Study: Few Blacks Seen on Talk Shows

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 31, 2005

Only 8 percent of the guests on the major Sunday morning talk shows over the past 18 months were African Americans, with three people accounting for the majority of those appearances, according to a new study by the National Urban League.

Black guests -- newsmakers, the journalists who questioned them and experts who offered commentary -- appeared 176 times out of more than 2,100 opportunities, according to the study, which is scheduled for release today. But 122 of those appearances were made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, and Juan Williams, a journalist and regular panel member on "Fox News Sunday."

"There's very clearly a division, an exclusion," said Stephanie J. Jones, executive director of the Urban League Institute, who initiated the study, "Sunday Morning Apartheid: a Diversity Study of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows."

"I watch these shows regularly," she said. "I just started to notice after a while, week after week after week, that there were no African Americans on them. I saw people talking about issues, even though they didn't have a particular expertise."

The study analyzed NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation," Fox television's "Fox News Sunday" and CNN's "Late Edition." It found that more than 60 percent of the programs that aired during the 18-month period had no black guests. "Meet the Press," the talk show with the largest number of viewers, had no black guests on 86 percent of its broadcasts, the study said.

Network officials said they rely on guests who are newsmakers, most of whom are white men in the top echelons of government.

" 'Face the Nation' is a public affairs broadcast committed to booking the top newsmakers of the day," said Donna Dees, a CBS News spokeswoman. "Each week the broadcast strives to book guests who provide diverse opinions on the news topic of the day."

Barbara Levin, senior communications director for NBC News, said that "Meet the Press" interviews "the same newsmakers who dominate the front pages and op-ed pages of every newspaper in America, including The Washington Post."

Studies have shown poor minority representation in newspapers. A 2002 study by the Poynter Institute, "News and Race: Models of Excellence," cited research that news about minorities accounts for 5 to 7 percent of all content, even though African Americans and Latinos represent more than 30 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2004, the organization Unity: Journalists of Color released a study showing that 90 percent of the reporters in the Washington press corps are white. Unity leaders called the finding "inexcusable."

Newspaper editors acknowledged the need to improve minority representation in the capital press corps, and expressed a commitment to do so.

A spokesman for Fox declined to comment on the Urban League study, and representatives of CNN and ABC did not return calls for comment.

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