Old boys club rears its ugly head as Amanpour prepares for ABC's This Week

Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

Lack of diversity on the all important Sunday morning political talk shows is nothing new. As Media Matters noted back in a 2007 report on the subject, "Not only are the Sunday morning talk shows on the broadcast networks dominated by conservative opinion and commentary, the four programs -- NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- feature guest lists that are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male."

At the time of the report's release, not one of the Sunday shows was helmed by a woman or ethnic minority. How did the guests stack up? Not well at all.

  • A breakdown of the guests who appeared on the Sunday shows in 2005 and 2006 shows that men dominate these shows. In fact, men outnumber women by a 4-to-1 ratio on average.
  • The divide is even starker when it comes to race/ethnicity: On average, there were nearly seven white guests for every guest of any other race/ethnicity. On Meet the Press and Face the Nation, there were nearly nine white guests for every guest of another race/ethnicity.

Keep in mind, these programs help shape beltway conventional wisdom for the week to come and wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the political chattering class. The lack of a seat at the table for women and ethnic minorities spoke directly to the old boys club that has long dominated Washington politics and media.

The 2007 report didn't take into account the less influential Sunday morning political talk shows on cable networks like CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC but the results -- at least when it comes to hosts -- would have been much the same. All white. All men.

This year things have changed a bit.

In February when it was announced that long-time senior political correspondent Candy Crowley would be taking over as host for John King on CNN's State of the Union it was hard to find a story that didn't make prominent mention of her recent post-campaign weight loss.

It is one thing to be critical of Crowley's past work, just as we have been from time to time. It is quite another to fixate on her physical appearance. Asked about the subject, Crowley was quoted as saying, "Would I have gotten the job without having lost the weight? I don't know. That's an X factor... Does the refrigerator light stay on when you close the door? We'll never know." She went on to say, "I readily admit I'm not the most obvious pick, from a purely cosmetic point of view... I'm not going to argue that when you turn on the TV, you basically get young, blonde, thin women. This is changing."

I certainly hope it is changing but only time will tell.

Similarly, earlier this month word came down that CNN's Christiane Amanpour would be leaving the cable network to helm ABC's This Week - the first woman ever with full-time hosting duties on a broadcast network Sunday show.

Cue the back-biting and second guessing, much of it anonymous.

As Mediaite's Steve Krakauer noted:

ABC News staffers have talked anonymously about their concerns over the hiring, and columnists like Tom Shales have aggressively disagreed with the choice.

Then there's CNN's John King who felt the need to throw out some questions about Amanpour's selection during a recent interview stating, "There are a lot of questions. Christiane does not have a lot of experience covering American politics and so how does she fit in on ABC on Sunday morning? I'll leave that to them to figure out. It is an interesting pick, it is an unorthodox choice, I think that's just self-evident...I'll watch how it plays out with everyone else."

Get that? There are lots of questions. She's not experienced covering American politics. But I'll leave ABC News to answer these questions...questions I've just thrown out to you like red meat to the media circus lions in my best impersonation of a Fox News chyron.

Regardless of what you think of these recent hirings, they are a long overdue step in the right-direction. Women and ethnic minorities bring a different world of experience to the table. They need not be booked solely for the purpose of discussing issues important to women and ethnic minorities as is far too often the case.

The Washington press corps is change averse. It's a stodgy, self-perpetuating, conventional wisdom driven world. It could use a little more, dare I say a great deal more, change.

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