Cable News Is Pale, Male, and Stale

What Women Really Think
May 14 2013 1:30 PM

Cable News Is Pale, Male, and Stale

When Media Matters counted all the guests to appear on 13 cable evening news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox in April 2013, their mission was to chronicle what the face of an “expert” looks like. It turns out it looks disproportionately white and male: Caucasian men made up 58 percent of cable news guests, although they are only 31 percent of the population. This problem persisted across the networks. CNN had the biggest diversity issue—62 percent of its guests were white men—but MSNBC did only slightly better, inviting white, male guests 54 percent of the time. 

The researchers broke down the results by show. On all 13 programs, male guests outnumbered women. On 12 of the 13 shows, white people were overrepresented. All In with Chris Hayes was the only exception. According to the Census, non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the population, and they were 59 percent of Hayes' guests. Hayes did better than his competitors and colleagues on gender diversity as well, with 41 percent of his guests being women. (On that front, Rachel Maddow was his closest competitor, bringing in 37 percent female guests.) God only knows how much worse it would be if reproductive rights weren’t constantly demanding media attention.  

The white maleness of the cable news circuit creates a self-perpetuating cycle. When most of the “expert” faces we see are white and male, white maleness gets associated with the concept of expertise. This, in turn, makes it harder for the producers of the shows to strive for diversity. Consciously or unconsciously, the people who book guests may worry that if they don’t deliver enough white male faces, audiences won’t perceive their shows as expert-heavy. So they bring on more white men, continuing the process by which white maleness and expertise are strongly, and wrongly, associated. 

One way for producers to throw a wrench into this cycle is to set diversity as a deliberate goal. It also helps to cover more stories that hold special significance for women and people of color. But the real trick to it may just be thinking of women and people of color as potential experts on all sorts of issues—on tax rates, congressional budgets and foreign policy, for instance, as well as on poverty, racism, and reproductive rights. If cable news leads the way, the imagined link between white maleness and expertise can be broken. 

 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:03 PM Kern Your Enthusiasm: The Ubiquity of Gotham
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.