speech. Maybe that’s unusual, but as the saying goes, “It’s a small colored world.” How we circulate, work and socialize has an impact on how we report.

Often, we end up interviewing people with whom we have weak ties—the friend of a friend; the person recommended by a college classmate. Homogeneity of staffing does not doom an outlet to irrelevance, but it often produces a damaging false consensus.

The "damaging false consensus" was what? That Katrina wasn't caused by Bush-Cheney? It cannot be argued that hurricane aftermath wasn't covered through an explicitly leftist race-and-class lens. Even Joe Scarborough sounded like Kanye West.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis