Over the past couple of days, Media Matters for America has been rolling out an analysis of who gets booked on cable news shows, and comparing it to data from a similar month in 2008. The findings are discouraging. In May 2008, 57 percent of all guests on evening cable news were white men. In April 2013, that number’s risen to 58 percent.
The network-by-network numbers are revealing. At CNN, 55 percent of guests in May 2008 were white men, but in April 2013, 62 percent of the network’s booked guests were white men. On Fox, the percentage of white male guests rose from 56 percent in May 2008 to 60 percent in April 2013, and that rise might have been sharper if Sean Hannity hadn’t booked 22 non-white guests in a single evening to discuss Dr. Ben Carson’s remarks comparing homosexuality and sexual disorders like bestiality and pedophilia and the ensuing controversy over whether he should speak at commencement for the Johns Hopkins school of medicine. MSNBC is the only network where the percentage of guests who were white men declined, from 61 percent in May 2008 to 54 percent in April 2013:
Even on the MSNBC evening news, that increase in diversity is largely driven by two shows, Politics Nation, anchored by Al Sharpton, where 51 percent of the April 2013 guests were non-white or women, and All In, Chris Hayes’ show, which continues his tradition of booking white men in numbers close to their actual representation in the United States, and had a guest roster that was 41 percent white and male. Chris Matthews’ show Hardball had a guest roster that was 66 percent white and male in April 2013—81 percent of them, across both genders, were white, and 79 percent of them, across all races, were male. And 57 percent of Rachel Maddow’s guests in April 2013 were white men—89 percent of them, across both genders, were white, and 63 percent of them, across races, were men.
Hayes has made clear that the key to his success in diversifying his guest roster is relatively simple: a desire to do so, and a willingness to ask for recommendations for guests. If All In does well as it settles in to its slot, MSNBC might consider whether a long-term way to distinguish itself from a flailing CNN and a Fox News retrenching in the wake of the November elections, is to offer up viewers not just hosts with different opinions, but very different participants in the people they’re in conversation with.