Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian

CNN and a host of reputable and disreputable media sources alike recently weighed in on an impending boycott of the Oscars. The planned boycott occurred after key players in Hollywood — both in front of and behind the scenes — spoke out against a lack of diversity in this year’s nominee lineup.

In spite of hiring African-American comedian Chris Rock to host the show, celebrities like George Clooney, and Spike Lee noticed that, for the second year, nominees were all Caucasian. On Martin Luther King Day, Jada Pinkett Smith released a video on her Facebook page, acknowledging the Academy’s freedom of choice, as well as her own, to neither attend nor watch.

This video added further controversy regarding nominees presented by the Academy, and how minorities should handle the situation.

The problem

Beacause many big hits this year featured strong African-American and Hispanic casts, there’s a feeling that the nominees do not reflect the true make-up of blockbuster hits this year. And given that it’s happened for the second year in a row, it’s left a bad taste for many.

It begs the question of whether or not the Academy chose all-white nominees on purpose. Many are asking if it was an accidental oversight? Was it deliberate? Or did no one care when the nominees were decided? In truth, any and all of these situations could prove true in one form or another.

The Academy’s reaction

Fitting as it is ironic, the Academy now features its first African American president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Cheryl, who has worked with The Academy since 1988, released a statement shortly after Smith’s video, where she acknowledged a “lack of inclusion,” and noted that it was “time for big changes.”

She also stressed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had worked hard to create a more diverse membership, and agreed the organization needed “to do more, and better, and more quickly.”

This humble and apologetic response not only helped defuse the situation but also regained some of Smith’s good favor. The artist posted the following day on her Twitter page, “I would like to express my gratitude to the Academy, specifically Cheryl Boone Isaacs … for such a quick response in regard to the issue at hand. I look forward to the future.”

Moving forward

As Smith represented the main voice behind the boycott, her respectful response to Cheryl’s statement shows that the Academy handled the situation well. However, the Academy will truly need to increase diversity if it is to come out with a nominee listing next year showing more inclusion.

In the meantime, the Academy should continue to remind the public of its progress towards further diversity, as it makes changes towards this goal. This helps to solve the problem while allowing the public to follow and become vested in the process of creating change. Cheryl made this very same promise last year, and this year’s results showed no change.

Why should next year be any different?

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5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian has been named PR Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards.  His agency is ranked as one of the 20 largest independent firms in the United States.