Analyst aims to diversify Sunday talk

Sunday political talk shows may bore some viewers, but when Roland Martin watches them, he gets mad.

"I'm often turned off by Sunday morning talk shows talking down to the rest of the country," said Martin, best known as a political analyst on CNN and the Tom Joyner Morning Show. "You have people who are booking these shows who won't go outside their concentric circle."
 

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That circle, he's found, includes mostly white officials and commentators. That's something Martin intends to avoid as he launches his own Sunday morning program this weekend. Called "Washington Watch with Roland Martin," it will air at 11 a.m. on TV One, a cable network aimed at a black audience. Martin is also TV One's political editor.
 
Vice President Joe Biden and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) will be the newsmaker guests on the show's maiden voyage.
 
The appearance of Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, is no accident. Diversity will be a priority of the show. The show is being rolled out this weekend in connection with the Congressional Black Caucus's Annual Legislative Conference. Martin is hosting a kickoff party for the show during the conference week, and moderating a panel.
 
"There are African-Americans who are conservative or libertarian. You never see them on these shows and they're more interesting than the people they have on," Martin said. "If you're talking national security, you can call Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. If you're talking "net neutrality," a key person is Bobby Rush (D-Ill., chairman of the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection subcommittee)."
 
Martin also expects to fill his discussion panels with minority experts and newspaper columnists from around the country, a contrast to the Washington-based journalists and strategists who dominate the network shows.
 
He also plans to reach past the more prominent elected officials, journalists and experts to activists and even entertainers who've gotten involved in issues.
 
The lack of black and brown faces on Sunday morning talk has been a sore point for years among minority leaders.

Three years ago a study by the National Urban League Policy Institute, titled "Sunday Morning Apartheid," found that black guests made up only 8 percent of the appearances on the shows. Sunday shows responded by including more African-American panelists.
 
But black lawmakers complain that the shows still turn overwhelmingly to white elected officials. They say things haven't changed much since Democrats took over Congress in the 2006 elections, thrusting many black and Hispanics into positions of power. Four CBC members now chair committees and17 chair subcommittees. There’s also a former member who occupies the Oval Office.
 
"I'm not pleased at all with the diversity issue as it relates to talk shows," CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said an interview with The Hill in June. "These members are brilliant; they know their stuff. They're powerful and they should be part of the Sunday morning talk shows."
 
According to Roll Call's tally of lawmakers' Sunday show appearances, the minority lawmaker with the most appearances for 2009 is Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) with four. The only other African-American on the list is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) with three.