Skip to comments.Coloring the News at CNN: An e-mail reveals disturbing example of the way CNN views race in America
Posted on 04/19/2002 9:10:20 PM PDT by Jean S
Coloring the News at CNN: An e-mail reveals a disturbing example of the way CNN views race in America
EARLIER THIS YEAR, William McGowan published an important book on how the media covers race in America. Coloring the News received a surprising number of favorable reviews. Even those who disagreed with his conclusions gave McGowan credit for his thorough reporting and his willingness to address a media taboo. The book sold well, too, considering that it examines just one part of a broader topic--media bias--that some view as settled and others dismiss as banal.
With optimism that perhaps shows our naivete, some of us hoped that sales were brisk because network executives and local news directors bought dozens of copies to hand out to reporters, producers, editors, and other news decision-makers. For too long, as McGowan convincingly demonstrates, many in this crowd have conceived and developed stories that reflect one specific worldview. The most controversial manifestation of this groupthink is race-norming--the practice of requiring reporters and editors to count sources and photo subjects by skin color. In some cases, news organizations even based promotions on the "success" rate.
It's probably too early to judge, but an e-mail I received last week demonstrates that there are still people who could learn from McGowan's study. It came from a journalism e-mail list to which I subscribe. Other subscribers use the list to share story ideas, to keep in touch, and occasionally, to request help on stories.
Here is the e-mail in its entirety:
"Hi everyone! I hope someone out there can help me. I'm looking for a young black entrepreneur--under 40, tech savvy, who has started his own dot-com or company--to profile for CNN NewsNight. Since this will be part of a series about race in America, the ideal candidate is someone who struggled or encountered discrimination while looking for jobs or working in the tech sector (also could be someone who became frustrated by the predominantly white male culture) and subsequently decided to strike out on his/her own. Or something along those lines. Could be anywhere in the U.S. If anyone knows of such a person or knows someone who does, please get in touch. Many thanks!"
There is no question that the person this journalist describes exists, somewhere. It's quite possible that the show will highlight a real problem. And I write this without knowing what other questions this CNN series will raise about race in America.
Still, aren't viewers and readers better served when reporters investigate an issue and then report on their findings? It is in that spirit of inquiry that I invite someone from "NewsNight"--the author of the e-mail or anyone else involved with the show--to elucidate the purpose of the series and the reporting that goes into it. We'll post the response here.
Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.
Wonder how CNN would respond if some other network sent out a query looking for
"...a young black entrepreneur--under 40, tech savvy, who has started his own dot-com or company--to profile for CNN NewsNight. Since this will be part of a series about black success in America, the ideal candidate is someone who struggled and made it on his own, without benefit of affirmative action (also could be someone who became frustrated by a lack of opportunity for individual initiative on the predominantly white liberal plantation) and subsequently decided to strike out on his/her own. Or something along those lines. Could be anywhere in the U.S. If anyone knows of such a person or knows someone who does, please get in touch. Many thanks!"
Their not looking for a story just someone to act a part.
I would like to see more blacks learning tech and applying for jobs down here - when the market comes back of course. On the other side, I do know some very successful black businessmen and consultants. As far as discrimination that they have faced....I am sure that it exists, just as there is discrimination against any of us for whatever we are or are not. I'll ask next time, I may be shocked by what I hear...or not.
My brother faced discrimination for not being gay when he consulted over at the GAP in SF. He was treated differently (thankfully) and the environment was very sexually harassive with lewd comments and dialog all of the time. Will CNN do a story about that?
Oops I'm retired now and shouldn't be getting my blood pressure up when I think of the incompetent that was my last "boss".
Just curious about your statement.
Aren't qualifications the basis for hiring anymore?? Why would it be important to you to 'find one'?
[laughs] It sounds like it's been a while since you've been in the Fortune 1000.
Most jobs -- even executive jobs -- have become so routine, so defined by
procedure, precedence and policy, that qualifications are not only unnecessary, but could tend to make an employee think for him/her self, ignore the three P's, and become a dangerous loose cannon. (When companies need qualifications, they contract a consultant for a short, fixed time, for a one-time, fixed cost...)
It might be that your boss had a thing against Blacks. Or it might have been that he was leery of hiring someone who he would have difficulty firing if he didn't work out, or who might be a source of lawsuits if he didn't get promoted as fast as he thought he should be, or if somebody in the office made a remark that he thought was racist.
Too many business decisions are made these days on the basis of "how can we best preclude future lawsuits". That's what's behind these stupid "zero-tolerance" policies that school systems get laughed-at over -- you can be used for exercising judgement, but it's harder if you're just blindly applying policy
I've met a couple (as in "two") over the course of a twenty-five year consulting career where I've worked in over a dozen companies. In the last place I worked for, there were just three Blacks in an IT staff of around 150, in a company located in the heart of a Black-majority city
Blacks don't seem to gravitate into IT that much. In "The End of Racism", Dinesh D'Sousa went over how many Blacks in a particular year had gotten PhD's in various fields. In Computer Science: one Black PhD that year in the whole US.
It's more a matter of INTEREST. Perhaps fewer blacks WANT to be in IT. Perhaps they prefer other professions, and succeed in THEM, rather than IT.
Remember the story which accompanied a survey showing that a smaller percentage of blacks had personal computers in the home than non-blacks. This was, the study leaders felt, a prime indication of some sort of discrimination. It never must have occurred to them that perhaps a lot of those blacks surveyed just DIDN'T WANT a PC in their house. It's certainly not an economic phenom. Just about anyone can afford a PC of some sort - so if you don't have one by now, I'd say it's because you just don't WANT one.
There have been some other interesting articles lately about how the various TV newsmagazines select those people who take part in their stories. They want the people in the stories to be of a certain "appearance," someone to whom the viewer could "relate." So, they tend to pick fairly attractive white people whose stories are apropos to the mag's subject matter. The magazines feel, rightly or wrongly, that a story about some misjustice featuring an utterly unattractive person/couple, etc., will be tuned out by potential viewers.
The problemo the CNN reporter has is that viewer fatigue is setting in HARD on stories about blacks-as-victims. Most people just aren't interested - only the reporter and "his community" are.