CNN is under fire for its failure to hire and retain African Americans in key decision-making roles and for its president, Jeff Zucker’s refusal to meet with a four-person delegation of the National Association of Black Journalist leadership.
The NABJ put the cable news network on black Tuesday (March 5) and placed them on a “special media monitoring list,” according to an announcement posted on the organization’s website. In the statement, NABJ listed CNN’s specific diversity-based shortcomings. They are as follows:
▪ CNN President Jeff Zucker has no Black direct reports.
▪ There are no Black Executive Producers at CNN.
▪ There are no Black Vice Presidents on the news side at CNN.
▪ There are no Black Senior Vice Presidents on the news side at CNN.
On the same day, CNN responded and seemed to blame NABJ board member Roland Martin, who used to work for the network, for the delay for a meeting.
“For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us,” their statement said. “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. Unfortunately, the significant and reckless damage that Roland Martin did to CNN while partnering with us during a 2016 Democratic Town Hall has made any meeting that includes him untenable.”
The Town Hall CNN is referring to is one involving Donna Brazile, the former interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee, who was accused of passing along a prepared question from the town hall to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The debate was between Clinton and then-Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
CNN also added that Martin “displayed an unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity by leaking questions prior to the town hall.” Martin currently sits on the NABJ board as Vice President of Digital. Both he and Brazile deny they leaked questions from the town hall.
The Root received comment from Martin who claims CNN is using him as a tactic to avoid meeting with the NABJ. “As anticipated, CNN chose to divert attention away from answering the critical questions the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is asking. Our outreach is focused on CNN’s workforce and the lack of diversity within its news leadership, as indicated by preliminary research,” he relayed in a statement.
“NABJ acknowledged the personal issue Zucker says CNN has with Vice President-Digital Roland Martin in our release as the only stated reason for CNN’s refusal to meet with our entire delegation,” his statement continues. “NABJ’s focus is on diversity in media and not personal issues. Zucker’s refusal to meet begs the question: Is CNN focused on diversity? We are still requesting answers to the above questions along with a meeting with Zucker on how our organization can help in CNN’s needed efforts to diversify news leadership.”
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN