In 1998, I stepped into the Washington bureau of CNN. I was an intern. Back in the day, interns didn't sue employers for not getting paid but instead were grateful for the opportunity to do more than answer phones, check the fax machine, and get cafecito. I did that for one week and asked my supervisor for more of a challenge. He called me "uppity."
At the time, I was a woman in a hurry--a Ph.D. candidate who found out her parachute was a very different color than the Yale blue academic regalia she would don at convocation and graduation. Older than most of my intern crew, I had to get my high heels dirty and garner experience to convince a future news director to give me a job--¡my first besides folding sweaters at The Limited in high school!--in Midland, Texas.
I've been back at CNN several times for CNN en Español--at the DC bureau and headquarters in Atlanta to speak about Election 2012 and women's issues. But I never made it on regular CNN until this past November when guest host and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans invited me to be a guest on Reliable Sources--the CNN show devoted to media matters which I have been watching since my Texas reporting days.
Along with ThinkProgress.org's Alyssa Rosenberg (who is also another Yalie), we discussed the controversy around USA Today labeling The Best Man Holiday movie "race-based." Alyssa notes that if Best Man Holiday is "race-based", then so are ten movies not classified as such, including Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Do we classify these films as "wealthy white-privilege-themed"? Indeed, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander, no?
As Claytor Reports notes on my Facebook page, Best Man Holiday is about the daily things that affect most people not just the country but the world over--regardless of race and I would add ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Indeed, these values are universal and in the case of this film or the TV prime time drama Scandal on ABC, the lead characters are as multi-faceted as anyone else--with hopes, frailties, broken dreams, and struggles.
These characters, however, possess what I like to call, a +1 point of view. This perspective is diverse and mixed, a product of mingling with and marrying people from different backgrounds. My conclusion is not just anecdotal. It's a more representative view of our country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Virtually every day, turn on the TV, read your newspaper online, go to the movies and what you see spotlights how out of touch Hollywood and media are, but not because they don't read the census report. The whole lot of studio heads, directors, agents, and network executives walk around with their "eyes wide shut," failing to see the changes all around them. With media centered in Los Angeles and New York City, two incredibly diverse, specifically Latino cities, the lack of diversity at the highest levels is more than an oversight. It's insight into a retro and myopic world that shapes the way our country is viewed.
The lack of diverse representation in Hollywood and media's top ranks hurts the bottom line. An off headline such as USA Today's Best Man Holiday blunder or the absence of a Latina host on The View generates the response:
Huh?/¿qué qué? They just don't "get it."
Thanks to our fragmented media word, we can click the remote or our smartphone to go to one of the ba-zillion sites that do get it. This is one business practice that eventually is bad for business.
The solution includes creating pipeline programs that recruit, retain, and promote diverse talent--easy fixes. Some are in place thanks to the continuous advocacy and efforts of organizations such as the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.
But it will take a Hercules. More than a powerful person in a position of power, change requires a champion and a believer to reign in the clacking chorus.
I can think of some "Hercules" in Hollywood who can hire and promote diverse talent.
They have the power but do they have the will?
Click below to watch my first appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources which aired on Sunday, November 24, 2013.Can you name some "Hercules" in Hollywood who have the power to hire and promote diverse talent? If so, please list them.