The U.S. media are still stumbling in coverage of race and ethnicity, according to the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). But panelists—including Mariane Pearl, widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; CNN anchor Anderson Cooper; and Larry Wilmore, a regular on The Daily Show—at this week's 21st annual conference in New York on Sept. 16-18 will take on the roadblocks.
Pearl—who was played by superstar Angelina Jolie in the movie adaptation of her memoir, A Mighty Heart—will give the Tuesday morning keynote.
“Mariane views journalism as a mechanism for bringing together diversity and harmony,” says Kathy Johnson, NAMIC's president. “That's one of the overriding themes of A Mighty Heart, and that's what she tries to do every day in her work.”
That talk will lead into a panel entitled: “The Media and the Masses: Cultural Awareness vs. Cultural Wariness,” where Wilmore will join Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray; Jose Diaz-Balart, co-anchor of Telemundo's Cada Dia; and CNN Worldwide's Senior Vice President of international newsgathering Parisa Khosravi. They, along with the panel's moderator, ESPN's Robert Simmelkjaer, will talk about how the U.S. media cover minorities.
Cooper will receive the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Achievement Award during lunch on Tuesday. “Anderson has been all around the world, reporting on lots of events from Rwanda, the Sudan, the tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina. He reports with a special sensitivity,” says Johnson, who points out that NAMIC has honored people of all ethnicities, including white executives, in its two-decade history.
Other highlights of the three-day conference include the first-ever Television Writers' Workshop led by TV writer Kermit Frazier. The workshop will be held all day on Monday.
“We think we need more diversity among Hollywood's writing pool,” said Johnson. “The workshop will help people hone their craft, learn to write better and pitch their stories so they are better able to advance themselves in the industry.”
NAMIC holds a Creative Summit each year in Los Angeles, and next April it plans to add a TV writers' workshop to that event as well.
If all goes well, the big names and new additions will help NAMIC advance its mission “to ensure that people of color are sharing in the prosperity of the cable and broadband industry,” said Johnson.
Typically, some 600 executives attend the conference, held in conjunction with Cable Diversity Week and the Kaitz Foundation dinner, which will take place on Sept. 19. Said Johnson: “This conference is designed to help individuals advance in their careers, and help companies further realize workplace diversity.”