Chris Hayes Awesomely Gives a Shit About Diversity


The guest lists of TV news shows have long been dominated by white men. From ABC’s This Week to CBS’ Face the Nation, opinions on the day’s events are largely created, dictated, and debated by white dudes. It’s so much fun for everyone, but mainly (exclusively) for white guys.

Media Matters examined the guests from January 7 to March 10 on Sunday morning news shows, and found that every show — with the exception of one (we’ll get to that) — featured between sixty-one and sixty-six percent white male guests. That’s a lot of white males! Especially considering that according to the most recent U.S. Census data, white men make up roughly thirty-nine percent of the U.S. population. Ruh roh, that’s a pretty large gap between the reality of the United States, and the reality of what’s broadcast into our homes as the reality of the United States.

However, there’s one show that’s mixing it up, and that’s Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show, Up with Chris Hayes. During that same period of time, the percentage of white male guests on Up was forty-one percent. Reminder: Thirty-nine percent of the people in the United States are white men. That’s more like it.

Media Matters goes deeper:

Further, Up with Chris Hayes has more than double the proportion of African-American guests — 21 percent — as compared to each of the other programs. In all, 34 percent of guests on Up with Chris Hayes are non-white. Hayes also hosts more women — 37 percent — than any of the other networks’ shows.

For my money (I have none, but still), Up also happens to be the most entertaining show in the category. It’s engaging, the guests are usually brilliant and often an unexpected delight, and the debate is rigorous without being tedious. It’s a great show.

Ann Friedman at Columbia Journalism Review reports on why Hayes has such success in representing a more true-to-life America on his show, even though white men are the only people with opinions worth sharing.

“We just would look at the board and say, ‘We already have too many white men. We can’t have more.’ Really, that was it,” Hayes says. “Always, constantly just counting. Monitoring the diversity of the guests along gender lines, and along race and ethnicity lines.” Out of four panelists on every show, he and his booking producers ensured that at least two were women. “A general rule is if there are four people sitting at table, only two of them can be white men,” he says. “Often it would be less than that.”

Ah ha, quotas! The blessed quotas! Those things work — and they work well. And to anyone who says that’s “unfair” — do you want to know what is more unfair? The dozens of years when the quota called for almost exclusively white men.

Hayes continues:

“You have to say, ‘We give ourselves this rule,’ and that’s going to force us to just be more resourceful,” Hayes says. “Because I genuinely don’t think there’s another way to do it. If you don’t do that then the inertia and the tide are so strong, unless you are committed as a priority to actively fight against it, you’re going to end up reproducing what everyone else does.”

Excitingly, Up! is transitioning from two shows a week to once a day starting in April, and even better, they’re taking their diversity goals with them. It’ll be interesting to see what they can pull off with their new higher demands.

The only downside is that since the show is no longer on Sunday mornings, there’s no longer an excuse to forsake the outdoors because there’s “educational” television on. Ugh.

[Columbia Journalism Review]

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