WMC President, Carol Jenkins, published the following commentary in The Huffington Post this week touching on the challenges of diversity in today's media environment and how the Progressive Women's Voices program is addressing them:
Not Enough Cracks In The Media's Glass Ceiling
By Carol Jenkins, Women’s Media Center
from The Huffington Post
For those of us who are working for the increased inclusion of women in the media, the weekend's developments on NBC's Meet the Press and CNN's Late Edition are troubling. Our complaint is not that either announced heir is incompetent: David Gregory at MTP and John King at LE are both solid reporters. But in two cases, cable networks had the opportunity to choose a woman and/or a person of color--and opted not to. The result is that Sunday, where issues of the week are determined, and policy influenced, remains the most segregated hours of television. All shows are hosted by white men, albeit now of a new generation.
The passing of the torch was expected at Meet the Press. Tom Brokaw was an acknowledged placeholder during the election season, post the untimely death of host Tim Russert. The Women's Media Center, in private meetings at the network, and by supporting campaigns like Margot Friedman's Don't Let NBC Dis Women urged NBC to look seriously to women and/or people of color for the moderating roles for candidates. The surprise Late Edition change--replacing Wolf Blitzer with the younger John King, was no doubt a peremptory strike: to both mute Gregory's much awaited announcement, and capitalize on the "new face" energy that ensues.
What can we do now? Keep the pressure on. Rachel Maddow's wild success as host of her own show on MSNBC has made a lie of the insider talk that women just can't pull in the ratings. Keep an eye on Chris Matthews' anchor chair as he reportedly flirts with running for the Senate from Pennsylvania. If it's true, he should resign from MSNBC right now--and a woman and/or person of color should be hired immediately.
And we have to be even more vigilant now about the guests who are invited to analyze the world for us: are they diverse? Do they include women who express the progressive point of view? The networks have found an interesting approach to "central casting" by hiring articulate and attractive women of color--who are conservative.
The Women's Media Center created our Progressive Women's Voices program to make sure the networks didn't have the excuse that they can't find women experts, ready and capable to engage in the important conversations. This year we trained and pitched 33 women--heads of organizations working in immigration, national security, the economy, race relations--and writer activists with platforms in print, and online. Those 33 women got more than 1200 media hits, including the major networks and publications. You can read one of our graduates, Courtney M. Martin, in The American Prospect, talking about the disconnect she feels -while a President-elect is assembling a diverse cabinet, women and people of color are missing in the analysis.
We are about to start our next class, and welcome women everywhere to apply. We must make sure that people who explain our world to us look like us and reflect the diversity of our country. The days of segregated television must come to an end.