What the Peabody Awards’ new advisory board may lack in racial diversity, it makes up for in global diversity, said Jeffrey Jones, director of the George Foster Peabody Awards at the University of Georgia.
It was difficult to find minority media executives to fill seats on the board because they are so rare in the media industry, Jones said.
“The media industry at that senior executive level really isn’t diverse,” he said. “What we’ve seen is that it is very hard for minorities to occupy decision-making and producing roles, especially executive roles. So when you form a board like this, you are reminded of the fact that not many non-white, non-males are present at those levels of leadership.”
The Peabody Awards is one of the oldest and most prestigious prizes for outstanding work in electronic media. The awards are to TV and film, what Pulitzers are to books and print journalism. The awards, which have existed for 74 years, operated with only a board of jurors. Until now.
Out of the 17 current jurors, three are African American; one Latina and one Native American. Jurors judge the nominees.
The 25-member advisory board was created to provide guidance and support, and to ensure that the awards remain relevant among younger, more diverse producers, particularly those who create content on digital platforms, Jones said.
Jones and his staff looked to top level media executive offices to fill advisory board seats. Board members include Michele Ganeles, President of Comedy Central; Paul Lee, President of ABC Entertainment Group; Cyma Zarghami, President of Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids & Family Group; and Emerson Coleman, chairman of programming for Hearst Television. Coleman is the only African American on the advisory board; Zarghami is Iranian-American.
“That just doesn’t mean in minority or diverse populations within the U.S.,” said Jones. Board members, who are not paid, will help ensure that “people continue to submit their stories to the Peabody Awards, no matter where they are produced,” Jones added.
“When I was selected as Director of the Peabody Awards, I recognized a need to align our organization more closely with the extraordinarily experienced and talented leadership of the entertainment and media worlds,” Jones said. “They have resources and knowledge that will help us realize the exciting plans we have for Peabody. I am deeply appreciative of their desire to serve our organization and contribute their valuable time and insight.”
Jones sat down with AllDigitocracy to discuss the creation of the new board. Watch an excerpt of our interview below: