The Hill Feature: Journalists of Color Must Have Seat At The Table
Is the lack of media diversity a serious national problem? Yes.
Can we do anything about it?
Yes, but only if those of us who truly want media diversity commit to doing more.
In Spring of 2016, we created the Multicultural Media Correspondents Dinner.
When the White House Correspondents Association, and its signature event, the White House Correspondents Dinner started over 100 years ago, it was trumpeted as a celebration of journalistic excellence for those select reporters tasked with covering the President of the United States.
To this elite group of journalists falls the awesome responsibility of examining and challenging the Administration and ensuring that the public had accurate — fair and balanced — reporting on activities shaping the republic and the world.
The WHCA and the dinner itself have remained faithful to its core principles even while becoming a high-profile and star-studded event.
However, as the country’s population has grown in ethnic diversity and more Americans are receiving news at a breakneck pace from social and new media, the WHCD has come to exemplify how the media continues to cling to a past that has declining relevance for the future. The elephant in the room — the lack of diversity and inclusion — detracts from what should be a celebration of truth and transparency.
Why does this matter?
This crucial reporting continues to be provided predominantly through a lens and mapping that lacks the broader perspective of journalists of color who possess the most sensitivity and proximity to racism, classism and other oppressive forces negatively impacting our society and world view.
As a result, trust in the media is at an all-time low among conservatives, liberals, and people of color alike. Furthermore, Millennials and Gen Xers, who are turned off by the lack of cultural diversity in media, are rejecting establishment media outlets in increasing numbers.
Further troubling is that this lack of diversity is playing out across the entire digital telecom and media landscape, which accounts for over 25 percent of the GDP and is responsible for shaping the larger social and cultural narrative.
The result is that the media continues to promote misrepresentations and cultural insensitivities that help to perpetuate sharp divisions and negative attitudes toward each other by different racial and socio-economic groups. Similarly, small independent and multicultural media stakeholders — distributors, programmers, journalists, content creators, advertisers, and talent – are struggling to survive and opportunities for new entrants are almost nonexistent.
Though great friends, Aaron is a proud Republican, and I am a proud Democrat.
However, we had both grown dismayed at the narrowed fields of vision from mainstream media helping to keep our country artificially divided.
We were similarly dismayed at seeing the negative impact technology transformation, and telecom and media consolidation were having on the already fragile small independent and multicultural media landscape.
Added to these threats were rushed efforts to implement a regulatory policy that failed to take into consideration the impact on needed diversity. Thus, we joined forces to do our part.
Though not directly in the media field, we felt that the affected stakeholders were too important to civic engagement and increasing cultural awareness to allow them to die.
In 2016, we founded the Multicultural Media Correspondents’ Dinner — MMCD. This somewhat daring notion was to create a new signature event, loosely modeled after the WHCD, with one distinct difference — we would recognize multicultural media luminaries and illuminate the need for diverse perspectives and greater representation across all media.
Like the WHCD, we wanted the event to be highly visible and compelling enough to entice corporations, celebrities, and other social influencers to join in the effort and resulting call to action.
To coordinate the MMCD with the highest level of integrity, we’ve worked to ensure balance and inclusion. We believe it’s crucial that the event is bipartisan, intergenerational, ethnically diverse, and gender-conscious, and our partnerships at every level reflect this.
No matter what our differences are, as we’ve focused on honoring individuals of color, we’ve zeroed in on two key traits among honorees: First, an unwavering commitment to personal excellence. Second, a demonstrated initiative to lift and help others, especially those within communities of color.
Fusing so many fundamental aspects together was no small task, but we’ve made it work.
At the end of the day, history is replete with unsung heroes and heroines in the multicultural media space. We only wish to create a platform for the world to hear their stories, and to say, “thank you.” We are profoundly grateful to all the people who have helped make the MMCD so incredible.
As we embark on our second year, we are hopeful that this will be a cornerstone and marquee event for many years to come. We invite you to lend your talents and your presence as we honor this year’s brightest luminaries.
David A. Morgan is managing partner of D. Morgan & Partners. Aaron T. Manaigo is managing partner of Global Political Solutions.