Johnita Due

Johnita Due
General Counsel and Diversity Lead

Johnita P. Due is assistant general counsel and chief diversity advisor for CNN. Due joined CNN in 2003 and is based in the network’s headquarters in Atlanta.

As assistant general counsel, Due advises on First Amendment, newsgathering, and copyright law. In addition, she has been a central figure in addressing evolving new media law issues, including matters arising from user-generated content and social media. Notably, she helped shepherd the development and launch of CNN’s first ever user-generated content website, Due has also managed access matters for CNN such as its successful lawsuits against the State of Florida for a copy of its suspected felons list prior to the 2004 election, and against the federal government to gain access to Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts.

As chief diversity advisor, Due has chaired the CNN Diversity Council since 2005. She provides guidance and leadership to CNN management on content, marketplace, workforce and workplace initiatives to further CNN’s diversity mission. Due has been key to the development of strategies to reach multicultural audiences, including global programming initiatives Black in America and Latino in America, “CNN Dialogues,” a series of community dialogues launched in partnership with Emory University’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study for Race and Difference and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a company-wide initiative geared toward producing more content for the growing and diverse U.S. Hispanic market. Due also works closely with CNN human resources on internship, fellowship, recruitment, and employee development programs to foster an inclusive culture for staff.

Due is the recipient of the 2010 corporate award from NV magazine, bestowed upon individuals who have “found a way to raise the standard for how their corporation operates by not only protecting the bottom line but increasing the integrity of the brand.” In 2008, she was presented with the Ida B. Wells Award by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the National Conference of Editorial Writers, which cited her “passionate and impactful efforts to promote diversity in staffing and expanded coverage of minority communities and issues at one of the nation’s preeminent news outlets, and for championing the cause of diversity beyond her newsroom’s doors.” She also received a 2008 NAMIC Luminary Award for her commitment to promoting multi-ethnic diversity within her company and for giving back to her community.

Due was featured among the “Second 50 Most Influential Minorities in Cable” by CableFAX magazine in 2008 and named a “Diversity Champion” by Diversity Edge magazine that same year. In 2007, Due was recognized as one of the “Top Black Voices in Network News” by Ebony magazine.

During Due’s tenure as Diversity Council chair, CNN has been honored with significant industry honors that reflect her leadership. In 2007, the organization received an NABJ “Best Practices Award” for exemplary work in covering issues “of great significance to the black community or the African Diaspora and/or for efforts in increasing diversity among newsroom staff and management.” In 2009, CNN received the Corporate Diversity Award from the American Institute of Managing Diversity. CNN was also commended that year for its diversity best practices in a white paper by the Newspaper Association of America for redefining “diversity initiatives in the 21st century” and for using diversity “to help shape strategy, attract new customers, and increase revenue.” In 2010, CNN was honored with an International Business Leadership Award from the Equality Forum for its commitment to a diverse society and workforce and “for reporting with distinction issues about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.”

Due is a 2008 McCormick Fellow and an alumna of the Leadership Atlanta class of 2008. She is a member of the governing board of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law and serves as a board member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a board member of Vox Teen Communications in Atlanta. Due has presented or moderated at numerous conferences on diversity and media law subjects sponsored by such organizations as the American Bar Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, the McCormick Tribune Fellows Program, the Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association, the Anti-Racist Network for Equality in Europe, the Cornell Alumni Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She has been published in such legal publications as the MLRC Media Law Letter and The Human Rights Brief.

Prior to joining CNN, Due was associate general counsel for The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., where she practiced litigation, intellectual property, and media law. While at McGraw-Hill, Due received a Black Achievers in Industry award from the Harlem branch of the YMCA of Greater New York. She also served as an adjunct professor of media law at Cornell Law School from 2001-2002. Before joining McGraw-Hill, Due worked as a litigation associate at the New York office of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts. In 1994, as a pro bono fellow for the firm, Due worked in Rome as vice president of S.O.S. Razzismo Italia, a non-profit organization that is part of a European network committed to fighting racial discrimination against immigrants and other people of color.

Due earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Sussex in England by studying race relations and organizational culture under a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship. She earned her law degree from Cornell Law School, specializing in international legal affairs. As a law student, Due was an NAACP Legal Defense Fund Earl Warren Scholar and intern and she also interned at the United Nations Centre for Human Rights.