On Russert

Racialicious notes, without comment, this piece from the WSJ Opinion page, written by Bernard Goldberg. Russert is quoted by Goldberg as saying this:

I am for having women in the newsroom and minorities in the newsroom — I’m all for it. It opens up our eyes and gives us different perspectives. But just as well, let’s have people with military experience; let’s have people from all walks of life, people from the top-echelon schools but also people from junior colleges and the so-called middling schools — that’s the pageantry of America . . . You need cultural diversity, you need ideological diversity. You need it.
It goes without saying that I agree with the sentiment. I have to admit, though, that my gut impression of Meet the Press is that it didn't hold to this ideal at all, that I remember it as a pretty diversity-free zone. But I'm not what you would call a regular watcher of the show, so rather than simply barf all over the page, I figured I'd look at the transcripts to see if I was right.

I'll give Russert this much--the show was a bit more racially and gender-diverse than I thought it was. I looked at the guest list from his last show back through the beginning of April, looking really only at gender and white vs. non-white, and here's what I found. Russert had 47 guests on over that period--and I counted repeats for each time they appeared on the show, since I'm looking at diversity per show--and of those 47, 36 were men and 11 were women. In terms of race, 38 were white, and 9 were non-white.

Could Russert have done better on gender? Certainly, considering that better than half the world's population are women, but he did better than I expected. I had the same reaction on the racial breakdown--better than I thought it would be. But the numbers can be a little deceiving. Only two women of color appeared on the show--Gwen Ifill and Michele Norris who both appeared twice--making them by far the least represented group. And needless to say, there were no Latino/as, no Asians, no members of any other group so far as I could tell. (Obviously, I don't know the detailed bios of every person on the list, so I'm making some assumptions based on pictures and limited information.)

There didn't seem to be much economic diversity on the show--pretty much everyone who showed up is a member of the professional class. Certainly they may have come from humble beginnings, but once you reach that level, you're not generally living on the shabby side of town.

There wasn't a wide range of ideological views either, at first glance. Russert had Ralph Nader on at the end of February (which was outside the range I chose), but he was certainly the exception rather than the rule, More often the shows range ran from someone like Jim Webb, a moderate to progressive Democrat, to Mike Huckabee, a pretty hard-core conservative.

So Russert at least seemed to be trying, even if he didn't get it completely right. I'm glad I looked at this, because it changes my opinion of him as a journalist a bit.

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