"Informally, we've tried to make sure we were recruiting minorities as part of our process for a long time," says Mason. "It seemed that if we had an office concerned with this as a primary responsibility, we'd be able to increase what we've been doing on an informal basis."
Mason has been at CBS News for 40 years, and says she was "the first woman in every job I had at CBS News." She says the company has come a long way since she started, but that further efforts are needed. "I think we're on par with other news organizations, but all of us could be doing better," she says.
Johns is responsible for coordinating diversity outreach and helping minority staffers already within CBS News plot their career paths. "It's challenging to find good people," she says. "I'm just looking for well qualified people." She says the staff of CBS News should better reflect the makeup of America. The creation of her position, Johns says, "seems to reflect a genuine commitment from news management to have a more diverse workforce." Her initial focus, she tells Public Eye, will be on the production side.
It's impossible to say exactly to what degree the background of journalists comes into play in their work. I would wager that a good white journalist would probably come to the same conclusions as a good black or Hispanic journalist when it comes to how best to cover, say, the Mark Foley scandal. But journalists from different backgrounds bring different perspectives to the table, and a more diverse newsroom might hit on angles that an all white (or for that matter, all black or all female) newsroom might not.