NAMIC Mid-Atlantic‘s DC lunch panel Fri on business champions morphed—fittingly—into a discussion on how to keep diversity efforts going during the down economy. Cox svp, chief people officer Mae Douglas said the MSO’s Diversity Council actually met this week with pres Pat Esser to discuss this very issue. Cox is in the middle of reducing about 2% of its workforce, which it’s targeting via early retirement packages and attrition. Esser told the Council that diversity will continue to be important, Douglas said. "As we go through this reduction, there is a great opportunity for promotions… Those left have an opportunity to expand their knowledge and take on additional responsibilities," she said. Lisa Choi Owens, Scripps Nets Digital svp, online partnerships and distribution, said it’s even more critical to focus on diversity now. "You need diversity in an organization to be able to address those groups, and right now you need as much audience as you can possibly get because times are bad," she said. Backing her up was CNN morning news anchor Tony Harris, who said his net has seen "an enormous increase in its African American audience" with the historic presidential race and election. CNN "is trying to figure out openly how to keep black folks watching CNN," he said, noting its part of the reason CNN bowed "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News." That got some groans from the lunch crowd, as CNN has drawn controversy for the launch of the black comedian-hosted comedy program. Harris quipped that he’d be happy to host his own news hour in prime for CNN. Troy Johnson, who himself was just laid off from his job as a talk show host for CBS Radio when Baltimore’s 105.7 moved from news talk to sports talk, offered up advice for personally surviving the economic downturn. "It’s about weathering the storm… and figuring out how you fit back in if the model changes," he said. Douglas acknowledged that Cox is starting to see some changes in consumer behavior. Some are not taking premium services any more, or opting for lower HSD speeds or DVR levels, she said, adding that Cox is working on better value priced packages to help.

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