Zucker Fields Complaints About CNN Diversity

by | February 27, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Black Entertainment, Cable News, TV News, Xfinity TV Latino

NBC Honcho Jeff Zucker (Andy Kropa/Getty Images)


By Alexander C. Kaufman

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – New CNN chief Jeff Zucker is trying to ease concerns about diversity at the network by meeting with advocates for black and Latino journalists.

Zucker met Monday with executives from the National Association of Black Journalists. He is scheduled to meet with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on March 8, and agreed to look for talent at the group’s regional conferences, NAHJ president Hugo Balta told TheWrap.

“It’s not an issue that is unique to CNN. It’s an issue that is the same for many media companies,” said Balta, adding that it’s “too early” to make a judgement about whether CNN is doing enough to encourage diversity.

“I know that CNN and certainly the senior leadership at CNN have welcomed NAHJ input and we are a vehicle for them to look at talent,” he added.

CNN declined to comment to TheWrap on its diversity efforts.

Zucker’s early moves have stoked fears that he would make CNN into a “lily-white” network, one well-placed employee told TheWrap last month.

Zucker hired ABC News veteran Jake Tapper for a new afternoon show, then tapped Chris Cuomo for a “Today”-show styled morning show. Both are white men.

Latina anchor Soledad O’Brien announced last week that she was leaving her morning timeslot to start a documentary production company. She is expected to be replaced in the morning by Cuomo and primetime host Erin Burnett, who is also white.

The concerns about diversity at CNN didn’t begin with Zucker: In 2011, the NAACP called CNN’s lack of African-American primetime anchors or hosts a “a glaring omission.”

CNN’s non-white on-air talent include Sanjay Gupta, Fareed Zakaria and Ali Velshi, who are of Indian origin. Anchors Don Lemon, Victor Blackwell, Lisa Sylvester, Isha Sesay and Fredricka Whitfield are African-American.

Rival MSNBC has at least five top black anchors or hosts, according to its website, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Mara Schiavocampo, Craig Melvin, Tamron Hall and Melissa V. Harris-Perry.

Fox News’s black on-air personalities include “America’s News Headquarters” co-host Kelly Wright, “Fox & Friends First” co-host Arthel Neville, “Fox Report Weekend” anchor Harris Faulkner, and analyst Juan Williams. Geraldo Rivera is part Latino. The network also highlights its Ailes Apprentice Program, which pushes for diversity on Fox News. When the NAACP criticized CNN in 2011, it also said it has “come to expect” a lack of diversity on Fox News.

NAHJ president Balta said he hopes to see more Latinos on-air. Rafael Romo, a senior Latin American affairs editor, and Zoraida Sambolin, who anchors CNN’s early morning show “Early Start,” are among the network’s few Latino on-air figures.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp