But Older White Men Are ‘Newsmakers’!

A new study of the guest lists for the Sunday morning chat shows finds that the networks prefer lawmaker guests who are white, male, older and Republican. The study was publishedby the George Mason University School of Law’s Green Bag Journal, and got a brief write-up in the New York Times today (9/13/10).

And that means we got to hear excuses from the shows about why this is the case. Meet the Press executive producer Betsy Fischer spoke about how they are “committed to having a diverse group of voices on the program whose opinions and expertise reflect the cultural, economic and political landscape of our country.” (The war in Afghanistan is just one area where they seem less interested in diverse voices.)

ABC‘s This Week offered another defense:

“We are always looking to represent diverse views on our program, but This Week is a news program and so our bookings are dictated by the news and newsmakers,” said Ian Cameron, the executive producer of This Week on ABC.

The period covered by the study in 2009 was “dominated by three issues in Congress: healthcare, the economy and Afghanistan,” Mr. Cameron said. “If you take a look at the committees who were most involved in these issues, most of the members both in the House and the Senate with the most seniority were white and mostly men.”

At the risk ofcompletely questioning the premise ofthe Sunday show format, maybe hosting weekly chats with prominent politicians is nota particularly great way of illuminating the vital issues of the day. It does give the major parties a platform from which to spout their talking points, which is really what the the producers are defending here as their way of doing journalism.

Speaking of Sunday shows, don’t miss FAIR’s study of the partisan guests on these programs, which appears in the new issue of Extra!. Using the VoteView scores of lawmaker guests, FAIR found that the Republicans who most frequently appear on the networks tend to be from the conservative wing of their party; the Democrats invited on the same shows are closer the middle.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.