Monday, January 19, 2009

Does it Matter if Most of the White House Reporters are White?

THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN to become president of the United States takes office this week.

When President Barack Obama holds his first official press conference, most of the faces staring back at him will not be black.

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz says that "the relative paucity of black journalists at the White House is striking."

Which raises the question: should there be greater diversity in the White House press corps because there is an African-American president?

"Imagine you're president, at the lectern, looking out at those faces," says White House correspondent April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks, "is this a representation of America?"

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe responded by writing
, "With so many other things to worry about, and with the whole world able to see that racial identity is no longer a barrier to even the most powerful position in American life, you might think the press would finally be ready to abandon its unhealthy preoccupation with the color of skin - especially the skin within its own ranks. Alas, no."

What do you think?

(The image above is from the White House Correspondents' Association. It portrays the press who covered the Truman administration of the 1950's.)

15 comments:

Shari DaCosta said...

Diversity is important in journalism. There shouldn’t just be racial diversity, but diversity of thought. Race inevitably plays a role in the experiences we all have, ultimately affecting our world view. I find it ironic that President Obama, the first African-American president, will be questioned by a racially homogeneous group. However, there should be greater diversity in the White House Press corps not because of the president’s race but because it makes the media appear to be all inclusive. By projecting this image news organizations may possibly draw in individuals that once felt that their culture and community were underrepresented or misrepresented in the media; because ultimately diversity in news produces stories representing diverse viewpoints and cultures.

The picture of the all male press that covered the Truman administration is a perfect reference point, showing that with time change can and does come.

Geo said...

Did you count the women in the Truman era picture?

I see one. Just one. Amazing.

- Geo

(the teacher)

Shari DaCosta said...

In the slew of men I honestly did not recognize that there was one woman in the Truman era picture. It truly is amazing to see how things change with time. A day like this, where the first African-American is sworn into office, reaffirms that change is possible. Inevitably, the White House Press corps will become more diverse.

jermar said...

If the question raised is should there be more African Americans in the press corp because there is an African American President the answer is no. However, there should be more African Americans in the press corp for the fact that the press is supposed to be the watchdog for America. Having a press corp that is all white and mostly male does not reflect American society and all of its diversity. African Americans make up approximately 12% and 13 % of the population of our country. This is something that should be somewhat reflective in our press corp

Eileen McHugh said...

Race should never be an issue. If we focus our energy on trying to make things equal and pc, we are only highlighting race as a barrier instead of hiring journalists solely on their abilities. And speaking on diversity, yes, it's true that we have an African American president, but why aren't we asking why there aren't more Hispanics or Asians in the White House pres corps? The more we focus on racial inequality, the more of an issue it becomes. "The only way to end racism is to stop talking about it." - Morgan Freeman

Andrea Lorenzo said...

"Which raises the question: should there be greater diversity in the White House press corps because there is an African-American president?"

In my opinion, there should not be greater diversity in the White House press corps just because there is an African-American president, but because there is no reason for there not to be. When Obama was elected, I was extremely excited. I felt that America took a huge step in eliminating racism. Several days later, I heard people making comments like, "He's probably going to be assassinated." When I look at government officials, I feel like I see mostly white faces. I don't think it helps the situation. I have a lot to say about this topic and I can't condense it into one, small blog comment. However, I am very happy that we have an African-American president, and I truly hope that the rest of America will realize that the 60's are over and that it indeed is time for a change.

nicky-bitchy said...

I think that yes it is shocking. If change is what Obama is advocating that it should be change across the board, not just for African Americans, but also for Asians and Latinos and all other minority groups that have not been represented in the past. Having just one racial perspective is not the type of journalism that is representative of the community that it serves.

Nicholas Deroose

Tori G. said...

I think that while it is somewhat surprising that there aren't many minority groups in the media, I think we're not taking into account that these are previous generations fronting the news. Also remember that the first female news co-anchor was Barbara Walters in the mid 1970's, and she faced plenty of disdain from her male co-anchors into the 1980's. Once the generation before us and our generation start actual careers in the news media, I believe we'll see more minorities reporting the news. Even now, in some areas with local news teams, there are minority reporters and anchors. Perhaps this is a sign that in the near future, the news will be just as diverse as the community it serves.

Gianna Ciao said...

Having racially diverse press corps, it would only better represent the American people, but I do not think that it is a necessity because we have an African American president. Rather what is produced by the press, their thoughts, the tone and content would be more representative of the American people.

jermar said...

LookThe only way to end racism is to stop talking about it." - Morgan Freeman

I'm sorry but I have been staring at this quote throughout the day. I don't want to stray too far off the topic. However, I could not disagree more with Morgan Freeman, who is older than me and was born in the South during the Jim Crow era. Nonetheless, I do not think racism will not simply vanish off the plains of America by not "talking about it." Institutional Racism still exist black President or no black President. It partially has something to do with the pres corps lacking minorities.Look at our school systems in the inner city, look at our jail systems, look at our neighborhoods being gentrified, look at our unemployment rate which has been high for decades, turn on the news see young black men who have been killed by the police in various cities over the last few weeks (in fact I and my 50 something year old father were told to put our hands up by police for no reason a few weeks ago just for "fitting the description). So I am sorry but racism is still alive and Jim Crow was not that long ago to just forget it ever happened.

Tanisha (Ta-knee-sha) said...

It shouldn't matter but a lot of reporting is formed on questions, opinions, assumptions based on the color of both the skin of the reporter and the issue at hand. My (an African American woman) perspective and line of questioning may differ than that of a white man, Asian man, etc.

Richard Varney said...

Race in the work place is a very touchy subject. In "most" cases it shouldn't be about black or white, it should be about who is the most qualified. With that said, in the case of journalism having a more diverse crowd will show more versatile viewpoints. The way we take in information is strongly influenced by who we are as people, so having a more diverse group of people will give us a more intuitive analysis of a certain situation. . This clearly goes for women as well. I know that my point of view will be vastly different then that of my female colleagues. If these journalists are the best there is to offer, then I find it hard to argue with them being there despite the fact that they are mostly white males. I do however feel that a more diverse group would essentially portray these events to a wider audience.

Stephanie Klock said...

It is time for change. The idea of race should eventually disappear. Soon people will no longer even ask does it matter how many white or blacks are White House Reporters.I understand this will take awhile however, the first step was made and I can't wait for the end result!

Sequoia McBall said...

I think the color of their skin should not matter. It is about their skills in their job, not their race. If Obama looks out and thinks oh everyone is white and already expects a bias opinion from them, then who did we really vote into office? It is just like judging a book soley by its cover...What type of person does that make us?

Sequoia McBall said...

And I'm a african american woman