A Complete List, or Myopic Look At Just The White People We Think Matter?

bryan-monroe(Editor’s Note: Bryan’s was the email that alerted us to the problem with our post recognizing media leaders who we lost in the last decade, post and we invited him to respond on the site. Here is our note on the matter. RS)


I just don’t get it.

In your piece “A Retrospective: 28 Media Leaders Who Died This Decade,” you acknowledge the contributions of several well-known media figures who have died since 2000. Nice names. Good people. But they are all WHITE!

You couldn’t think of ANYONE who wasn’t white? Really? C’mon… Katherine Graham? Sure. Walter Cronkite? Ok. David Brinkley? I get it. But no Ed Bradley. No Gordon Parks. That, I don’t get.

Even Mr. Rogers made the list ahead of John H. Johnson, the founder of the largest black media empire in the world and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines?

You mean to tell me that none of these or any other visionary leaders in journalism and the media even made it onto your radar screen? Puhleeeze.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about your “loose” definition of a media leader.
If someone like Katharine Hepburn qualifies for her acting career, why not Ray Charles— who revolutionized the rights of artist to own their master recordings?

Why Steve Allen, a groundbreaking comedian, but not Richard Pryor? Why an Ed McMahon but no Nipsey Russell?

Or Lynne Thigpen, the voice of “chief” in “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” and a regular voice on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (can’t get any whiter than that)?

Or Naomi Sims or Isaac Hayes or Beah Richards or Gregory Hines or Bo Diddley or Shirley Chisholm or Ossie Davis or August Wilson or Carl T. Rowan?

Or, heck, even Michael Jackson? The biggest selling solo recording artist in the history of the planet? The man who single-handedly propelled a new media format, the music video (even though MTV wouldn’t play black artists until he came along). ‘Nuff said.

You know, the sad part of all this is that we thought we had moved past the need for special pleadings to include all voices on lists such as these. So now we have “The White List” and the “Everyone Else List.”

So, with the help of colleagues from across the nation, here are a few more names of other great media voices who have left us in the past decade, to get you started. Just click on the links if you don’t know who they are. Or, better yet, just ask somebody:

Just tell me when to stop…

Another thing these glaring omissions show is the importance of making sure new online news initiatives like have access to a rich, diverse writing and editing team. It would be hard to believe that this column would have been published if a black or Hispanic journalist (or anyone who saw a world that was more than just white) had seen it before you hit the button. Yes, even in the age of Obama, diversity still matters.

So, next time you think of compiling such lists, you may want to consult with organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) or Unity: Journalists of Color. They all are wonderful resources and would be happy to help.

Or just look outside your office door. We’re out there.

Bryan Monroe is a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He was the former president of The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines and assistant vice president/news at Knight Ridder. He has also been a regular contributor to CNN and helped lead the team in Biloxi, Miss. that won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He can be reached at

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