CNN Reporters Share Their Perspectives as Women of Color Covering an Election Year
As the Democratic National Convention wrapped up last night, and with the Republican National Convention approaching, general election season is just around the corner. Television plays an especially important role during election seasons, as millions of Americans tune in to stay informed of the news, learn, and get perspective on the country's state of affairs. It's therefore the job of those TV network reporters and journalists to report the facts and to bring a comprehensive and inclusive view of current events.
In a CNN film recently released on HBO Max, On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries, audiences get an up close and personal look into the lives of a few of CNN's anchors and video producers who are women as they broke news on the primary election campaign trail this past spring. But as the country continues to come to grips with systemic racism, it's the reporters of color in the film who demonstrate why it is critical to have diverse perspectives in front of and behind the camera, especially during an election year. During a virtual panel for the Television Critics Association press tour, CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah, and CNN Video Producer Jasmine Wright, discussed how their experiences as women of color affect the news cycle and what people see on TV.
One of the film's more pivotal moments came when Wright questioned why reporters weren't looking more into Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn) past record as a prosecutor handling racial justice issues, and why this wasn't being featured more prominently in the news. At the time, Klobuchar was still in the running for the presidency. Ultimately, after filming had concluded, Klobuchar's past record in this area did become a problematic factor that may have taken her out of the running for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. As a Black woman, Wright had foreseen a lot of this early on in her reporting as a video embed assigned to Klobuchar.
"In my experience, I think that it is always important to pay attention to race relations in this country and the experience that minorities are having in this country regardless of what time it is in the voting schedule, what state is coming up, or why we perceive it to be important. Because that is what the fabric of America is, right? It's white people, it's Black people, it's Asian people, it's Latino people, Latinx people, it's everyone," said Wright. Wright added that she hopes the recent nationwide unrest over racial injustice will lead to more prominent reporting of people of color and the challenges that they face in America.
Lah, who is Asian American, also pointed out that it's important for people to acknowledge that reporters are each going to approach a news story differently due to their age, gender, income status, and background, and that is ok. In fact, it's necessary.
"I think both of us, as women of color, because there aren't a whole ton of us, even though it is changing in the world of politics, we wanted to be authentic. We want to have other women who look like us cover the news, to run for office," said Lah. "We don't represent this whole group of people, but we want to be as authentic as possible because you don't have to be a certain way, or look a certain way, or believe a certain way to do this job. And that's the same thing with running for office. These candidates are imperfect and they are women, and they come from different backgrounds, and we want to report on them as honestly as possible. And so, we want to be honest, so that people out there will engage and want to be a part of democracy, because we have all got to be a part of it, in all of our ugly forms."
The film's executive producer, Katie Hinman, also shared that one of her Black colleagues often has to answer to the question of whether she can objectively cover race relations in America without bringing her own biases to it. "And [Sara Snider, CNN correspondent] always points out that nobody's asking that of the white guys who have been covering these stories for years," said Hinman. "So, I think one of the points we were hoping to make in the film is that diversifying our newsrooms is really important. Because when you look at these issues through the spectrum of a wider lens of different people's life experiences, you get a better product that better reflects America."