CNN Facing Pressure From Black Advocacy Groups Over Executive-Level Diversity
The NAACP joined a group advocating for black journalists in calling for CNN to hire more black executives.
CNN is facing calls to diversify its executive ranks from two prominent organizations that advocate for African-Americans, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of Black Journalists.
The broadside began on Tuesday, when the NABJ blasted the network, saying it is "concerned about the lack of black representation within the ranks of CNN’s executive news managers and direct reports to CNN president Jeff Zucker."
The organization, which pointed out that CNN has no black executive producers, called for a "civil rights audit" of the network. After a late January meeting was canceled, it pushed again for a meeting with CNN's leadership, which is unwilling to meet with the NABJ if one of its top officers, Roland Martin, is present. Martin, who serves as vp digital for the NABJ, has a contentious history with CNN, his former employer, and has been critical of the network.
"We have made it abundantly clear that we would be more than happy to sit down with the rest of their leadership team as soon as possible, and that offer still stands," CNN said Tuesday in a statement. (A spokesperson would not comment for this story.)
But, the NABJ is not budging. "We ain't meeting unless I'm in the room," Martin said on his digital show, #Roland Martin Unfiltered.
The NAACP joined the fray on Wednesday night, criticizing CNN and Zucker. "CNN’s lack of black representation in leadership roles is troubling and another example of the media industry’s reluctance to address an issue that continues to plague newsrooms across the country," the organization said. "NAACP finds it offensive that CNN president Jeff Zucker refuses to address this issue."
CNN leadership is said to internally echo a commitment to hiring more diverse employees, including executives, but did not address the company's diversity goals in the released statement. "The relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us," the network said Tuesday. "As we have told them many times, we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about how both of our organizations can continue to work together."
The organization joined the NABJ in asking CNN parent company WarnerMedia to "conduct a diversity and inclusion audit of all its news divisions."
More advocacy organizations are expected to issue statements criticizing CNN's executive-level diversity and unwillingness to unconditionally meet with the NABJ, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Barring a meeting with CNN leadership, the NABJ is pushing for a meeting with the network's owner, AT&T, and CEO Randall Stephenson.
"It’s vital to point out that not once has CNN disputed anything in the NABJ letter when it comes to their lack of black executives," a person involved in the effort said. "Their deflection to a personal issue hasn’t gone unnoticed by black staffers at CNN and NABJ members.”
The NABJ has recently met separately with the leadership of Fox News and CBS News, including executives Suzanne Scott and Susan Zirinsky, and has a meeting scheduled for next week with ABC News.