CNN, NABJ Go to War Over Diversity and Roland Martin

CNN Logo and Roland Martin (Credit: CNN and Deposit Photos)

The National Association of Black Journalists has taken aim at CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, for what the group says is a lack of diversity in the network’s top leadership ranks.

“The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is concerned about the lack of black representation within the ranks of CNN’s executive news managers and direct reports to CNN President Jeff Zucker,” the group said this week in a press release.

As a result of its concerns and “Zucker’s refusal to meet with a four-person NABJ delegation,” NABJ announced it was placing CNN on a “special media monitoring list.”

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On Wednesday night (March 6), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined the journalism group in criticizing CNN.

“NAACP finds it offensive that CNN President Jeff Zucker refuses to address this issue. We are far beyond the point of accepting simple visibility as an instance of true diversity,” the NAACP said in a statement. “For major corporations like CNN and its parent company, WarnerMedia, diversifying the media landscape must become a part of a company’s corporate responsibility rather than always as a response to intolerance and implicit bias.”

NABJ has said it has a four-person delegation that already met or scheduled meetings with other news organizations about diversity, including Fox News, CBS, NBC and ABC.

“The delegation requesting a meeting with Zucker includes President Sarah Glover, Vice President-Digital Roland Martin, Vice President- Broadcast Dorothy Tucker and Executive Director Drew Berry,” the group noted.

CNN responded by saying it’s willing to sit down with NABJ, as long as Roland Martin doesn’t have a seat at the table.

“For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us,” the cable news net said in a statement to Urban Hollywood 411. “As we have told them many times, we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about how both of our organizations can continue to work together.”

The statement went on to say any meeting that included Martin — who previously worked for CNN and co-hosted its 2016 Democratic presidential town hall on behalf of TV One — would be “untenable.”

“Unfortunately, the significant and reckless damage that Roland Martin did to CNN while partnering with us during a 2016 Democratic Town Hall has made any meeting that includes him untenable,” the statement said.

It continued: “Mr. Martin displayed an unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity by leaking questions prior to the town hall. As a result, we have told NABJ that CNN will not participate in any meeting that includes him. We have made it abundantly clear that we would be more than happy to sit down with the rest of their leadership team as soon as possible, and that offer still stands.”

CNN was referring to the town hall featuring Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, in which then-CNN contributor and former Democratic National Committee chair, Donna Brazile, passed along a prepared question to the Clinton campaign.

In an essay published by Time, Brazile admitted she inadvertently disclosed a town hall topic to the Clinton camp that was part of Martin’s research inquiry for the event. Martin denied sharing the question to Brazile.

Martin, a host and author, previously spent six years at CNN as an on-air commentator until the network declined to renew his contract in 2013. That same year, NABJ named him “Journalist of the Year” for his coverage of voter suppression and other issues affecting African Americans, according to his website.