Sunday, July 28, 2013

White House press corps overwhelmingly white, 'noticeable drop' in number of black journalists covering Obama after 2008 election, BET and Jet covered campaign trail but don't have permanent WH correspondent. Not so historic after all

This article doesn't say how many blacks regularly report from the White House, just that "seven are African American or Asian American." That could mean no blacks, 2 from China, 1 from Korea, and 4 from Qatar.

7/25/13, "The Obama Media Pool Lacks Racial Depth," Washington Post, Paul Fahri

"Of the 53 correspondents who regularly report from the White House, seven are African American or Asian American, according to head counts by a dozen White House correspondents, journalism organizations and other sources (figures on other minorities aren’t available)....

The numbers haven’t budged over decades, and may in fact have declined over time, according to George Condon, a National Journal reporter who has been researching the history of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), a group that represents reporters in coverage-related issues with the administration. One measure of the group’s minimal diversity: Only three African Americans have ever served on the WHCA’s board during its 99-year history, Condon said.

Given the symbolic nature of the job, the largely unchanging face of the White House media pool has long been a disappointment to organizations that represent minority journalists. In a somewhat ironic twist, “there was a noticeable drop” in the number of black journalists covering Obama after his first election in 2008, said Gregory Lee, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists. The current situation, he said, “simply does not reflect the America we see changing on a daily basis.”...

 p. 2, Richard Prince, who writes Journal-isms, a blog about diversity issues in the news media, says the complexion of the White House press corps is important because of the subtle but important role journalists play in shaping the president’s agenda. “The White House is quite conscious of which reporters are present, and the president tailors his conduct accordingly,” says Prince. “He knows that so-and-so is likely to ask a question about a given topic. [So] having more people of color in the room means more opportunities for the president to be asked about topics of particular concern to those constituents.”...

During the Carter administration, she said, newspapers aimed at African American readers, such as the Chicago Defender and Amsterdam News, employed regular White House correspondents. But these publications have pulled back. Similarly, “black” news organizations such as BET and Jet, which covered Obama on the campaign trail, haven’t made a permanent commitment.

Kumar notes that such a manpower investment might not yield much since new arrivals literally take a back seat in the White House press room and thus rarely have a chance to ask questions during news briefings. In a rigidly hierarchical structure, the reporters who sit in the first two rows of the seven-row room tend to get called on the most by the press secretary or the president. Those seats are reserved for reporters from the biggest and oldest news organizations, primarily the TV networks and major newspapers, including The Washington Post."


Comment: Why would the media feel it important to elect a black president but not feel it important to have many black people in the White House press corps reporting on him? It really isn't so historic after all. Maybe it would embarrass the media for the world to find out about their rigid hierarchy. A new black reporter would have to sit in the back row, the "back of the bus," with other new reporters, as the last paragraph above says.


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