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CBS Plans New Diversity Effort

Aug 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

CBS News will launch a program in January 2005 to develop a pool of minority producers and correspondents from which the news operations of the network, its owned stations and affiliates can draw.

The program is the brainchild and passion of Linda Mason, VP for public affairs, CBS News, who is familiar with some of the challenges faced by minorities who want to break into the business.

“I was the first woman in most of the jobs I had at CBS News, so I know what it’s like to be in a minority and to be given a chance,” said Ms. Mason, a Peabody Award winner, a duPont-Columbia Award winner and a 13-time Emmy winner who joined CBS News in 1966 as a radio desk assistant. She spent last week at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Washington.

One producer and one reporter will be selected each year for the program, which still is being structured. CBS News will hire the journalists to work for two years at participating CBS affiliates, most likely midsize stations that have strong newsrooms with a commitment to mentoring and to the project. Participating affiliates will be involved in approving the candidates for their newsrooms.

CBS News will work with affiliates and minority journalist organizations to collect recommendations and will conduct screenings at minority journalist conventions. Candidates should have at least two years’ professional experience.

“We’re looking for people who already are making their mark,” said CBS News President Andrew Heyward.

That requirement of previous experience will, Ms. Mason believes, improve on the success rate of an earlier, correspondents-only incarnation of this program, whose alumni at CBS News include Bill Whitaker and Vince Gonzalez.

Interested individuals may contact Ms. Mason or go to CBSNews.com and click on Internships for details.

Applications will consist of a resume, a tape and recommendations. A committee of CBS News executives and executive producers, CBS Newspath executives and CBS News’ director of recruitment will interview and select the finalists. At the end of two years, the goal is for the journalists to join CBS News or to move up in other directions.

CBS News will provide a predetermined amount of the journalists’ salaries at the affiliates, a figure not disclosed by Ms. Mason. In addition, there will be a mid-term trip to New York for additional mentoring.

Such commitment meant the program had to be expertly and energetically sold.

“I pushed for a year. It wasn’t easy and we had no money, so I’m really proud of us,” Ms. Mason said.

“It is absolutely a win-win program,” Mr. Heyward said.