Diversity: Good for Business, Good for Media

We’re going to see what feels like an onslaught of people of color on our new fall TV shows. It’ll feel like an onslaught because there have been so shockingly few shows featuring people of color. But ABC, in particular, has what seems to me like the most diverse slate of new offerings ever to come from one major network in one season: Blackish, How to Get Away With Murder, Cristela, Fresh Off the Boat This is apparently the result of years of effort poured into the network’s Diversity Showcase, which finds and mentors actors of color, then puts them right in front of industry types to get them jobs. It’s even more directly the result of ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee asking showrunners for their “passion projects,” which, no shock, happen to directly represent their own lives, in all their “diverse” glory. This fall, we’ll also see the first black co-anchor on Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update,” Michael Che; in January, we’ll see Larry Wilmore “take over” Stephen Colbert’s timeslot on Comedy Central with Minority Report.

This is all a great start, but there’s more work to be done, of course. Just as President Obama’s election doesn’t mean racism is dead, neither does this one TV season. (After all, we’ve gone through phases before, most notably in the 1970s and the post-Cosby ’80s, when we saw several all-black shows on the air, only to disappear once again.) In broader media, in particular, diversity problems still loom large. A new survey shows the vast majority of black and Hispanic news consumers don’t trust mainstream news sources to cover their communities accurately. It seems like the most obvious first step toward eradicating that likely well-founded doubt is hiring more people of color to cover these issues.

The same goes for women in media. Even though we’ve made great strides in female representation on TV, another recent study shows that women are still way behind, what with being 50 percent of the population and all. A heartfelt tirade from ESPN reporter Hannah Storm on the Ray Rice debacle spoke to something else: This is why we need women covering sports, and everything else. Because they can lend the perspective needed to understand issues that seem to broadside white men of privilege:

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