Talking to Very Serious People sitting around a table may seem an outdated form of content for blog readers like you and me. Yet the three largest Sunday political shows—NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week—still muster 10 million viewers each week and drive the “agenda” in Washington through subsequent news coverage of what guests say on air.
In 1983, those guests were overwhelmingly white and male. Same goes for 1999. And as of 2015, despite all the talk within media companies of representing an increasingly diverse America—and appealing to an increasingly diverse pool of potential audiences—there has been embarrassingly little change.
Eighty percent of guests on the big three political shows in 2015 were white, according to a Harvard study released on Wednesday. Just 12 percent of guests were women, two percent were women of color, and another two percent were Hispanic. This comes in addition to white dudes hosting all three shows. Voices from the Republican Party, which is dominated by white dudes, had little trouble finding their way onto some of the most popular political shows on air:
A few points to hammer home here. The lack of Latinx guests—a group that comprises more than one-sixth of the U.S. population—is not just a stunning journalistic lapse, but also a missed opportunity for broadcast programs with grey-haired viewers to appeal to younger, growing communities. Just as mind-boggling, the dearth of female guests comes despite the audiences of Sunday shows actually flipping to majority female in 1999 and 2015.
You may be wondering: To which deserving voices were these coveted slots of airtime granted? Donald Trump made 28 Sunday show appearances in 2015, according to Harvard, with his interviews garnering outsize focus in ensuing coverage in Washington and beyond. Look no further for a clear snapshot of how the mainstream press has failed us.
Every old-guard media company is wringing its hands over both waning political influence and the business necessity of drawing in younger audiences to offer advertisers. Part of the answer is right here, in front of them.