By George Daniels | July 28th, 2009
As a member of SPJ’s Diversity Committee, I’ve waited patiently for my turn to do postings in this space, designed to remind readers of our Society’s commitment to diversity.
Ironically, my updates coincide with a period of what some might call intense focus on race in media as CNN’s Black in America 2 documentary premiered last week and a two-hour panel discussion “Black in America 2: Reclaiming Dream” airs this weekend. At the same time, we had the recent controversay involving Cambridge (Mass.) Police and a Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Newspapers like The Baltimore Sun have written about Black in America 2.
Local viewing and discussion
Recently, I not only watched the production, but hosted two viewing parties and roundtable discussions on the campus of the University of Alabama.
After each discussion, I produced an iReport, a video update posted to CNN’s citizen journalism Web site.
The report from the first installment even sparked a conversation last week with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.
So, an important outcome of CNN’s Black in America and Black in America 2 is the conversations that have continued even into this week.
The first installment
More than a year ago, the Turner-owned cable network decided to make a franchise out of “covering the undercovered.” Management at CNN announced that they would spend a year gathering content reflecting the “black experience.” The result was “Black in America,” which aired last July. It was touted as an unprecedented, multi-platform” examination of what it’s like to be Black in America.
Since that original premiere in July 2008, we’ve had the election of an African-American as president. Also, CNN crews went back out in the field to focus on solutions to many of the problems showcased in the 2008 documentary.
The result was another two-part production, four hours of television, Black in America 2.
But, CNN isn’t done. All summer, it has been running regularly-occurring on African American-oriented news called “Making a Difference,” part of partnership between the cable network and Essence Magazine.
And, in October, Latino in America will premiere.
So, this coverage of race has become a franchise for CNN. I’m not implying there is anything wrong with that.
But, it’s an interesting observation to make as we in SPJ remind journalists (and those learning about journalism) of the importance of incorporating diversity in their work.
If diversity is the right thing (i.e. the ethical thing) to do, CNN is doing a lot that is right.