Pressure builds on CNN as NAACP questions network's 'troubling' lack of diversity

CNN is again taking criticism over what some call a troubling lack of minorities in executive positions.

The NAACP is the latest civil rights group to voice concerns.

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“It is vital that news organizations reflect the diversity of our country, which includes people of color in key decisionmaking roles which are responsible for shaping news coverage and providing nuanced perspectives, especially around issues directly impacting Black America,” the NAACP said in a statement on Thursday. “CNN’s lack of black representation in leadership roles is troubling and another example of the media industry’s reluctance to address an issue that continues to plague newsrooms across the country.”

“CNN’s lack of black representation in leadership roles is troubling and another example of the media industry’s reluctance to address an issue that continues to plague newsrooms across the country.” 

— NAACP

Earlier this week, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) elevated CNN to a “special media monitoring list” over its diversity concerns and CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker's refusal to even discuss the lack of black executives.

The NABJ specifically expressed concerns “about the lack of black representation within the ranks of CNN’s executive news managers and direct reports to CNN President Jeff Zucker.” The group noted that “Zucker has no black direct reports” and that the network doesn’t have a single black executive producer or vice president on its news side.

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“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,” NABJ's director of communications, Kanya Stewart, said in a website post.

The NAACP echoed the worries regarding Zucker, putting additional pressure on the high-powered executive.

“NAACP finds is offensive that CNN President Jeff Zucker refuses to address this issue.

— NAACP

“NAACP finds it offensive that CNN President Jeff Zucker refuses to address this issue," the organization said. "We are far beyond the point of accepting simple visibility as an instance of true diversity. For major corporations like CNN and its parent company, WarnerMedia, diversifying the media landscape must become a part of a company’s corporate responsibility rather than always as a response to intolerance and implicit bias.”

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The NAACP declared that it will stand by NABJ “until concrete steps are taken by CNN” to urged parent company WarnerMedia to conduct a diversity and inclusion audit of its news division.

“We will continue to hold the media industry accountable for their insufficient response and actions toward diversity,” the NAACP statement concluded.

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The National Association of Black Journalists says that CNN lacks diversity among executive ranks.

The National Association of Black Journalists says that CNN lacks diversity among executive ranks.

Earlier in the week, CNN defended its decision not to meet with the group of black journalists, noting that it didn’t want to work with Roland Martin, who is on a four-person delegation team that has met with other news organizations about diversity. CNN honchos object to Martin’s role in a 2016 town hall event between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as the impetus to deny the meeting.

Then-CNN contributor Donna Brazile famously leaked a potential question to Clinton ahead of the CNN event, where Martin’s cable network TV One was a partner.

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"For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us. 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,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote on Thursday that Martin has said, “We ain't meeting unless I'm in the room.”

CNN and Zucker have faced diversity questions before. Back in 2017, a federal judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit against then-parent Time Warner claiming widespread racial discrimination at CNN.

Last year, a study by TheWrap indicated that CNN has “significantly fewer women serving in visible on-air roles than either Fox News or MSNBC.”