CNN’s Geraldine Moriba: Making the News Inclusive

November 11, 2010 4:40 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Geraldine Moriba, CNNGeraldine Moriba sees herself as a series of identities. “I’m a mother and right now that’s my strongest identity. It shapes how I approach my career … and my world view,” she says.

But, she quickly adds, “I’m an immigrant—I come from Canada. I’m biracial—my father’s Jewish and my mother’s from Jamaica. And I grew up in a single-parent home with my mother.”

Those identities, and her global travels, shaped Geraldine into a person who cares deeply about diversity and inclusion and who understands its value to both journalism and corporate success.

“Diversity isn’t something I fell into. It’s always been a big part of who I am,” she says. “And in the corporate world, specifically about journalism, the challenges that we faced when I entered this world a couple of decades ago are still the same today. I don’t think a lot has changed.”

CLICK HERE for a Video Interview With Geraldine Moriba

Why Diversity Is Crucial to Journalism

Geraldine notes that most newsrooms do understand the growing need to connect with diverse populations, but business and news pressures often make it less urgent.

Current Positions
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, CNN Worldwide (CNN is a division of Time Warner, No. 42 in the DiversityInc Top 50)Executive Producer, Original Program Development, CNNPrevious Positions
Executive Producer, “In America,” CNN

Senior Producer, Standards and Practices, NBC News

Co-Chair, NBC News Diversity Council

Five Emmy Awards

Two Peabody Awards

Alfred I. DuPont Award

Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies, University of Western Ontario

“There are points where diversity is an absolute priority and they’re thinking about it in terms of content and recruiting and retention,” she says. “And then there are moments when they say, ‘We’ve done it. We did a really good job.’ And they forget about it and all the numbers decrease. If you only have a couple of people in the newsroom who are diverse, when they leave, you have zero.”

She notes that the challenges newsrooms face—hiring and retaining talented people from underrepresented groups—are true for all of corporate America. “I’ve been trying to encourage people to think about our core. … Imagine it as it should be and you want it to be,” she says.

As an example, she cites the upcoming election and the importance of having experts who not only represent all political views but the identities of many Americans. To ensure CNN is thinking about this, executives have held events to bring in potential experts from diverse backgrounds to meet with editorial leaders. “These are people they might not have met otherwise,” Geraldine says. “Often, the people you have on your shows are the people you know.”

Corporate Best Practices

CNN makes a strong effort to recruit journalists from different backgrounds by sending a broad spectrum of employees—including white, male managers—to diversity conferences.

“They need to be in the zones as well. … [It’s] taking people out of the newsroom, where they are forced to think about unconscious bias,” Geraldine says.

CNN has an annual summit for its senior executives to make the business case for diversity and how crucial it is to reach out to fast-growing and important demographics, such as Latinos and Millennials.

CNN also has its own diversity council, a global group of 46 employees of all levels from all facets of the business—editorial, marketing, PR, camera people, etc. The group meets quarterly and everyone is assigned to a committee, such as ones for the business case, editorial content, internal communications, external communications, recruiting and retention. The committees meet during the year and have specific goals, which are measured. For example, the editorial committee could measure the diversity of audience levels and how they change annually. The recruiting and retention committee could assess rates of retention of staff from underrepresented groups in the newsroom.

What’s Next?

Geraldine believes the biggest diversity opportunity for CNN lies in targeted social media. “CNN has a very strong and growing digital footprint but we are too general in our approach. We send it to a broad bucket called everybody. … We have to do a better job of figuring out how to target diverse communities with those platforms,” she says.

On a personal level, her biggest challenge is to “continue to live and practice what I do in a way I am proud of and that makes my husband and children proud. [I hope] I can continue to open doors for other people who look like me or who were disadvantaged as children.”