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Unity Election Features Historic Candidacy

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

White Journalist Seeks to Lead Troubled Coalition

Julie Chen Says, "I Don't Look Less Chinese"

New Miss America Considered "Too Dark" in India

Essence Editor: Don't Be Defined by Mainstream Images

Navy Yard Suspect Complained of Racism, Friend Says

New Top Editor at Time Won't Discuss Diversity

Black, Hispanic, Youngest Kids Hit Harder by Poverty

On New Site, Readers Help Pay Writers for Their Work

GOP Chair Urges Party to Seek Out Hispanic Journalists

Short Takes

David Steinberg, then president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, is interviewed in Las Vegas at the 2012 Unity convention. (Credit: (Video)

White Journalist Seeks to Lead Troubled Coalition

With the National Association of Hispanic Journalists planning not to participate, the coalition once known as Unity: Journalists of Color expects to elect a new president next week, with a white man vying for the office for the first time.

David A. Steinberg, a board member from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, and Janet Cho, a representative of the Asian American Journalists Association, both put their names forward to lead Unity: Journalists for Diversity, according to Mary Hudetz, the president of the Native American Journalists Association who heads the Unity nominating committee.

Janet Cho (Video)

The vote will be taken among members of the Unity board.

"Yes, I will be seeking the presidency of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity this month," Steinberg, copy desk chief/stylebook editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, told Journal-isms by email Wednesday. "I believe I am best suited to advance UNITY's vision of a more diverse media, advocate for its mission and, perhaps most importantly, reform its operations in a cost-efficient way.

"As UNITY president, I would bring a lifelong commitment to diversity and proven leadership skills to guide the organization through the challenges we face and work with the board to build a UNITY that more closely reflects how our alliances, and overall industry, operate in these fiscal times.

"What UNITY needs to succeed in today's environment is the fundamental support from all journalism diversity organizations to make it work. We must restore the sense of partnership and shared values that UNITY was founded and built on, and overcome differences that distract us. That will be my overarching goal as UNITY president."

Cho, a business reporter for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, could not be reached for comment. She had voted against changing the name of the organization from "Unity: Journalists of Color," a request made by NLGJA, of which Steinberg was president. [Cho provided Journal-isms with her statement to the Unity board on Tuesday. See the "Comments" section.]

NLGJA was invited to join the coalition after the National Association of Black Journalists pulled out in 2011, citing financial and governance issues. The two men credited with the idea for Unity, Will Sutton of NABJ and Juan Gonzalez of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said separately that they disapproved of the name change. DeWayne Wickham, who as NABJ president in 1988 convened the first joint meeting of the boards of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA, said of the change, "I think it amounts to a final divorce decree. . . . "

The remaining members of the coalition have maintained their support of NLGJA's participation while saying they want NABJ to come back. "Together, we are stronger and more effective in getting our message heard," Doris Truong of AAJA said of the lesbian and gay group last year.

Hugo Balta, president of NAHJ, has said the four NAHJ members on the Unity board "will not participate in any meeting of Unity until the NAHJ board definitely decides" NAHJ's role in the coalition.

At its national convention last month in Anaheim, Calif., Balta indicted the structure of Unity, saying it was unfair for the larger Unity groups to have the same number of votes as the smaller ones. Balta said his efforts to change the structure have gotten nowhere. He said that two years after NABJ left the coalition over the same reasons of finances, governance, transparency and mission that have made NAHJ unhappy, "there hasn't been a definitive change."

Hudetz told Journal-isms Wednesday, "No matter what, I have every expectation the election will wrap up by the end of next week." She has said the Unity board cannot delay the election because it has been advised that it needs an executive board of permanent members to function. Truong has been acting president since Tom Arviso Jr. of NAJA resigned suddenly in April aftrer four months.

Julie Chen Says, "I Don't Look Less Chinese"

Julie Chen (Credit: Robert Deutsch/USA Today)

"Julie Chen responded to criticism from some Asian Americans that she was denying her culture by having eyelid surgery to make her eyes look more western , reports Entertainment Weekly," Randall Yip reported on his site.

"Chen made her comments Monday on her daytime show, The Talk.

" 'What was hurtful was that hateful comments that I read where people were judging me were people from my own community. It was comments like 'way to give in to the western standards of beauty, you know. You're denying your heritage. You're trying to look less Asian.' Guess what, I don't look less Chinese. I'm not fooling anybody,' " joked Chen.

"On Tuesday's 'The Talk,' Julie Chen denied rumors that she has had other plastic surgery other than eye surgery," Katherine Fung reported Wednesday for the Huffington Post.

"Chen recently admitted that she got surgery for 'bigger eyes' years ago in order to advance her career. There has been speculation that Chen may have also undergone a nose procedure.

" 'For the record, I have never had a nose job,' Chen said Tuesday. 'I have only had plastic surgery done to my eyes that I've already told you about.' She added that she has not had any other procedures done to her face. . . ."

Nina Davuluri was the subject of racist comments after becoming the first Indian American to be crowned Miss Ameri

New Miss America Considered "Too Dark" in India

"Nina Davuluri made history as the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America," Lakshmi Chaudhry wrote Monday for the India-based website Firstpost.

"She is gorgeous, does a mean Bollywood routine, and plans to become a doctor. Move over spelling bees, #DesiPride is gonna rock beauty pageants in malls across America.

"OK, so it's no Tahrir Square, but many Indian Americans felt her victory offered vindication in a culture that prizes hot blondes as the exemplar of all-American beauty. A point Davuluri herself made when asked about Asian TV personality Julie Chen's decision to have plastic surgery to make her eyes less Asian:

" 'I don't agree with plastic surgery, however I can understand that from a standpoint. More importantly I've always viewed Miss America as the girl next door. And Miss America is always evolving... I wouldn't want to change someone's looks. Be confident in who you are.' "

"Of course, progress is not exactly a good thing in some quarters. [BuzzFeed] immediately issued a listicle titled '12 People Who Don't Realize That #MissAmerica Is In Fact… American,' which included such insightful tweets as: 'Miss America needs a red dot on her forehead #missamerica'; 'I'm not a racist. She is representing America doing an Indonesian dance. If it was a Miss Universe pageant it would have been cool'; 'Well, they've picked a Muslim for Miss America. That must've made Obama happy.'

"And for the win: 'How can you be Miss AMERICA and look like you should be a gas station clerk or motel owner?'

"To be fair, there was plenty of pushback from Americans of all hues, including the South Asian twitterati — who also included their share of party poopers. Like Anna John who unhelpfully noted:

"What's interesting is Miss America Nina Davuluri would never win pageants in South Asia because she'd be too dark to be considered beautiful & the same is true for all of those 'Miss Indian American USA' pseudo-pageants held here, as well. No darkies allowed in winner's circle. . . ."

"That gorgeous chocolate may play as exotic in the West, but in India, we prefer our beauty queens strictly vanilla — preferably accessorised with blue contact lenses. . . . "

Viola Davis says in Essence, "I needed to take my wig off."

Essence Editor: Don't Be Defined by Mainstream Images

In the October issue of Essence magazine, new editor-in-chief Vanessa K. Bush urges black women not to be defined by "mainstream media images. When we treasure our unique selves — our hair, nose, lips, bosoms and hips — we begin to embrace our own beauty, like the luminous Viola Davis, who graces this month's cover."

Vanessa K. Bush (Credit: Jason Miccolo Johnson)

Bush, who sees "my natural buzz cut, broad nose, full lips and ample bosom and hips" when she looks in the mirror, also said in her "letter from the editor," "It's clear when we look at whose image is elevated and whose is not that society sees beauty through a one-dimensional lens."

In Bush's interview with Davis, who played a domestic in the 2011 film "The Help," for which she received a best-actress Oscar nomination, Davis said she later decided to wear her hair naturally as part of coming to terms with herself as an artist and as a black woman.

"The level of the attacks that came at me just for deciding to do The Help got me to that point that night at the Oscars," she said. "I had to step into who I was. I had to defend myself as an artist, and through that, I found myself defending myself as a Black woman, a dark-skinned Black woman in front of people who did not know my life, not just in terms of me being Viola but also in terms of being a Black actress in Hollywood. And through that fighting, what emerged was that I needed to take my wig off, because I no longer wanted to apologize for who I am. So I did that and felt very comfortable in doing that . . . ."

Davis also said, "Once I did, what was left was this image of me and my natural hair, with my dark skin, with my body. The one thing I feel is lacking in Hollywood today is an understanding of the beauty, the power, the sexuality, the uniqueness, the humor of being a regular Black woman."

Navy Yard Suspect Complained of Racism, Friend Says

Aaron Alexis

"Aaron Alexis was so unhappy with his life in America — where he was beset by money woes and felt slighted as a veteran — that he was 'ready to move out of the country' last year, a friend said Tuesday," Mark Potter and Charles Hadlock reported for NBC News.

Alexis, the man police say shot and killed 12 people in the Washington Navy Yard, reportedly called police to complain that people were following him and that he was hearing voices.

The NBC reporters spoke with Kristi Suthamtewkal, whose husband owns the Thai Bowl Restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, where Alexis worked in exchange for room and board.

They reported, "After he returned from a contract job in Japan in Nov. 2012, he didn't seem as easy-going, though.

" 'He felt like he had been cheated out of money from the contract and complained that he was mistreated because he was black,' Kristi Suthamtewkal said.

" 'He felt a lot of discrimination and racism with white people especially,' she said. . . ."

In a commentary Tuesday on radio's "The Tom Joyner Morning Show," CNN anchor Don Lemon said, "Finish this sentence for me. If I had a son, he'd look like? The President said Trayvon.

"If I had a son he'd look like Aaron Alexis — that is the new Internet meme. That's the new hashtag that's trending on Twitter. If Obama had a son he'd look like Aaron Alexis. If Obama had a son he'd look like the shooter. Or if Obama had a son he'd look and act like Aaron Alexis.

"Immediately after the FBI identified the suspect in yesterday's shooting in the Navy Yard in D.C. as Aaron Alexis, a young black man, some – some on the political right – jumped on the bandwagon, well, at least on the Internet; online, on Twitter, on Facebook specifically, and began to take glee, not only in the fact that the shooter was black, but that they could make a comparison to the President of the United States. A funny comparison, a snarky comparison. But here's the truth. Most of the mass shootings in workplaces, in schools, in malls, et cetera, are committed by white men, in overall numbers and in percentages.

"But men of color, as we have begun to know now, are not immune, like Christopher Dorner, remember him? He went on the shooting spree earlier this year in California killing police officers and innocent civilians and now Aaron Alexis; two men who turned their inner anger and revenge to the people around them. Black men know, like Don Cornelius, and more recently, actor Lee Thompson Young turned their anger inward and took their lives.

"So here's something else for you to think about. These incidents will probably increase if we don't bring something into the light and discuss it. And that is mental health among black people, or the converse, which is mental illness, which are taboo subjects in our community. . . ."

New Top Editor at Time Won't Discuss Diversity

Nancy Gibbs

Nancy Gibbs, 53, was named the new managing editor of Time magazine on Tuesday, the first woman to become the top editor at the newsweekly in its 90-year history. She told AdAge, "We're getting ready to do a complete relaunch of I've hired more than two dozen reporters, editors and designers."

But when a Time Inc. spokesman was asked how diverse those hires are and whether Gibbs would articulate her views on diversity, Daniel Kile, executive director, public relations, told Journal-isms, "Our policy is not to disclose personal information about staff, and, as always, diversity is an important priority at TIME."

The lack of African American correspondents at Time helped earn it the 2012 Thumbs Down award from the National Association of Black Journalists. The inattention to diversity at the publication wasn't always the case.

Despite Kile's recitation of a Time policy not to disclose "personal information about staff," in 2006, Journal-isms asked Ali Zelenko, outgoing vice president for communications at Time Inc. (her last day was Wednesday; she's heading to NBC), to name the journalists of color at Time magazine.

Among the 15 Zelenko listed were black journalists Janice Simpson, assistant managing editor; Ta-Nehisi Coates, staff writer; Perry Bacon Jr., Washington correspondent; and Sonja Steptoe, senior correspondent.

Today, all four are gone. Since then, Time published a commemoration of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that depicted no blacks, and last Father's Day, a feature on famous dads that included no black fathers.

Andrew Beaujon reported for the Poynter Institute Wednesday, "New Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs will announce two hires this week, she told Poynter in a phone call Tuesday evening: Senior Editor Matt Vella will become business editor of the news organization, and former New York Post deputy features editor Isaac Guzman (as Joe Pompeo reported last month) will become Time's culture editor. . . ."

Neither is African American.

Black, Hispanic, Youngest Kids Hit Harder by Poverty

"The Children's Defense Fund's analysis of new state data released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that child poverty rates remain at record highs and Black, Hispanic and children under six suffer the most," the organization said in a statement for release on Thursday. "Only two states (Texas and Illinois) experienced significant decreases from 2011. Child poverty rates actually increased in three states (New Hampshire, Mississippi and California) and remained at 2011 levels for the remaining 45 states."

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the fund, said in the release, "All Americans including those in Congress have to recognize that Black and Hispanic children already are a majority of our babies and are the face of our future. We need them to be productive. Every year we keep over 16 million children in poverty we are losing hundreds of billions of dollars.

" 'Children did not cause the recession and they should not have to suffer from the recklessness of others. If we want to build a strong workforce and military and to stand for the basic tenets of justice for the most voiceless in our midst, we must end child poverty. How is it possible when millions of children are poor, Congress could for one minute consider cutting their food assistance,' asked Edelman referring to a proposal in the House of Representatives to cut SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] by about $40 billion over the next ten years. . . ."

The census data did not include Native Americans or Alaska natives because the sample size was too small, a Census Bureau representative told Journal-isms. Those groups might surpass blacks and Latinos in the level of poverty.

On New Site, Readers Help Pay Writers for Their Work

Steven Gray

"Former Facebook managing editor Daniel Fletcher and the two founders behind the Backspaces storytelling app have launched the beta version of a platform that aims to help independent journalists get paid for their work," Hamish McKenzie reported Tuesday for

"Called Beacon, the new platform lets readers follow their favorite writers, and others who publish on the service, for a monthly fee.

"Fletcher and cofounders Adrian Sanders and Dmitri Cherniak want Beacon to foster relationships between readers and writers on a one-to-one basis. Writers can promote their work via Beacon and encourage their followers to subscribe to the journalism available on the platform for $5 a month. (During the beta period, readers get a free 14-day trial period.) Most of the revenue – between 60 percent and 75 percent; the founders say the exact figure will be determined over time – goes directly to the writers. . . ."

Steven Gray, who has worked at Time, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, is one of the participants. "I've spent nearly two decades covering business, politics and social issues for the world's leading news organizations," Gray says on the site. "There's understandable noise about journalism's decline, but the truth is, storytelling isn't dead. At no moment in history has there been greater demand for knowledge, and more ways to get it. The main problem is, so much of it's unrefined.

"This is why Beacon is so appealing. It raises a couple tests that boil down to this: Will an audience be willing to pay for reported analysis directly from one writer — especially one with my voice? The voice is fundamentally just American – and it's complex, often contradictory.

"For your ideas, time and funding, you'll get reported essays, or long-form narratives that unfold over a couple weeks. You might get a quick analysis of a breaking news event. Or a photo from the side of a road in Brazil. Beacon will be the primary home for my work. The work may stay at Beacon, or it may be born here and land at other outlets. . . ."

GOP Chair Urges Party to Seek Out Hispanic Journalists

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, urged his fellow Republicans to engage with Hispanic journalists Wednesday as part of a broader effort to woo Latinos.

"Any engagement effort has a media component, and Republicans must engage with Hispanic journalists," Priebus wrote in a piece for the National Review commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. "If I can speak with Jorge Ramos and José Diaz-Balart about the future of the party, so can everyone else. Juntos podemos hacer más — together we can do more. . . ."

Elizabeth Llorente of Fox News Latino reported that "Priebus's open letter was met with skepticism.

"D.A. King, who has led various campaigns in Georgia supporting tough immigration enforcement, said the RNC effort to court Latinos veered into an abandonment of principles that are important to conservatives.

" 'Along with John McCain, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus is another example of why this conservative voter is not a member of any political party,' King said, referring to GOP lawmakers who have expressed support for giving legal status to undocumented immigrants.

" 'While the GOP hierarchy wrings its hands on how to improve voter turnout, it plays lapdog to the business community and the endless demands of ever-cheaper labor,' King said. 'A process that not only hurts potential Hispanic GOP voters, but drives the remainder of the conservative base, including loyal Hispanics, into hiding at election time. Too many of us still remember the disastrous results of the one-time "immigration reform" of 1986.'

"But other critics of the open letter said it struck them as superficial, and missing the point of what alienates Latinos from the Republican Party. . . ."

Short Takes

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Statement from Janet Cho on candidacy for Unity president

Statement from Janet Cho on candidacy for Unity president

September 17, 2013

Dear UNITY Nominating Committee Members,

After much prayer and consultation with trusted friends, I have decided to run for President of UNITY Journalists for Diversity.

As one of thousands of journalists who attended the first UNITY '94 in Atlanta, I was awed and inspired by the power and potential of those gathered in that convention center. No matter what race, ethnicity, language, beliefs or orientation, no matter what tribe or tradition we hailed from, we were there as a sea of journalists, and we were demanding a media industry that looked more like us.

That's why it breaks my heart that 19 years after that historic gathering, UNITY is on the verge of being torn apart. We quarrel over the budget instead of talking about our mission. We look out for our own people instead of seeking a solution that benefits everyone. We gather together for board meetings and leave without having learned anything from one another.

In so many ways, UNITY is falling short of its potential — to advocate, to challenge the status quo, and to lead.

We -- and the members of our alliance groups — need and deserve leaders who are more accountable, more transparent, and more credible. They need to see us demonstrating why UNITY is both a unique and essential partnership. Being UNITY President doesn't mean bending everyone else to your way, but rather finding a path that we can all follow and believe in.

I offer you 15 years of experience serving on the Asian American Journalists Association board, including five years as National Vice President for Print, and more than six years as a director on the UNITY Board. I have a track record of being willing to listen and work with people from diverse backgrounds and points of view.

Next year, we mark UNITY's 20th anniversary. And despite our current difficulties, I still believe we have so much to celebrate and look forward to. With your support, I think we should commemorate that milestone with renewed purpose and talk about how to reinvent UNITY for 2016.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Janet Cho


Among those who can speak about my qualifications are:

+ Joanna Hernandez, former UNITY President

+ Tom Arviso Jr., former UNITY President

+ Lloyd LaCuesta, former UNITY President and former AAJA National President

+ Esther Wu, former AAJA National President and former UNITY Vice-President

+ Will Sutton, former NABJ National President and UNITY Co-Founder


Janet Cho on candidacy for UNITY President

The only hope for the dessicated remains of what UNITY was is if Janet Cho becomes the next president of the troubled coalition.

With all due respect to David Steinberg, he is not the person who can lead UNITY.  He will likely hasten the departure of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and further shred the tattered fabric of UNITY's original coalition.

Not sure why I care, but I don't see any upside to Steinberg's candidacy to UNITY's future. 

Janet Cho on candidacy for UNITY President

The only hope for the dessicated remains of what UNITY was is if Janet Cho becomes the next president of the troubled coalition.

With all due respect to David Steinberg, he is not the person who can lead UNITY.  He will likely hasten the departure of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and further shred the tattered fabric of UNITY's original coalition.

Not sure why I care, but I don't see any upside to Steinberg's candidacy to UNITY's future. 

Time magazine

Blacks should worry less about diversity and more about building and supporting our own institutions.

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