As a young girl, I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a news anchor. While most kids were watching cartoons, I was glued to the local news at 5, 6, and 10 p.m. I knew every anchor’s name, what techniques they used to report the news, and paid close attention to the people that trusted my family to get the information of the day.
Our family was more inclined to show allegiance to the ABC affiliate in Dallas, and looking back, I can’t be more grateful that they did. I list the names of the anchors I remember carrying through my childhood – John McCaa, Gloria Campos, Renee San Miguel, and Rene Syler – and it takes me about four or five tries to think of an anchor who was not a woman or a person of color.
As I grew up though, I realized that I was the exception and not the rule. Those were different times and that was a different place. It’s not as common to see diversity in news media, but it’s more important to see just that with the headlines dominating our culture, especially in a tense political climate.
A lack of diversity, among other things, builds mistrust between the American people seeking representation and the institution trusted with telling their story. Jelani Cobb describes this mistrust in her opinion article for the Guardian in 2018, writing “This is a crisis of democracy, since the press’s role as a guardian of democracy is founded upon the trust of the public. But at least some portion of that distrust is a product of people who rarely see themselves or their stories depicted in the media they consume. A great deal must be done to rebuild public trust. But it can begin by including the voices of all Americans. The press, tasked with protecting American democracy, is best secured by reflecting the American people.”
It’s hard to find an accurate reflection amongst the American people when men, particularly Caucasians, still dominate the nightly news and Sunday morning news programs. Of the major networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – only CBS meets an acceptable diversity requirement, with women hosting both the CBS Evening News (hosted by Norah O’Donnell) and Face the Nation (led by Margaret Brennan, who took over for O’Donnell when she moved to her new position). NBC trails behind with a person of color – Lester Holt – at the nightly news desk, while white men are reporting the majority of the news at ABC. Cable networks seem to fare better, as MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon are all members of the LGBT community.
Until every American can see themselves in positions of trust and authority – positions that networks pride themselves on being – it’s hard to be able to say there’s accurate representation in news media.
At least I’ll always have the memories of Dallas, Texas.