Diversity FAIL: In The History Of “Today Show” Anchors, Where Are The Black Girls?

July 18, 2012  |  

 

With their ratings sliding for the first time in 17 years, it’s time the “Today” Show joined its competition in adding a black female co-host.

Now is the perfect time to do it.

As Fox pointed out:

“Today” had been the undisputed morning champ in the ratings since 1995 until this spring, when a resurgent “GMA” snapped NBC’s winning streak by seizing the top spot several times.

Just last week, during Savannah’s first turn as the “Today” Show co-host, “Good Morning America” had the largest ratings lead over “Today” in more than 17 years, while extending its top-ranked status to three consecutive weeks.

There are plenty of reasons why “Today” has lost its edge. However, while their top brass is undoubtedly scrambling to make adjustments in an effort to place the show back on top, I hope they will seriously consider adding a black woman to the morning show.

When Savannah was promoted to co-anchor alongside Matt Lauer, she left her 9am spot open and many are speculating that Tamron Hall or Hoda Kobt may fill it.

It’s unlikely they would move Hoda to an earlier time slot considering that would leave a gaping hole next to Kathie Lee. That leaves Tamron to be the center of speculation. I don’t necessarily want that move for her because she has such a good gig right now. Plus, NBC shouldn’t just move one black person around to look like it has diverse talent on staff instead of hiring more black people and actually having diverse talent on staff. Like, electing Barack Obama to POTUS meant not having a single Black Senator in United States Congress, moving Tamron to mornings would mean the only other Black female on the network all day would be Hoda at 10am. Tamron certainly wouldn’t be a poor choice, but surely the network has more than two black women to choose from. If not, I’m fairly certain the National Association of Black Journalists could pass along some names and reels.

If moving Tamron or Hoda are the only options then I hope they go for it. The paucity of African-American co-anchors in The Today Show’s history is astounding. As far as black women are concerned? They’re utterly non-existent.

Back in 1974, Barbara Walters became the show’s first female co-host and the first female co-equal on a network TV news program. After her, there has been Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville, Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry and now Savannah Guthrie. To their credit, The Today Show has hired black men. They have Al Roker on weather and Bryant Gumbel was an anchor for years. But where are the black women?

The show certainly has black women in their audience, so why they can’t have a black woman on the air?

Seriously, is anyone else shocked that in the nearly 40 years since Barbara Walters broke into the all-boys club, The Today Show has never once hired a black woman? Not. Once. What persistent belief could be permeating that place that would allow this to be the case after all of these years? For those that want to mention ratings, I take offense to the thought that black women can’t bring eyes to a show. Oprah is still the most famous talk show host in the nation and she is black as can be. Look at Robin Roberts on ABC’s “Good Morning America” or Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.” People will watch a news show when a black woman is the anchor. The Today Show just hasn’t tried it.  Their ratings are down anyway, so now is as good a time as ever. Maybe the executives don’t believe that a black woman would be a boost to the show, I say there is no reason to believe a black woman wouldn’t be a boost. They won’t know if they never hire one.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who think the absence of black women from “Today’s” history of anchors is not a big deal. It is, after all, just a morning show. But, to me, consistently neglecting to hire black women when there are scores of qualified black women for the job is always a big deal.

What do you think? Do you think The “Today” Show should hire a black woman?

Alissa Henry is a writer living in Columbus, OH with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaInPink

 

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