Just in case you were under the assumption “we don’t need feminism anymore”: today brings us an analysis study by Media Matters For America about the demographics of the Sunday morning talk shows during 2013.
You’ll be shocked, shocked to know that white men are still the most common guests for seven of the shows studied.
During the time period of January 6 to December 29, Media Matters watched Sunday programs which specifically focus on politics: “Meet The Press With David Gregory” on NBC, “Melissa Harris-Perry” and “Up With Steve Kornacki” on MSNBC, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on ABC, “State Of The Union With Candy Crowley” on CNN, “Face The Nation With Bob Schieffer” on CBS, and “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace” on FOX. Each guest was counted and their gender and race/ethnicity was noted.
White men were the largest proportion of guests on every show, even ones which were otherwise diverse. White male guests actually dwarfed all other demographic groups on four networks: ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS. Additionally, on shows which featured one-on-one interviews, white men were the most common solo guest on every show but “MHP.” (“Up With Steve Kornacki” was not included, presumably because it does not do one-on-one interviews?)
This data should come as a surprise to no one who watches Melissa Harris-Perry’s thoughtful and important talk show, but her guest lineup is by far the most diverse. Although white men were the most common guest (at 27 percent), that was followed very close behind with a large portion of African-American women guests (26 percent). Additionally on “MHP,” she featured the highest number of African-American men (20 percent) on all the shows.
Latino/as, Asian Americans and Middle Eastern guests of both genders were woefully underrepresented in comparison on all shows. Several shows never had a Middle Eastern female guest at all. And I can’t tell because the chart is so teeny-tiny, but it looks as if “Fox News Sunday” did not ever have an African-American woman as a guest for the whole of 2013. Yikes.
So, let’s contexualize this a little bit. The “pale, male and stale”-ness of the morning talk shows is partially a pipeline problem. When white men are considered the thought leaders on most subjects, especially politics, they will be the group that producers call when booking a segment. As the Media Matters study shows, the top 10 solo guests were all men and only one was a person of color (Senator Ted Cruz, who is Latino). This top 10 list is filled with Senators, Representatives, the White House Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State. If we want women’s voices heard as thought leaders on these shows, women need to be elected or appointed for these roles in the first place.
If you are a progressive woman interested in becoming a thought leader (someone considered an expert by the media), I heartily suggest checking out the Progressive Women’s Voices training put together by the Women’s Media Center. PWV trains a diverse group of women to be media spokespersons in print and on TV, which includes learning how to pitch their ideas and how to speak in TV interviews. You can find out more about it here.
Additionally, the Women’s Media Center also has a resource called SheSource, a “brain trust” of female experts for producers and journalists. I’ve used it myself and it’s a fantastic resource.
[Image of a nerd via Shutterstock]