No Seat at the Table: The Black-White Appearance Gap in the Election 2000 Story

By Deborah Mathis

A paper by Deborah Mathis, fall 2000-spring 2001 fellow, examines racial diversity in the media coverage after the Bush-Gore election in 2000. Between November 7, when voters reported to the polls, and December 13, when Gore finally conceded to Bush, television talk shows booked hundreds of guests. Some commentators participated in several shows a day, or struck exclusive deals with one network or another. In Florida, the epicenter of the story, once-obscure citizens and officials became regulars on the talk circuit, called upon to explain their state’s electoral procedures, local sensibilities and, in some cases, their own role in developments. Yet despite the need for a large stable of guest commentators, the networks’ proclaimed allegiance to diversity, and universal interest in the unfolding story – not to mention the racial component – guests were predominately white. Black Americans, though integral to the story, rarely appeared as authority figures or specialists. This paper analyzes 14 cable and broadcast political talk shows, revealing a glaring disparity of white appearances outnumbering black appearances by nearly 19 to 1 during the post-election period.

Download the paper (PDF).