SUNDAY MORNING APARTHEID:
A DIVERSITY STUDY OF THE SUNDAY MORNING TALK SHOWS
By Stephanie J. Jones
National Urban League Policy Institute
1101 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 898-1604 August 2005
HERE FOR FULL STUDY
Study: Few Blacks Seen on Talk Shows
Most Visits by Officials Such as Rice
By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 31, 2005; A05
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
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
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.
The three major television networks
-- ABC, CBS and NBC -- have been criticized by other
groups for lack of diversity in news and prime-time
programming. In 1999, the NAACP launched a campaign
to get more nonwhite characters on television after
noting the paucity of minorities on hit shows such
as "Friends" and "Seinfeld," both
set in New York, one of the most diverse cities in
Williams, a senior correspondent
for National Public Radio and an analyst for Fox News
Sunday, is the only African American who appears regularly
on a Sunday morning talk show. "I don't go anywhere
in the country without people saying, 'Thank God you're
there,' " he said. "They say they watch
for that reason."
Sunday shows interview the most powerful
people, Williams said, and African Americans often
do not fit the bill. "The ideal guest is the
president of the United States," he said.
Race normally is not discussed unless
there is a crisis, Williams said. Once, when he raised
the idea of discussing black comedian Bill Cosby's
criticism of black youth culture, Fox agreed, even
though the subject was unusual for the network, he
The Urban League study contends that
Sunday morning talk shows are particularly important
because they help Americans digest complex political
issues, from the war in Iraq to Supreme Court nominations
to the pitched battles over affirmative action and
Paul Brathwaite, executive director
of the Congressional Black Caucus, said his organization
joined the Hispanic and Asian caucuses in pleading
with the networks to include more minority members
of Congress in Sunday discussions. The study showed
that only three black House members -- Reps. Charles
B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)
and Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) -- and Sen. Barack
Obama (Dill) have appeared as guests.
"Who are the bookers of these
shows, and who are they going to reach out and talk
to from week to week?" Brathwaite said. "At
the end of the day, they make the decisions. We're
not at the table when decisions are being made in
the newsroom. The decisions are affected; we're not
there, and we're not covered."
The Urban League study did not include
appearances by members of other minority groups, but
Lisa Navarette of the National Council of La Raza,
agreed that lack of diversity on the shows is a problem.
"People of color are not quoted
as experts, and they don't appear frequently,"
she said. "I've seen many discussions of the
Latino vote and immigration done with people who are
not terribly knowledgeable about the people or the