Chris Hayes on why 'diversity ... benefits the product'

Columbia Journalism Review | TVNewser | Media Matters

MSNBC’s Christopher Hayes acknowledges that the lack of diversity in the media is a problem. Instead of just talking about it, though, he’s doing something about it.

His weekend morning show "Up with Chris Hayes" has been praised in recent weeks for being “a beacon of diversity.” Hayes, who is about to move into prime-time, tells Columbia Journalism Review's Ann Friedman that he and the show's producers rely on quotas and spend a lot of time discussing the diversity of the show’s guests.

"We just would look at the board and say, ‘We already have too many white men. We can’t have more.’ Really, that was it ... Always, constantly just counting," Hayes tells Friedman.

He has tried to look at diversity from a racial and gender standpoint. "Out of four panelists on every show, he and his booking producers ensured that at least two were women," Friedman writes.

The topics on “Up with Chris Hayes” have also helped shape the show’s diversity.

“We had three Iraqis join us when we talked about the 10-year anniversary of the war. We did a full show about feminism. And so, part of it is that we weren’t talking about the Ryan budget every week. Often we were discussing topics on which there was a natural affinity between people of backgrounds different than the standard one that is often presented on television.”

Earlier this month, Media Matters found that “Up with Chris Hayes” is more diverse than any other Sunday morning talk show on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox. From the first week of January 2013 until March 10, Hayes’ show had the lowest percentages of white male guests (41 percent). The percentages for all the other talk shows ranged from 61 to 67 percent.

Hayes tells TVNewser's Gail Shister (who oddly refers to him as “a lifelong Caucasian”) that by having diverse guests, the show can highlight a range of voices and opinions.

“People’s opinions, interpretations of news, journalistic instincts, editorial concerns are the product of the people they are, the experiences they have, the way they move through the world. It’s why organizations, companies, the Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court benefit from diversity. … Diversity produces people with a specificity in their world view, and it benefits the product.”

Other networks could learn from what Hayes is doing. Seeking diverse sources and guests is an important step toward tackling the lack of diversity in the media. But change also needs to come from the top. As my colleague Eric Deggans recently wrote, when anchor jobs open up in cable news, people of color are too often left out.

Related: TV News too white? | CNN, MSNBC criticized over lack of diversity in recent reshuffles | BBC launches 'female expert database' to help its journalists diversify sources

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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