Diversity increasing among TV pundits (Denver Post)

The historic presidential campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have injected issues of race and gender into politics as never before. With campaign coverage center stage on the cable channels, producers and critics are again assessing the diversity among pundits, who talk at length about things like Obama’s pastor, the Hispanic vote, Iraq and the economy.

MSNBC and CNN this election season have given new prominence to a handful of contributing commentators from varied backgrounds and perspectives: blacks, Hispanics and women. Whether such moves signal real progress in diversifying the pundit lineup or merely reflect the needs of a particular news cycle is the question, some media experts say.

The most prominent positions on television remain overwhelmingly with white male viewers, and some critics note how striking that non-inclusion can seem during this election year.

“Whatever progress has been made with contributors and commentators as of late, the cable networks have a long way to go before they look like the American people,” said Karl Frisch, spokesman for Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group. He added that white men were the hosts of all the major Sunday- morning talk shows, the major primetime cable news programs and except for Katie Couric, a relative newcomer the network evening news broadcasts.

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