Daytime’s Other Drama

Despite its popularity with black audiences, daytime television discounts black talent in front of, and behind, the camera. These industry insiders are pushing for change.

the Restless has never employed a black writer. Rowell says there is a loyalty factor. “There are writers who have been affiliated with the show since the beginning … which was 32 years ago.” Rowell got the chance to write for the Viacom/CBS series Diagnosis Murder, on which she co-starred with Dick Van Dyke for eight seasons.

Recently, CBS and ABC received AFTRA’s American Scene Crystal Award for their talent, writing, and director development programs. “While we won’t know [how effective they were] until the final numbers come in at the end of the year, still, these programs are bringing more minorities into the business,” says Bradford, noting that FOX and NBC have similar programs but not of the same scope as CBS and ABC.

SAME OLD NEWS
In gauging television employment, one has to look at more than just numbers. For instance, with respect to news programs, there are more African American broadcast journalists but most are still hired as field reporters, not anchors, editors, or producers.

According to the latest survey by the Radio-Television News Directors Association/Ball State University Annual Survey, African Americans constitute 10.3% of the workforce in television newsrooms, up from 8.4% in 2003. At the same time, there was a significant jump in African American news directors, to 3.2% from 0.9%. Overall, the proportion of minority general news managers doubled from 3.6% to 7.4%. Still, much of the growth can be attributed to independents and small stations.

“Sadly, when it comes to news, news specials, television news magazines, and Sunday talking heads shows, none of
the networks or the cable news options are doing exceedingly well with diversity or equal opportunity either in front of or behind the camera,” says NAACP’s Mfume. “Show anchors, guests, reporters, and so-called ‘experts on the subject’ continue to be overwhelmingly white.”

In the very white- and male-dominated American newsroom, staying on the sidelines is a surefire way for African Americans to stay invisible, says Adrienne M. Wheeler, Inside Edition’s first and only black managing editor. “I don’t take crap from anybody. It is not a matter of sitting by the door and keeping quiet.” Wheeler says she pushes regularly to include more “talking heads” or experts of color, and that other network producers even look to her for African American authorities.

Inside Edition first aired in 1988. Along with Hard Copy and A Current Affair, it was one of the earlier alternative news shows to be carried nationwide. Wheeler joined the team in 2003, having previously worked as special producer on CBS’ The Early Show. She served as executive producer for Geraldo Rivera’s talk show and as a producer for The Phil Donahue Show, where she was nominated four times by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Wheeler has hundreds of stories for the show that airs daily. “I’ve made my white counterparts and management people above me [become] more conscious of how they present people of color in the news,” explains Wheeler. There are five reporters, 12 producers and associate producers, eight story coordinators, and

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