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By Robert "Rob" Redding Jr.

Editor & Publisher

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2004, 5:00 p.m. - NBC News President Neal Shapiro yesterday promised to redouble the network's efforts to alert black journalist of opportunities in the company's newsroom, in response to NBC Nightly News host Brian Wiliams' previous comments about newsroom diversity not being important.

       "I am passionate about the need for diversity in our nation's newsrooms and particularly here at the network level,” said Shapiro, according to a joint news release posted on the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) website. "I continue to be committed to having more black journalists and other journalists of color at the highest levels in our newsroom."

     Williams, the network's anchor and managing editor, told an in-flight magazine, in an article published last month, that world has "bigger problems" than diversity in newsrooms, prompting NABJ President Herbert Lowe to request a meeting last week. 

    The closed door two hour meeting, attended by several of NABJ's leaders, was held yesterday and was led by Shapiro at the network's headquarters in New York.

    "We are confident that from Neal Shapiro to Brian Williams on down that having a diverse newsroom is a priority at NBC," said Lowe, a courts reporter at Newsday in New York.   

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of journalists of color to other networks, including Joe Johns, Dan Lothian, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O'Brien and Fredricka Whitfield."

     Both parties say they will work to place more blacks in the company's diversity program and continue to dialogue, according to the news release.

    When asked about the importance of diversity, Williams told United Airline's November edition of Hemispheres magazine:  "We have bigger problems. There are no black members of the U.S. Senate. We should keep some perspective on this. Nevertheless, I am constantly interested to hear of examples in our coverage where viewers think we got it wrong in one way or another because of a skewed viewpoint." - which first reported Williams' comments on Dec. 1 - spurred major media attention forcing Williams, who has said he has no respect for online media mavericks, to make two separate statements regarding his comments. ( was credited with breaking story twice by The Baltimore Sun and Richard Prince, a well read columnist).

    At first, Williams defended his comments through a spokeswoman: "I was merely expressing my belief that there are equally important leadership positions in our society than those we in the media may occupy. Since we report policy and do not decide it, our elected representatives are our first stop in the search for equality. Everything I've ever done in my professional life has been aimed at equality in the workplace, as those who've shared newsrooms with me will tell you."  

    Days later, he issued his second statement saying, "that my response to a question posed by an in-flight magazine back in August has been misconstrued."

    "I believe that the lack of diversity is a serious challenge not only in newsrooms across America, but across the upper echelons of our society as well," he said. "In no way have I ever diminished the problem that exists in our newsrooms. Racial and gender-based 'glass ceilings' exist in virtually every corner of our society. We have an obligation to face this issue head-on in our own newsroom every day. There is an astounding amount of work before us, which is why I am pleased that Neal Shapiro will continue the dialogue with NABJ in the coming days, and I support his continued efforts to make this a priority at NBC News."

    The apologies come after Williams told attendees at a Time magazine "Person of the Year" luncheon bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem."

    Williams' diversity comments also come after the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) found in a 2003 survey that women and minority staffing in local radio and television newsrooms has declined for the last two years.  

    RTNDA has declined to comment.

    The 45-year-old Williams began anchoring the most-watched newscast on television this month, after being hand selected by his retiring predecessor Tom Brokaw, 64. 


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Or read our past stories on this subject:

Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw's successor, says diversity not a big issue

NBC's Brian Williams Criticized for his diversity comments


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