National Association of Black Journalists Is Investigating CNN’s Hiring, Promotion and Compensation Practices Involving Black Employees

By A.J. Katz 

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The National Association of Black Journalists is not thrilled with CNN right now.

The organization put out a press release today stating that it’s concerned about “the lack of black representation within the ranks of CNN’s executive news managers and direct reports to CNN president Jeff Zucker. This concern, coupled with Zucker’s refusal to meet with a four-person NABJ delegation, has prompted NABJ to place CNN on a special media monitoring list.”

The organization says “a special team will perform further research and an analysis of CNN’s diversity, inclusion and equity practices, per the NABJ Board’s directive,” and that it is calling for “a civil right audit that examines the company’s hiring, promotion and compensation practices involving black employees.”

NABJ says that it’s concerned about the findings of preliminary research that reveals the following:

▪ 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.

CNN happens to be the only cable news network to have a black host in prime time: CNN Tonight host Don Lemon. The longtime CNN newser praised Zucker during an interview with Adweek last month.

“I also think that prior to [CNN Worldwide president] Jeff Zucker, that people didn’t believe that someone who looked like me, or me, or that I could carry a prime time show. And when Jeff [Zucker] got here, he gave me a chance, and gave me the resources I needed, and here I am. But that doesn’t happen to a lot of people of color in this business. They don’t have bosses who will take a chance and believe in them in that way.”

Nevertheless, it’s true that CNN has no high-level executives at the network, and that’s a problem.

NABJ says that its next steps involve engaging with AT&T (now known as WarnerMedia) which the organization claims “has responded positively to outreach efforts.”

The organization’s delegates are already engaged in very positive outreach with several other media companies and have met or have scheduled meetings with Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC, adding: “NABJ believes those companies see the value in such meetings and appreciates the respect those companies are showing for the positive intent of our efforts.”

The NABJ four-person delegation has attended previous meetings with other media companies. The delegation requesting a meeting with Zucker includes president Sarah Glover, vice president-digital Roland Martin, vice president- broadcast Dorothy Tucker and executive director Drew Berry.

We reached out to CNN for comment, and here’s what they said:

For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us. 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. Mr. Martin displayed an unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity by leaking questions prior to the town hall. As a result, we have told NABJ that CNN will not participate in any meeting that includes him. 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.