I have to admit that I approach the coming of September with more than a bit of trepidation. Part of it is the coming of fall, to be sure; a reminder that one more year is about to pass, one more step toward the fate that awaits us all. But to me, an an African-American, it’s more than that. Every time the calendar reads September means it’s time once again for the cable industry’s annual exercise in lip service, otherwise known as Diversity Week. I mean, after all, if diversity was really something this industry was serious about, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that at some point Diversity Week would simply disappear, the victim of its own success? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the same group of companies that within a generation brought the three broadcast giants to their collective knees might also find a way to make something as fundamental to America as equal opportunity a reality? In other words, if this industry can accomplish the impossible with such remarkable swiftness and calculated measure, why should doing the right thing seem so much like running on a treadmill? That said, there is one aspect of this year’s NAMIC Urban Markets Conference that I can’t wait to attend. On Monday, Sept 1, the conference will feature a Town Hall meeting featuring a number of industry heavy hitters. And I guess what I like most about this concept is that for the first time since I can remember, rather than being lectured to by a high-level executive that may or may not have ever faced any sort of bias, we will actually be able to interact with them; ask them questions that we’ve been carrying around for a while (in some cases, for the better part of our lives). And to that end, I’ve been giving some thought to questions I’d like to have answered by the panelists. On the chance I don’t get the opportunity next month to ask them all, I want to share them with you today. 1. Please name me a company in any industry, anywhere, you believe is a model for diversity. And, more importantly, what’s keeping the companies in this industry from being just like that one? (I ask this because if you’re among those charged with changing the face and color of this industry’s leadership, you must have a model or blueprint somewhere in your head, right?) 2. Why do you think this industry’s track record for minority hiring at the upper and middle management levels is so spotty, especially considering that this is one of the few industries with multiple professional organizations—all of which exist to foster diversity? 3. We’ve all heard the stories and seen data indicating that a more diverse workforce is good for a company’s bottom line. Given that, please make a case for us that diversity is bad for business. After all, can you think of any other reason why more companies don’t have senior management teams that reflect the markets they serve? 4. You’re in power now, but let’s say that wasn’t the case. What would you do if you were like so many of us out here on the outside looking in? 5. And finally, Symonds says, why is it that we continue to honor advocates for diversity when it’s obvious by looking at the leadership of this industry’s most important companies – especially on the operators’ side – that we’re just as white and just as male as we were a quarter of a century ago when I was a young impressionable man operating on the belief that equal opportunity was both a worthy and attainable goal? Curtis Symonds can be reached at [email protected].

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