‘Disrespectful’: CNN Excludes Black American Media from 2024 President Debate In Atlanta But Approved Credentials for Reporters from Other Countries

Reporters from abroad, whose reader demographics are less likely to vote in the upcoming election, were informed and granted media credentials to this week’s presidential debate hosted by CNN, but Black media were not.

According to a source close to the credentialing process, about 600 national and international outlets received media credentials for the June 27 event, but none of them are Black-owned.

Despite hosting a presidential debate within 3 miles of Black-owned and Black-led media outlets in Atlanta, CNN did not extend an invite to the event to locally-based publications catering to a Black audience.

NN Excludes Black American Media from 2024 President Debate In Atlanta But Approved Credentials for Reporters from Other Countries
A sign for Warner Brothers Discovery is seen outside of the Turner Entertainment Networks building home to CNN and the location of the first presidential debate, on June 25, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump will face off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 presidential cycle this Thursday. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Thursday’s debate will take place at CNN Studios in Midtown Atlanta, within jogging distance of the offices of Atlanta Voice and Atlanta Black Star, two Black publications based in the same city. However, neither publication received a press release or any other communication regarding media access for the debate that could help determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

“It was disrespectful. I thought it was very tacky not to invite the Black newspaper. I thought that was just cheap and typical of CNN,” Atlanta Voice editor-in-chief Donnel Suggs said in a phone interview.

According to an email from CNN, there was a June 7 deadline for members of the media to request credentials to attend and cover the event, but Atlanta Voice and Atlanta Black Star were unaware of the deadline until editors from both publications individually reached out to a CNN representative in the past week, who stated that the mainstream media outlet is “unable to accommodate any additional credential requests” past the deadline.

Suggs finds it impertinent that CNN did not consider Atlanta Voice for an invite or send any correspondence about the event to the Black publication.

“(CNN) never reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, June 7, you guys better have this thing in.’ Had they told me that, we would have done that, right? So, right, that’s messed up,” Suggs said.

A scan of Atlanta Black Star’s email inboxes showed zero emails from CNN or a representative regarding the debate. A follow-up email to Dylan Geerlings of CNN seeking clarification of the deadline and how Atlanta Black Star would be aware of it has been left unanswered.

Editors from EBONY told Atlanta Black Star they also sent a request but never received a response.

Representatives from Joe Biden’s campaign have also lobbied for Black publications to attend, given the impact of Black voters in the election and the barriers that Black publications face.

Black-owned media outlets struggle with significantly lower financial resources than mainstream media, leading to staffing and other disparities and constraining those platforms’ growth and visibility.

CNN has now offered to add Atlanta Black Star and Atlanta Voice to its distribution list for transcripts and photos from the debate. The Biden campaign will host a press briefing for Black publications ahead of the debate on Thursday.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks released a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning CNN and demanding that the media company immediately approve credentials for at least 10 Black-owned publications, calling the move an “egregious oversight” and “totally unacceptable.”

“CNN must immediately credential Black-owned media outlets ahead of tomorrow night’s debate. Failure to do is a choice, an offense to Black Americans, and cannot stand. We are calling on CNN to credential a minimum of 10 Black-owned media outlets for tomorrow’s debate,” Meeks said. “Black-owned media provides a critical, trusted source of information to our communities and their role in our democracy must be respected and honored by CNN.”

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