Black journalists protest debate exclusion

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NEW YORK (AP)—The National Association of Black Journalists says it is disappointed in the lack of ethnic diversity among the people chosen to moderate the presidential debates.

NABJ said Friday that the Commission on Presidential Debates needed to stop treating Black reporters as if they were unqualified, invisible or both. The group said diversity was important in a year in which as much as a quarter of the electorate is expected to be non-White.

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JIM LEHRER, of PBS, will moderate the first debate Oct. 3 in Denver between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, focused on domestic topics. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Candy Crowley, of CNN; Jim Lehrer, of PBS; and Bob Schieffer, of CBS News, were selected to moderate the three debates between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney this fall. Martha Raddatz of ABC News will moderate the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Paul Ryan.

NABJ issued the following statement: While we commend the selection of the first woman moderator in 20 years, we find it unacceptable that no journalists of color will be involved. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which announced the selections this week, blamed the omission on “debate arithmetic.” Frankly, the math doesn’t add up. There is no absence of qualified journalists of color, or those with experience as debate moderators, such as NABJ Hall of Fame member Gwen Ifill, of PBS. We believe the commission wasted an opportunity to use its unique platform in a manner that encourages more citizens to participate in the democratic process. “The commission had a chance to embrace the racial kaleidoscope that the American electorate is fast becoming, and chose instead to remain blind to it,” Sonya Ross, chair of NABJ’s Political Journalism Task Force, said. “It is time to end this cyclical charade of treating equally deserving, equally capable journalists of color as if they are invisible, unqualified, or both.”

A commission representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Earlier this week, the president of the Spanish-speaking television network Univision criticized the lack of Latino representation among the moderators and suggested a separate forum hosted by two Univision personalities.

In response, the commission noted that a number of groups and individuals wanted to be included, but it was impossible to accommodate everyone. The commission said that the journalists selected see their assignment as representing all Americans.

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