Discuss: Roland Martin Sez Obama Needs to Diversify His Press Office

From CNN:

I got an e-mail Tuesday listing all of the various press folks and contact information, and hardly any African-Americans or Hispanics were listed. Granted, the deputy press secretary is African-American and the director of broadcast media is Hispanic. That’s not sufficient.

Unfortunately, this shouldn’t come as a shock, because the campaign press staff of then-Sen. Barack Obama was just as weak on diversity.

Just because there is a black president doesn’t mean that issues like diversity should be cast aside. President Obama should be held to the same standard when it comes to this issue as any other occupier of that office. I am a former national board member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and my support for diversity never wavers, no matter who is running the show.

One of the reasons this is important is because just like in the media, where there are bigger and better things awaiting the White House correspondent, a position in the White House press office positions someone for the next level.

On one hand, yeah. I’d love to look at TJ Holmes, White House Press Secretary everyday. On the other, Obama just made Eric Holder the first black Attorney General. On one hand, yeah … TJ. Answering questions. Being pretty. Love it. On the other, there are quite a few minorities in numerous places in the administration.

When do you have a point and when are you just being picky? Because, Roland kind of has a point and he’s kind of being picky here. Discuss!

27 thoughts on “Discuss: Roland Martin Sez Obama Needs to Diversify His Press Office

  1. Honestly, i’m usually annoyed when I feel like black people are being picky with regard to diversity (like the offense taken at Michelle Obama not going with a black designer for her inauguration gown, smh). But in this case I will say that he has a genuine concern. This doesn’t seem to be about whether Obama is supportive of minorities in general but of his ability to acknowledge the dearth of minorities in those specific positions. Roland isn’t the first person to point out the lack of minorities in the press and the nature of the position (as he pointed out) can provide the oppurtunity for advancement based on merit and exposure. What I like is that he’s making a point and not recklessly complaining. Hopefully most people will hear it the way I did and not think ‘Jesus, black people, what more could you want?!’

  2. It will never end!….The black tax is still alive. You are too black or not black enough. I recently was listening to someone saying he has chosen to many blacks in his cabinet , then there is Michelle and not black designers, although there are other people of "color". Does every single layer and department have to have blacks? that is the question….Quite frankly if we had more of our own media outlets no black or minority journalist would be without a job(especially if all the employees are black…) With the heightened sense of "blackness" surrounding advertising right now: Blacks need to start their own media companies NOW. President Obama and Michelle, I feel your pain. Although its not been 100 days and you may have 8 more years ago, it’s too bad the black tax is hitting you before we can even straighten out this D..MN economy.

  3. Wait a minute? Roland knows Obama and was unfettered (Making up words) with his support during the campaign. He didn’t bring up any of this then? For me it is not a matter of being picky, its a matter of Roland having to have something to turn into his producers over at CNN. So he chose this. Who knows what agendas are being served here. The whole Black Elite Establishment, Black Press, Black Hollywood scene is so incestuous you can’t take their criticism at face value because you know they all know each other and have been dealing with each other for years. I’m going to chalk this up to him needing something to write about.

  4. I think Roland is right, and I’m glad he brought it up. It’s the same thing about WHERE ARE THE BLACK FOLKS in his Administration? He has more Republican in Cabinet positions than Black folk. Arne Duncan is unqualified, and someone has to convince me why Judd Gregg was needed – at all. Don’t give the BS excuse of can’t find anyone qualified. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:It’s not Idaho. You can find a qualified Black in ANYTHING imaginable within one hour of Washington, D.C. This is one of the rare places in America that has had qualified professionals FOR GENERATIONS. And no, I don’t think it’s wrong to bring it up.

  5. Rolans Martin is not being picky. He recognizes that every position that we can see visually is supported by a cast of thousands. He is trying to plant seeds of opportunity at every level so we have more opportunity. nothing more nothing less.

  6. I’m truly on the fence. As a journalist, I know what it’s like to be the ONLY black person everywhere. (I’ve never worked for a media outlet that had another black reporter or editor the same time I was there.) But then I realize I can’t really give an unbiased opinion on this one because I could make this same pro "hire a black person" argument for almost every position in the Obama Administration.So I’m left to wonder, do I have a legitimate gripe or am I just wanting more? How is the overall diversity compared to past administrations? I had more questions than opinions. I couldn’t come up with a serious argument for any of my views. That’s why I put it up for discussion.

  7. PICKY PICKY PICKY…He might as well have said, "Come on, help a brother out." UrrrghAnyway you slice his comments they amount to racial hustling and are petty in the extreme.I don’t fault Martin’s ambition….just his tactics. Hmmmm…I wonder if he knows someone who wanted a job working for Obama didnt get it and this is the result.How can you acknowledge the way that DC (and most offices) work with people being hired internally and/or from among colleagues and then imply (at least to some degree) that Obama doesnt have enough black friends to hire for these top jobs that catapult you to your next career.What has Martin with all his keeping it real antics to seed minorities into positions of promise in government? Call me bitter, but I expect these minorities Martin expects to see in these top positions to being doing exactly what I’m doing. Pushing paperwork and hustling and proving themselves so that when you’re boss moves up and he’s looking for someone to take to his next office with him…you’re the first person he calls. That means investing in the future. DC is getting younger by the day. With 50 percent of government likely retiring in the next 10 years….Martin would do better spending his time working career fairs he if its truly diversity he craves. So Martin needs to invest in a fund to provide a stipend to young minorities who are interested in those UNPAID communications jobs in DC working on the Hill. He needs to lead a charge to equip minorities to work in government press offices in those UNPAID internships…and the PAID ones too. That’s how diversity happens…not from taking pot shots at the Commander and Chief.

  8. Presidential advisors — and this is the thing that people don’t get and previous administrations kept quiet — have more influence than cabinet members. (With the exception of Secy. of State maybe, this one especially.) And Pres. Obama’s White House is the most colorful in history.To Roland’s point, yeah diversity good and all that (how he knows the race of every member of the White House communications staff is beyond me), but I’d much rather Black journalists stay in the trenches doing the hard reporting that hasn’t been getting done lately.

  9. Roland Martin raises a good point. But he is so greasy. And self-serving. Please, CNN, pick a black person who actually has some polish!

  10. At the same time that we are excited to have a black man in the office of president, we also need to remain critical of his leadership. The same critique that was afforded to Bush and previous adminstrations must be afforded to Obama. If not, then our critiques were biased and therefore invalid.We must be able to seperate the main, the moment in history, and his position. Be excited about the man and his family, be excited about the moment, but also be critical of his leadership.With that said, I think that is what Roland Martin is doing. Actually, it’s Roland’s job as a social critic to do so. Look, he has made us think about the issue. Job well done Roland.

  11. I would have hoped he’d hire black version of Alison janney’s character CJ from The West Wing. There are plenty of BIG PR names in the private sector who fit that bill. Black females. I think a sister would have the right stuff to be the Administration’s face and mouth. I can throiw out some names but it’s too late. However, for liaisons there are about a dozen women at the networks, trying to golden parachute out of these failing print papers, etc. Frankly I think all this bipartisan bull is ending. Might as well get as many of us in the mix as possible before Mr. Charlie tries to take it back by force.

  12. I’m not surprised this kind of logic is right up Roland Martin’s line of reasoning. I don’t know how many would be enough for him, but one thing for sure is that it always seems never enough. I think the president has a difficult job because every demographic is looking for him to appoint people that reflect them, which on one hand is completely reasonable because you want the administration to reflect the people it is representing. But honestly Roland needs to calm down and stop coming up with a quota for the President to fill. I’m willing to take the risk and assume the President isn’t internally racist and picked the people he thought were the best for the job (or fulfilling a political promise made earlier).

  13. Uh… maybe I’m missing something, but didn’t he say "I saw a list and it didn’t have any black people on it," or something along those lines? How did he know what color they were just looking at a list of names? Also, President Obama has said all along that he finds the best people he can for his administration. That should be enough. We should not be telling him to overlook an Asian, Hispanic or White person because of their color.

  14. @ nyc/caribbean ragazzaAnd that’s what I was looking for. Someone to actually tell me what the racial make-up was. LOL. Hey! I don’t have a black name either. My parents are pretty blunt about the fact that they purposely gave us all European/Anglican/Irish names because:1) Everyone in our family has them and my parents are "olds," as in, they’re not really Boomers although the associate themselves with the boomers (yet have almost zero Boomer characteristics, they act way more like my WWII/Depression era grandparents).2) They wanted us to assimilate and not assimilate at the same time. The name was a way to keep people from pre-discriminating against us.What’s hilarious that on my mother’s side of the family all of the older members have these stately sounding English-meets-Southern Old Timey names. If I have a son, I totally want to name him Artemis.

  15. I say give the man a break. He has only been in office a few short days and although having African Americans represented, there are so many issues pressing him right now. My question is just because he is a President who is black, do we as black people require more from him than we would someone else. He has diversified his staff but it all takes time. I know we think of him as Super Negro, but for real, he is just a human being and i know that’s hard to believe, but let’s cut him a little slack and Rolland, do go pouring out any hateration because it’s not cute and I like my boy Rolland, but sometimes, he can make you say huh!

  16. Kem said: "My question is just because he is a President who is black, do we as black people require more from him than we would someone else." My answer is: YES! Not because he’s black, but because black people voted for him at 90+%! We clearly voted as a block. When people vote as a block and overwhelmingly push a candidate across the finish line they would be a fool to not expect something in return. Why are black people so afraid to get some leverage out of the precious vote we fought for and died for? We all want to see Obama do well, but we can’t be afraid to hold his feet to the fire, like any other president. I didn’t vote for him to make myself feel good, I want to see results and change like everyone else.Obama’s blackness does not excuse his need to address diversity. This country is filled with talented, qualified, experience people of color in every field. I don’t know how accurate Roland’s claims are, but it would be a shame if Obama’s work place mimicked the rest of corporate America, where people of color are few and far between and have to work twice as hard to get ½ of what they deserve.

  17. Why don’t these black journalist go out find a interesting story and a camera crew like Lisa Ling did and make themselves relevant and maybe they would get the assignment. Because sitting up on cable and network new giving it sucks to be black commentary is not journalism.

  18. Chris’ black CJ Cregg would be Cherlye Jackson — ironic, huh? — Chicago Urban League president and former press secretary to Rod Blagojevich (sista girl bounced way before the ‘vich hit the fan). And like Claudia Jean, Cheryle is 7 feet tall if she’s an inch.

  19. I know the man just got into office and already has some black folks in key positions, however, Roland is right! There needs to be black presence on EVERY level. No, this is not about complaining. If the President was of any other ethnic group, you better believe that group would have strong representation on EVERY level. Why do we as black people always seem to settle for anything as long as one of ours is in a position of power? Other groups would be getting there people in fast. It would be almost mandatory, a given. I am so sick of hearing us being the main ones talking about making something too black. There is no such thing. I’m not about excluding others but we can’t be afraid of supporting each other or giveing ours the opportunity.

  20. @Chris Chambers, RLI’m not trying to pick on you, but want to ask you a question. Where was Cheryle Jackson when Obama was down 20 points in the polls to Hillary Clinton? Robert Gibbs was by his side pushing his message.I’m not saying blacks shouldn’t be in the administration but press secretary is not one of them. Gibbs was there from the beginning and should be rewarded. A lot of non-black people were on the Obama train before some black people. Should they not get rewarded as well?I think diversity is important and should be strived for but it is not the end all and be all for me. Overall, I think that diversity has been achieved. We don’t know how many mid and lower level political appointees have been black. To me these are more important because they allow people to grow and be groomed for future positions. Most times all people need is to get a foot in the door. Also, we have to consider the hiring process. It is a very difficult process with the smallest thing about your life being blown up and broadcast to the entire world. Some successful black people from the private sector might not want that scrutiny or the smaller salary. You never know.

  21. As long as people like Roland Martin registered this same complaint about previous administrations, I don’t have a problem with it. If his point is that as a black person, Obama should be expected to hire more minorities than other presidents; then there’s a problem. The problem of under representation of minorities in the press, didn’t begin nor does it end with Obama and his administration; making it about Obama obscures the very real issue here.

  22. Good post. I understand Roland’s viewpoint but I’m not at a point yet where I am interested in complaining about anything Obama-related – I’m still feeling a "First Black President" buzz from the election and inauguration. The mere fact that Obama has been able to break grounds as the first black leader of the free world is enough for me to be quite content with Obama and his choices for the time being.

  23. @black snob My parents are from the Caribbean which is why my first name is either the name of another West Indian or the name of a Jewish woman in her 60s. haAlso my sister pointed out that the WH press office is TINY. The senior press positions for the cabinet posts won’t be filled until the Secys are confirmed.These jobs are stressful and you make a lot less than you would in the private sector.


  25. I'm a huge fan of Roland Martin, but for Christ sakes, please let the man be President. He already has a huge burden with the Republican House blocking any and everything he tries to do with respect to the economy. Obama knows as well as anybody just putting minorities in positions can also hinder, as it opens him up to attacks that he only favors his own. His first job is President of the US, not President of just people.

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