Think Tank Express: A long way to go on diversity


CBEBrXbUwAA2wgoDeadline article, Bernstein’s comments prove women and minorities still face a hostile environment in the media business 

It’s interesting we have a “communications” as a college major, and yet have a lot of people who don’t know how to communicate – especially when it comes to gender and race issues. And this week, the point was proven more than once.

On Tuesday night, Nellie Andreeva of Deadline penned an article about diversity casting in Hollywood, noting the increase in minority casting “has the pendulum [swinging] too far in the other direction”, suggesting there is TOO MUCH diversity in TV casting.

The article was blasted by almost everyone in Hollywood, from actors, casting agents, writers, and producers – especially Shonda Rhimes. Reaction to the article was even reported in rival publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wrap. Several minority groups also criticized the Andreeva article.

This season saw the success of many shows with diverse casts – notably Empire, Fresh Off The Boat, and How To Get Away With Murder – all well-written and acted shows. Andreeva’s article pointed out some in Hollywood were not happy with the increased emphasis on diversity.

Then maybe I suggest these people get a job in Chicago radio.

Just a little over 24 hours after the Deadline article was posted, there was WSCR-AM’s Dan Bernstein making some cruel remarks about an African-American CSN Chicago anchorwoman Aiyanna Crystal in a Twitter exchange with fellow WSCR personality Matt Speigel, talking about of all things, her breasts or, her “boobs” (to see the exchange, click here)

Similar to the Andreeva article, there was considerable backlash – female sports personalities Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan also ripped into Bernstein. Both Speigel and Bernstein apologized, but Berstein’s apology seemed more of “I’m sorry I got caught” variety.

CBS Chicago Radio exec Rod Zimmerman said no suspension is imminent. Of course. As I said earlier this week, Chicago radio is the worst in the country and Bernstein’s antics- which include a past history of such behavior toward women and the fact he’s still employed – only proves my point.

The link here between these two stories is – yes you heard me before as I told you in this very space – the need for more diversity in front of and behind the scenes. While there is some movement in television, you don’t see it in Chicago radio or in media in particular, in an industry still dominated by white males. For one, there are no female hosts or news readers at WSCR, and Chicago has few minorities in key executive positions at any media outlet.

But the attitudes toward change is telling. Hollywood agents are privately complaining about diversity being “forced” on them, while Chicago viewers and listeners seemed to be more concerned about a female’s looks, wardrobe, and delivery (remember, Chicago isn’t the “progressive” and “open-minded” place others in the national media make it out to be – take it from this lifelong resident.)

A comment board section in a Chicago Tribune story about Bernstein (which are full of racists and backward thinking idiots) suggested Crystal only got the job through “affirmative action” or looking like an America’s Next Top Model reject – the very same kind of attitude Hollywood execs displayed in Andreeva’s article. In this business, minorities have to work much harder to prove their hire wasn’t made to meet a “quota”.

Both Hollywood and Chicago media have a huge problem addressing the issues of race and gender within their respective industries. While change is coming slowly, this past week indicate change may not be coming fast enough.