If you’re tuning in regularly to watch your favorite black voices on CNN, they won’t be on the air much longer.
CNN is parting ways with long-established voices of Soledad O’Brien and Roland Martin and the network may also be planning to say goodbye to Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and CNN’s only African American female commentator.
In addition, Mark Whitaker, executive vice president and managing editor of CNN, who is also black, left the network in January.
The move by CNN to eliminate these high-profile black personalities while hiring three white commentators around the same time has resulted in frustration among black journalists and led to a meeting with Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN Worldwide, and members of The National Association of Black Journalists.
“With O’Brien’s departure, Suzanne Malveaux will be the only black weekday anchor. On the weekends there are [Fredricka] Whitfield, Don Lemon, and Victor Blackwell. [Isha Sesay anchors part of “Anderson Cooper 360,” and Lisa Sylvester does news updates for “The Situation Room,” Richard Prince wrote in his diversity column, “Journal-isms.”
And, according to CNN, the network recently hired Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo from ABC and Rachel Nichols from ESPN – all of whom are white.
Martin’s contract with CNN ends on April 8 and there are many African American journalists who feel that CNN is rapidly losing authentic black commentators to voice concerns of African Americans and speak about critical social issues from a black perspective.
Still, there is speculation that CNN could soon hire other black commentators like Van Jones, a former Obama administration official, Cornell Belcher, President Obama’s pollster during the presidential campaign, and Charles Blow, a columnist with The New York Times.
But here’s some good news: Even though CNN may be losing several black commentators, O’Brien will still produce her “Black in America” documentaries for CNN — and perhaps other networks — through her new production company.
“There’s so many great stories to tell,” O’Brien told The New York Times.
The decision to retain O’Brien’s services for more “Black in America” documentary films is important to note because O’Brien is the only anchorwoman telling compelling stories about people of color in a long-form format on national television.
O’Brien’s mother is Afro-Cuban and her father is Australian so she understands the concerns of African Americans and Latinos and seems committed to telling their stories. O’Brien said she would also like to pitch a “Poverty in America” documentary.
“We can take some of the discussions around these issues and carry them to new audiences,” O’Brien told the Times.
I’m sure many African Americans would value more documentaries about people of color, but in the meantime, beginning in the spring, you won’t see O’Brien on her early-morning show, “Starting Point” anymore.
O’Brien said her show never got the support it deserved from CNN and the program only pulled in 234,000 viewers on an average day.
“We greatly value Soledad’s experience, and her first-rate storytelling will continue to be an asset to CNN,” Zucker said in a statement. “Documentaries and long-form story telling are important to our brand and we’re anticipating more of what we’ve come to expect from her — riveting content.”
O’Brien’s morning show on CNN has been cancelled but her desire to share captivating stories about African Americans may live on through her documentary films.
What do you think? With the changes at CNN, will you continue to tune in?
(Photos: Retna, PRPhotos)