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Women/Minorities in Media
Looks vs. Brains?
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If it Bleads, it Leads
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The News Business
Behind the Story Photo of News Director

She Didn't Fit in
Watch Video In LOCAL NEWS, reporter Beatrice Thompson is severed from her job at WCNC, sparking public protests. Though station management never disloses the source of their dissatisfaction with Thompson, community outrage does not change their decision. But whether WCNC acted with bias or not, Thompson's fate is hardly unique.

Statistics on ethnic inclusion in local television programming overall are disturbing. Despite the need of stations to broaden the scope of their coverage, ethnic minorities in 2001 held fewer than 25% of jobs in television, and women as a whole held 40%, according to a Radio-Television News Directors Association & Foundation (RTNDA) study.

Neither Do They
Women and Minorities in Media As the following statistics show, African American women are under-represented in all aspects of television, and Beatrice Thompson faces the additional disadvantage that she is older. According to a Screen Actors Guild study:
  1. Women consistently play one out of three roles in prime time television. Their representation increased only 3.5 percent since 1993.

  2. Seniors of both genders are greatly underrepresented and seem to be vanishing instead of increasing as in real life. As characters age they lose importance, value, and effectiveness. Mature women seem to be especially hard to cast -- and hard to take.

  3. People of color, the vast majority of humankind ... are 18.3 percent of the major network prime time cast.

One possible reason for this lack of representation is obvious. The television business is a male-dominated industry, with only 1.9% of television stations owned by women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the RTNDA, 92% of television news directors are Caucasian, and 80% of all news directors are men. The average number of minorities on staff is said to be at 8.6%, also according to the RTNDA.

Issues of inclusiveness will continue to surface in newsrooms until greater diversity is achieved. As LOCAL NEWS shows, however, it's not easy to have a productive dialogue about diversity in the newsroom -- or outside it.

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