I wrote this in preparation to join Pete Dominick on his podcast today to talk about the need to schedule a daily prime time show. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that Joy Reid would finally take over Chris Matthews’s 7pm slot on MSNBC. Nothing is official right now. So Pete and I continued the discussion and I am posting this:
How television should look every day
My friend Pete Dominick and I hit the same drum over and over on social media and on his podcast: It’s time – it’s long overdue – that MSNBC and CNN immediately dedicate at least one daily show to the voices of Africa -Americans and others Communities ignored for too long. There are many reasons:
The most important story in this nation is racism and its unending effects. That’s reason for a show.
This fall’s elections – the most critical election in more than a century – will be dominated by these voters, led by African-American women. They cannot be taken for granted by Democrats, Liberal voters, candidates, or cable news. You and your problems need to be heard. That’s reason for a show.
The lack of representation in American newsrooms – print, broadcast, online – is chronic and criminal and reparations must be made. That’s reason for a show.
The public has not heard the voices of black Americans for too long, and therefore the deadly danger of living black and the story of police violence and murder comes as a surprise to no African American and too many white Americans. That’s reason for a show.
Brilliant voices in politics, civil society, education, science, art and all areas of society are Black and Latino, LGBTQ, the disabled, immigrants and Muslims. That’s the best reason for a lot of shows.
Pete has urged both MSNBC and CNN to do better because he is watching and appearing on both of them.
Here I will focus on MSNBC because I see it almost every waking hour now. I will also focus on black voices because their problems are urgent. The network has a group of brilliant African Americans up in the air, led by Joy Reid, whose show is better than any other at finding and booking people who can’t be seen elsewhere.
But they’re all banned too often to weekends, odd hours, and guest recordings when they’re supposed to have the meaning and respect of a home in prime time. The moment Chris Matthews left his time slot at 7 p.m., I expected MSNBC to give that time to a black host: Joy Reid. I can’t understand why the network didn’t do that right away.
I am not suggesting that a host will solve the problem. The weight of representing this large part of America, telling awkward truths, having awkward conversations shouldn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. This effort should bring many of the voices MSNBC already has – and many new voices – into a single show and many shows.
Let me just name a few of the names that are on top of MSNBC Joy Reid: Tiffany Cross. Eddie Glaude Jr. Maya Wiley. Yamiche Alcindor. Karine Jean-Pierre. Jonathan Capehart. Trymaine Lee. Al Sharpton. Malcolm Nance. Rashad Robinson. Eugene Robinson. Eugene Scott. Shermichael Singleton. Joshua Johnson. And where the hell have Jason Johnson and Elie Mystal been? Now is the time to hear their sharp voices.
A combination of these people on at least one show a day, seven days a week – and then on every show on the network (from 8 a.m., please) – would be a start.
Now that television learns that anyone can watch TV from home through a webcam, there is no longer any excuse to rely on the short list of a booker who already knows the network well and who will put on a suit and into one Studio can go hour. Now television can reach and hear from new people everywhere who represent the end of different communities. The goal should be to radically diversify the voices heard.
And goals should be set. At the instigation of on-air presenter Ros Atkins, the BBC launched its 5050 Equality Project, which ran shows to measure their performance in broadcasting women for the purpose of equality with the population: 50 percent. At Newmark J-School, we joined the project and will bring further diversity measures into the procurement that we teach our students. I would hope MSNBC and CNN would set their own goals.
I also hope that they are ready to be held accountable for these goals. I would like to see the networks publish lists of their paid contributors and guests. I would love to see them get so damn good at newspapers across the country doing the same.
Now is the time. It’s long gone