Racial Reckoning

The reporters who helmed ABC News' Juneteenth coverage.
ABC News' Juneteenth coverage (Image credit: ABC News)

Widespread protests over police brutality and racial disparities have put civil rights and race relations among the top issues of the campaign, along with the economy and healthcare, according to a June 2020 CNN poll. The poll found 42% of Americans say race relations is “extremely important” in their vote for president.

That has prompted the kind of extensive coverage of racial issues not seen since the turbulent civil rights struggles of the 1960s, and has accelerated a longstanding push to make newsrooms more diverse.

ABC News, for example, in 2019 hired senior VP, integrated content strategy Marie Nelson to better engage multicultural audiences with all the ABC News shows and platforms, and in January 2020 it launched a “Race & Culture” reporting initiative. “As part of that effort we’ve recruited senior-level producers to serve with each of the shows and platforms so that this isn’t a standalone effort, but something that is fully baked into the news division,” she said.

That has helped ABC News cover issues from more diverse perspectives and draw in more diverse audiences — its Juneteenth special on June 19 was the No. 1 program that day across all broadcast and cable channels with African-American viewers.

“For Latinos, this is not a new topic,” stressed Univision VP of politics Lourdes Torres. The network has long been covering both police brutality and abuses by immigration authorities. “There has been a huge and overwhelming identification among young Latinos with the protests … that raises very interesting questions about voter turnout,” she added.

Patsy Loris, senior VP, elections 2020 and special projects at Noticias Telemundo, stressed that “we have been covering racial and ethnic issues for years because discrimination and inequality have been front and center for the Latino community.”

Their response to these issues will also have an important role in the 2020 election. “For the first time, Latinos will be the largest voting ethnic block eligible to vote,” Loris said in an email. “Of the more than 246 million eligible voters, Latinos will account for a projected 13% of the electorate.”

To better serve an increasingly diverse population, NBC News chairman Cesar Conde sent a memo to staff earlier this summer committing to the goal of having a staff that is 50% women and 50% people of color. “It is … clear that the time for action is now,” he wrote, stressing the urgency of the effort.

Associated Press Washington bureau chief Julie Pace said the news service has had a race and ethnicity team “for quite some time” that has proven invaluable in covering the current protests, and in general political coverage. “They are very integrated in our political coverage, highlighting important issues and thinking through how we want to approach these stories,” she said.