The Columbia Journalism Review talked to recently promoted MSNBC host Chris Hayes about how he maintains such a balanced roster of guests. His answer was simple: he and the producers maintain quotas.
We just would look at the board and say, ‘We already have too many white men. We can’t have more.’ Really, that was it,” Hayes says. “Always, constantly just counting. Monitoring the diversity of the guests along gender lines, and along race and ethnicity lines.” Out of four panelists on every show, he and his booking producers ensured that at least two were women. “A general rule is if there are four people sitting at table, only two of them can be white men,” he says. “Often it would be less than that.
If they did end up booking a show that featured a majority of white men, they’d call it “taking a gender hit.” Hayes explains, “and then we’d be like, well, we have to make up for that either in the second half of the show or on the Sunday show.”
What prompted the CJR interest was a post published at Media Matters a couple weeks ago which compared Chris Hayes show with five other weekly news programs including CBS’s Face the Nation and NBC’s Meet the Press.
Not mentioned in the Media Matters analysis was the partisan breakdown of Hayes’ guests. A guest list from last Saturday’s show included Rashid Klalidi, Jeremy Ben-Ami director of J Street, Noura Erakat a Palestinian human rights attorney, Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra, Matt Duss from the Center for American progress, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, Gary Younge columnist for the Nation, and Jim Antle of the American Spectator. That’s seven guests from the left (or far left) and one from the right. Earlier guest lists I browsed seemed to have a similar “balance.” By contrast, shows like Meet the Press or This Week often provide a 1:1 balance of guests from the left and right.
Granted MSNBC is a progressive network so the lurch to the left among Hayes guest list is somewhat expected. In any case, the network would likely much rather discuss Hayes’ racial quotas than its overall balance of reporting and opinion which was recently revealed as far and away the worst of the three cable news networks.