SyFy executive Robyn Lattaker-Johnson discusses changing diversity in media

From BET to Syfy to Beyond (Review): Lattaker-Johnson reveals truths with race and entertainment media.

Robyn Lattaker-Johnson said her mission is to change the world a little bit.

Lattaker-Johnson, a dynamic leader with more than 20 years of experience in entertainment was the speaker at the Newhouse School’s 14th Annual Conversation on Race and Entertainment Media.

So far in her career, Lattaker-Johnson has launched 35 shows with BET and has managed several hit shows for SyFy. Currently, Lattaker-Johnson serves as Syfy's Vice President of Unscripted Development and Current Programming.

“I know I’ve changed it [the world], but there’s more work to be done,” Lattaker-Johnson said about the industry.

Because of experiences she has had in the industry especially, Lattaker-Johnson wants to change how diversity is viewed.

For instance, when a woman with a Native American background joined her office, the majority of her co-workers praised the woman, not for her skills and experience, but because she was a checkmark on the “Workplace Diversity Requirement.”

“I would like diversity to mean having more than one black person on a [television] show,” said Lattaker-Johnson.

The audience erupted in snaps of affirmation.

Lattaker-Johnson briefly discussed the roots of how her career in the entertainment industry got started dating back to the days when she wanted to be a news anchor. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Broadcast Communications from the University of Washington, but after graduating, she didn’t have what every aspiring broadcast journalist needed —a demo reel.

Lattaker-Johnson was more attracted to the light-hearted pieces rather than hard news, and she was always interested in the under-represented voices in documentaries, she said. So, she went to graduate school for filmmaking.

One of her jobs, a program development executive, is one she had no idea existed. Her responsibilities included overseeing and developing content for shows. She meticulously managed almost all creative choices from the color of the paint on the wall to the actors’ wardrobes.

Lattaker-Johnson then went on to discuss beyond what the surface of her jobs entailed, but more so, some behind the scenes aspects. According to Lattaker-Johnson, the content on reality TV is the producer’s version of the truth.

“Every single edit is a lie,” Lattaker Johnson said.

"The viewer never gets to see the 'real' truth in a reality show because a sizeable portion of the footage is chopped and screwed," she added.

But while producers can change the content, she said, the cameras never lie.

“The camera can only use what you give it," she touched on.

It's those same cameras that Lattker-Johnson hopes to use to show more touching moments in reality TV to eventually "change the world a little bit."

“I love the voices and I love seeing the transformations,” she said. “Not all reality shows are cat fights and duck hunting. Some content is actually touching.”

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