In the age of Obama, media diversity takes some hits

by Eric Deggans, The Feed/St. Petersurg Times

It was a historic victory I thought might never come.

But even as Barack Obama stepped onstage Thursday to celebrate the first time a black man has ever won a presidential caucus in Iowa, I was also struck by something else: the lack of diversity among those who were covering the event.

At one point Thursday night, MSNBC had a panel of four middle-aged white guys dissecting the returns -- Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Tim Russert and Brian Williams -- though at other points, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who is black, joined the fray. CNN also had former Chicago Defender executive editor Roland Martin on its panel of pundits, while Fox News had Greta Van Susteren as a co-anchor with Shepard Smith.

Still, it says something when the field of presidential candidates sometimes has more women and minorities than the team of reporters covering it.

That jarring note reflects a couple of unfortunate trends I noticed from last year: there are no reporters of color among the top 20 journalists featured on network TV in 2007, according to analysts at The Tyndall Report. And the number of TV stations owned by black people dipped 60 percent down to just eight nationwide.

It's hard to know what some of these trends will mean for the future. Hispanic-owned TV stations, often part of the industry fast-growing Spanish-language TV industry, are growing in prominence. But the hope that other minority groups might have a significant stake in national media is shrinking by the moment -- a development which remains puzzling, given how the county's population is increasing in diversity.

Here's Tyndall's list of top reporters, with their network and number of minutes onscreen. In the past, CBS correspodent Byron Pitts or NBC correspondent Ron Allen might add some diversity to the mix, but they were absent this year.

I also found it interesting that only a couple of the top guys are heavily involved in covering the presidential election, though that is clearly one of the bigger stories of last year and this one. Following the list of top reporters, is Tyndall's list of most-covered stories, with Iraq unsurprisingly at the top:


ABC Jake Tapper Politics 231
NBC David Gregory White House 230
NBC Andrea Mitchell State Department 220
CBS David Martin Pentagon 217
CBS/ABC Nancy Cordes Domestic 200
NBC Tom Costello DC Bureau 199
CBS Jim Axelrod White House 195
ABC Lisa Stark DC Bureau 193
NBC Robert Bazell Medicine 190
ABC Martha Raddatz White House 183
CBS Steve Hartman Human Interest 177
ABC Dan Harris Domestic 176
ABC Jonathan Karl Pentagon 175
CBS Lara Logan Foreign 172
NBC Pete Williams Justice 172
CBS Bob Orr Justice 162
NBC Lisa Myers Investigative Unit 162
CBS Sharyl Attkisson Investigative/Capitol 160
ABC David Muir Domestic 155
ABC Brian Ross Investigative Unit 154


mins Total ABC CBS NBC
Iraq: US-led combat continues 1157 370 379 407
Virginia Tech campus massacre 244 79 80 84
Wildfires in southern California 221 76 79 66
NYSE-NASDAQ market action 208 51 76 80
Winter blizzards, icestorms 182 59 47 77
Pakistan in political turmoil 165 53 48 63
Military injuries, disabilities 160 57 55 48
Real estate mass foreclosures 133 51 35 46
Illegal immigration debate 124 47 39 39
2008 Rodham Clinton campaign 120 41 44 35
Military families face problems 119 41 40 38
Hurricane Katrina aftermath 116 20 25 71
US Attorneys fired by DoJ 116 33 46 37
Tornado season 112 41 39 32
Airline delays, cancelations 108 39 26 43
Iran military expansion feared 106 32 37 36
2008 Iowa caucuses previewed 104 39 33 31
Global warming climate change 103 38 25 41
2008 Rudolph Giuliani campaign 95 30 28 36
Crude oil, gasoline prices increase 92 42 23 27

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey