Group: Lack of Diversity in Presidential Debate Moderators 'Unacceptable'

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Common Dreams

Group: Lack of Diversity in Presidential Debate Moderators 'Unacceptable'

"It is time to end this cyclical charade of treating equally deserving, equally capable journalists of color as if they are invisible, unqualified, or both."

by
Common Dreams staff

Two of the presidential debate moderators, Candy Crowley of CNN and Bob Schieffer of CBS.

The lack of any journalist of color moderating any of the presidential debates is "unacceptable," says an advocacy organization.

In a statement issued Friday, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) said the Commission on Presidential Debates has ignored the changing electorate.

The group said the commission has "failed to satisfy an important public interest given that racial and ethnic minorities will contribute roughly one quarter of the votes cast on Election Day" and has "minimized... the role of minority journalists in informing an increasingly diverse public."

Candy Crowley of CNN, Jim Lehrer of PBS and Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate the debates between President Obama and Gov. Romney while Martha Raddatz of ABC News will moderate the debate between Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan.

The full statement from the National Association of Black Journalists can be read below:

* * *

NABJ is disappointed that the journalists chosen to participate in the presidential debates don't reflect what has become the most diverse electorate in U.S. history.

While we commend the selection of the first woman moderator in 20 years, we find it unacceptable that no journalists of color will be involved. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which announced the selections this week, blamed the omission on "debate arithmetic." Frankly, the math doesn't add up.

There is no absence of qualified journalists of color, or those with experience as debate moderators, such as NABJ Hall of Fame member Gwen Ifill, of PBS.

By excluding journalists of color, the commission failed to satisfy an important public interest given that racial and ethnic minorities will contribute roughly one quarter of the votes cast on Election Day. Any credible analysis has shown that their turnout, or lack thereof, will be a decisive factor in the presidential contest. This year, both presidential campaigns and their parties are devoting more resources than ever to reaching non-white voters.

Yet the commission has minimized the significance of our nation's changing identity, as well as the role of minority journalists in informing an increasingly diverse public. We believe the commission wasted an opportunity to use its unique platform in a manner that encourages more citizens to participate in the democratic process.

"The commission had a chance to embrace the racial kaleidoscope that the American electorate is fast becoming, and chose instead to remain blind to it," Sonya Ross, chair of NABJ’s Political Journalism Task Force, said. "It is time to end this cyclical charade of treating equally deserving, equally capable journalists of color as if they are invisible, unqualified, or both. I would like to invite the commission, along with leading entities in political media, to join the task force in making a concerted effort to ensure a truly diverse set of presidential debate moderators for 2016."

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