As Washington prepares to celebrate its annual "Nerd Prom" also known as the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, a group of journalists paused to take a look at the serious side of journalism and the need for more diversity in the newsroom.
Hosted by BET Networks and the White House Correspondents Association at Howard University's WHUT television station, the panel featured Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, Associated Press White House reporter Darlene Superville, ABC News White House correspondent Jim Avila and BET Networks White House correspondent Andre Showell. Saraya Wintersmith, a White House Correspondents Association scholarship recipient and Howard student, also participated in the event.
While the Republican Party grapples with how to attract and embrace the nation's growing minority population, and Democrats try to keep thier hold on it, newsrooms seem satisfied with the status quo.
Williams, who moderated the panel, noted that by the looks of the ads that dominate the broadcast news cycle — Viagra, Depends and other similar products — it seems that "all white males are still making the decisions."
"It seems to me that's almost malpractice," Williams said.
Wintersmith, who is studying broadcast journalism, acknowledged that she's not racing home at night to watch the six o'clock news and, like most people her age, she stays abreast of current events through a variety of sources, from the internet to newspapers.
Showell said that broadcasters are making a big mistake by not cultivating younger viewers. Young African-Americans in particular, he said, also may tune out and turn to other sources because there's no one who looks like them in network news. Showell also said it's a lost opportunity.
"This is a group that elected a president, so that in and of itself highlights the importance of this growing population," he said, adding that if the people in decision-making roles want to keep their jobs, they would cultivate new audiences and entice them to tune in.
One way to do that is to tell their stories. Avila, who is Latino, recalled how a couple of years ago his network was exploring how to cover wild fires in southern California. He proposed that, in addition to the typical stories about people losing their homes and businesses, the network also explore the impact on undocumented immigrants working in agriculture.
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(Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Guardian)
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