Television news benefits from having diverse faces both behind and in front of the camera, said panelists at Tuesday’s opening session of the inaugural Multicultural TV Summit in New York City, hosted by the editors of Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.
“It is very important to offer coverage of a multi-spectrum of the races out there,” said Arthel Neville, co-anchor, America’s News HQ, Fox News Channel. “And not just races, but anything that is considered different. What people have to start to embrace is that different is actually normal in today’s world. If you don’t have someone behind the scenes or in front of the cameras striving to make sure those voices and those images are put forth then perhaps those stories could fall by the wayside.”
Acknowledging those demographic differences — whether they are of race, class, gender or sexual identification — is important for news organizations as they figure out how best to cover breaking stories and to put those stories into context. In an news era where news viewers are deeply and polemically divided, issues of diversity are becoming more difficult to handle than ever. But that doesn’t mean news organizations shouldn’t try.
”I think this is a moment of tremendous demographic change in our country and in our medium,” said Juan Williams, co-host, The Five, Fox News Channel. “We know there are now more opportunities for content not only to get funded, but to get distributed. At Fox, we are part of what I would consider to be the new-segmented media, especially on cable. The question is how do you tell stories that penetrate all these different market segments. And, in this current political climate, it is important that every voice from every perspective is heard.”
For CNN Worldwide’s Ramon Escobar, vice president of both talent recruitment and development as well as of diversity and inclusion, covering stories from all angles is just part of how a good journalist reports a story.
“Diversity is uncomfortable, and the places who realize that and still talk through it are the places that are going to succeed,” said Ramon Escobar, vice president of talent recruitment and development and vice president of diversity and inclusion, CNN Worldwide. “Diversity and inclusion are not about doing the right thing; it’s about actually doing great journalism. It means you are going to have richer stories, different stories, and different looking faces.”
”I make a concerted effort to make sure that my stories are told from a human perspective because it is all about people,” added Neville. “It does not matter how you look, where you are from or what God you pray to. Intolerance is based on fear; fear is based on the unknown. And so when all of us here in this room together present stories to the masses and expose them to thoughts and feelings that they would not have access to, that is how we together can break down these barriers.”
Diversity is also a particularly hot topic at present due to social media, where every individual has the ability to speak out and every other individual has the ability to agree or disagree. Moreover, social media means that news travels faster than ever — so fast, in fact, that it’s hard to figure out how best to respond.
“It’s in this age of social media where I think a news organization becomes incredibly important, incredibly essential, and incredibly valuable,” said Phillip Mena, co-anchor, Early Today, MSNBC. “The idea that things are getting uglier, I think, has a lot to do with the transparency and proliferation of technology. It was there before, but not to this degree, where you know, for example, every detail about Donald Trump. This is just a different time and I think it is more essential to have a news organization explain this stuff and try to put it in context.”
[Images of Arthel Neville, America’s News HQ, and Fox News’ The Five courtesy of Fox News]