Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

"African American" Plus 20

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Two Decades Ago, Educators Urged Using Name

The term "African American" has become such a part of the landscape that it's difficult to recall that it was controversial when it was proposed for general use 20 years ago.

These days, the nomenclature debate is more likely to revolve about use of the "N" word.


In 1984, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, an organization of school superintendents, named a task force on the future of black children. Asa G. Hilliard of Georgia State University was its chairman; Barbara A. Sizemore of the University of Pittsburgh its vice chair.

"Throughout this report we have used the unhyphenated name, African American, to identify the black population, previously called Negro, 'colored' and black," read the introduction to the task force findings, "Saving the African American Child."

"African Americans have called themselves many names since the ancestors were torn from their tribal moorings in Africa and deprived of their histories. We remove the hyphen to emphasize this rupture."

The term had been in use for at least 20 years among intellectuals, black nationalists and others, but this was believed to be the first time an organization had called for use of the term, the organization's leaders told a reporter then. The next year, the Dallas Independent School District started using "African American" along with "black."

On Dec. 19, 1988, the term truly entered the mainstream, as about 75 black leaders met in Chicago to discuss an "African American agenda." Using the term was part of a broad "cultural offensive," but the efforts of one reporter — Lillian Williams of the Chicago Sun-Times — made the so-called "name change" the news story from the meeting.

It was inaccurately presented in most news reports as the idea of Jesse Jackson, and when the story was rewritten by editors at the Associated Press, an organization that did not cover the conference, the hyphen was inserted to conform to AP style, as reported (by this writer) in the July/August 1989 issue of the ASNE Bulletin, a publication of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

"Blacks: Call us 'African Americans'," was the Sun-Times' banner headline. "Jesse, other leaders declare name change."

And then came the culture wars. One editor not of color, expressing her dislike of the term, said it reminded her of "womyn," a term some feminists tried to popularize so that the letters "m-a-n" would be eliminated when discussing the female gender. Some whites demanded (in jest?) that they be called "European Americans."

Others wrote stories about how the term "divided" blacks. Columnists held forth on the topic, and some editors dug in their heels, refusing to allow the term in their papers, except in quotes.

Today, the terms "blacks" and "African Americans" co-exist, though careful writers know that only Americans can be "African Americans."

But to this day, through annual revisions and the fact that you will find the term in dozens of Associated Press stories, the AP Stylebook, the bible in so many newsrooms, insists:

"The preferred term is black. Use African-American only in quotations or the names of organizations or if individuals describe themselves so."

Court Deals Setback to Media Consolidation

"A federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a setback to the nation's largest media companies by ordering the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider the rules it issued last summer, easing the way for them to grow and enter new markets," as Stephen Labaton reports in the New York Times.

"The 2-to-1 decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia means that big broadcasting and publishing companies, which have lobbied and litigated for years in an effort to ease the rules, will have to hold off on any attempts to expand.

"The decision was also a setback for the Bush administration, which supported easing the ownership limitations, and for Michael K. Powell, the chairman of the commission and the main architect of the new rules."

It was just a year ago that the FCC's Michael Copps, a Democrat, was barnstorming the country trying to alert the public to the FCC's impending action. He visited a board meeting of Unity: Journalists of Color to urge the journalists to "help bring the issue to the American people," even if they had reported on media consolidation already.

Journalist organizations of color unsuccessfully urged a delay in the FCC vote.

Journalists Fearful, Outraged by Mexico Killing

"Journalists wearing black ribbons marched Thursday through Tijuana's streets, remembering a slain crusading editor and demanding an end to violence against those who report the news," the Associated Press reports.

"Francisco Ortiz from the Zeta newspaper was gunned down Tuesday as he sat in his car with his two youngest children, who were uninjured in the shooting. It was the third attack against a leading figure at the weekly since 1988.

"Gunmen killed the newspaper's co-founder, Hector Felix Miranda in April 1988. Assailants with machine guns tried to slay co-founder and publisher Jesus Blancornelas in 1997, wounding him and killing one of his bodyguards.

"'When they attack one of us, they attack all of us,' said Rafael Morales, vice president of the Association of Tijuana Journalists. 'Enough already. It isn't fair that journalists' have to pay with blood for the work of their pen or their camera.'

"Stuart Wilk, president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and vice president and associate editor of The Dallas Morning News, said the slaying 'shocks and saddens journalists everywhere,'" the AP story continued.

"Mexican journalists on the U.S. border, some with 24-hour protection from machine-gun toting soldiers, feared for their lives on Wednesday and expressed despair at an increasingly emasculated press after a crusading colleague was shot to death," Reuters reported.

Columbia U. Cites Best Latin American Reporting

Columbia University announced this week the winners of the 2004 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on Latin America:


  • "Gerardo Reyes, investigative reporter, El Nuevo Herald (Miami, Fla.), for advancing the practice and method of investigative journalism through his pioneering work in both U.S. and Latin-American media;
  • "Clarín (Argentina) investigative reporter Daniel Santoro, who has spent his 25-year career as a journalist fighting against corruption and abuse of power and for higher standards of journalism;
  • "Elena Poniatowska, author and columnist, La Jornada (Mexico), for her courageous, independent reporting over the past 51 years that has provided a voice for Mexico's forgotten people;
  • "Joel Millman, The Wall Street Journal U.S.-Mexico border bureau chief, whose reporting has deciphered for many the complexities of Latin American politics, economics, society and the environment."
  • "A Special Citation also will be awarded to Alberto Ibargüen, publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, for his leadership in the campaign to end impunity for those who seek to silence the media in Latin America."

No Journalists of Color in Newsday, Sun Buyouts

"Thank goodness that I, for one, am not losing her to a buyout being offered to all in this workplace aged 53 and older," writes Katti Gray in Newsday, one of the Tribune Co. newspapers told to trim costs, discussing a favorite editor.

For those who took the offer, "their last workday, according to terms announced only last Monday, is June 30."

Gray told Journal-isms she did not believe any journalists of color were leaving.

A Newsday spokesman said no statement on the buyout had been issued.

Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher reported today that, "The Sun in Baltimore will not have to resort to layoffs, at least in the near future, because enough employees have agreed to take a buyout offer that was set to end Friday, a Sun spokeswoman told E&P.

Michael Hill, unit chair of the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild, told Journal-isms that he did know of any journalists of color who took the buyout.

Parents Don't Mind Publicizing Slain Student's Essay

On Monday, we reported on the case of Jayme Bradford, chairwoman of the Communications Department at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla., who was fired by the college.

"Bradford said she believes the campus also is punishing her for releasing an essay written by a student killed across the street from campus dorms," the Florida Times-Union reported.

Michael Freed, a Jacksonville lawyer who is representing the school, told Journal-isms Monday that "This was not anything written for any publication. This was work submitted for a grade. Publicizing a student work or any personal information of a student is a violation of the law," he said. "That was an inappropriate thing to do."

However, the parents don't mind, according to their lawyer. Larry Moskowitz told Journal-isms this week that, "Surely the parents have no objection to the dissemination of their child's article the night before he was murdered." Asked how he knew that, Moskowitz said, "they never voiced any objection to me" as their lawyer.

Black-Press Owners Discuss Succession

Having a plan for succession in place was one of the topics at the New Orleans convention of the National Newspaper Publishers Association last week, Ronette King writes in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"About 80 percent of the association members represent family-owned newspapers. Therefore, the failure to put a succession plan in place, to groom a successor, jeopardizes not just a business, but a unique voice for the community where the paper is located, said Sonny Messiah-Jiles, chairwoman of the association," King wrote.

"Family-owned businesses often don't survive from one generation to the next because they don't plan for succession, said James Herbert, professor of management and entrepreneurship at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. . . . Two other major reasons businesses often falter at the second generation are family conflicts and estate taxes, he said.

"'As small-business owners, African-American and other minority owners in particular are under the gun all the time,' Herbert said. 'So, the focus is always survival as opposed to giving a vision and having a growth strategy. There's no luxury to pause and think about the legacy.'"

Also at the conference, Thomas N. Todd, an attorney and longtime civil rights activist, said that civil rights movement had forced many changes in society, but not so many that the black press is no longer needed, Hazel Trice Edney reported for the NNPA.

Sports Anchor's Detroit Comments Touch Nerve

"WLS-Channel 7 sports anchor Mark Giangreco was slapped with a weeklong suspension for joking about Detroit going up in flames after the Pistons won the NBA Championship," Bob Feder writes in his Chicago Sun-Times column.

"Judging from the response of readers, nobody's laughing now," he continued, running excerpts of reaction from readers.

NBA Has Work to Do With Hispanic Viewers

"This month?s NBA finals, which pitted the Los Angeles Lakers against the Detroit Pistons, certainly drew respectable ratings among Hispanic households," writes Marisa Hoheb in Media Life magazine.

"A decent showing, for sure, but hardly a wower when you consider the high number of Hispanics living in the Lakers? Los Angeles market. Almost half the city proper's population was listed as Hispanic in the 2000 census, about 1.7 million people.

"The NBA contends that it's the most popular major sports league among U.S. Hispanics, ahead of the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. It boasts that 65 percent of Hispanics are professional basketball fans, comprising 15 percent of the NBA?s total fan base.

"Yet in comparison to other demographics, Hispanic viewership of NBA games is still paltry."

Ousted Billboard Editors File Lawsuit

A lawsuit, filed "for former editor in chief Keith Girard and former senior editor Samantha Chang, describe widespread sexual hanky-panky among top Billboard executives, sexual and racial harassment, editorial interference aimed at pleasing powerful advertisers, and a generally distasteful work environment of backstabbing and dishonesty," Media Life magazine reports.

"The pair is seeking $29 million in damages.

"Billboard is not commenting on the suit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court. The suit names Billboard publisher John Kilcullen, executive editor Ken Schlager and VNU chief operating officer Howard Lander, among others."

Jury Weighs Black Host's Suit Against QVC

"A lawyer for the QVC television shopping network told a jury Monday that the company relegated one of its black hosts to the graveyard shift, then fired her, because she was a poor saleswoman," David B. Caruso wrote for the Associated Press.

"Former QVC personality Gwen Owens is suing the shopping network, claiming it hired minorities as 'tokens,' but kept them off the air in prime time because it feared white viewers would be turned off by dark faces.

"A federal jury heard five weeks of testimony from Owens, QVC Inc. executives and other minority hosts who complained about their treatment."

In a follow-up today saying the jury was still out, the Philadelphia Inquirer said:

"Owens, 42, who is African American, contends that she was fired in 1998 after four years because of a purported practice by QVC managers of treating minority hosts as tokens. She also contends that QVC managers retaliated against her for suing by intervening with Comcast to deny her an anchor job at the CN8 local cable news channel."

Crutchfield Named to Knight Foundation Board

"Akron Beacon Journal President and Publisher James N. Crutchfield has been elected to the board of trustees of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation," the foundation announces.

"Crutchfield, 56, replaces former Grand Forks Herald publisher Michael Maidenberg, who vacated his board seat in March to become Knight Foundation's vice president and chief program officer."

Knight Funds Chair to Improve Health in Black Belt

"The University of Georgia?s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has won a major endowment grant to create an innovative Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism," the foundation announces.

"The grant will allow Grady College to develop and teach undergraduate and master?s courses in health and medical journalism and create an outreach program aimed at improving the flow of health news to the Southern Black Belt, a rural strip of more than 600 counties winding through 11 states, home to a third of the nation?s 34.6 million poor."

"Trustees of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded the $1.5 million chair to Georgia at its June board meeting. The university has pledged $1.9 million to support the chair activities."

In another development, Richard Cole, longtime dean and fundraiser for University of North Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication is doling out the first $3 million endowed professorship in his school's history, the Durham Herald-Sun reports.

"The Richard Cole Eminent Professorship will be one of the university's largest. . . . The details of the professorship are still to be worked out, and its first recipient isn't yet known. The person could be a member of the current, 44-member faculty, or the chair could be used to recruit someone new to the university, Cole said.

"The donor, whose identity was not revealed, has had a long relationship with the school, Cole said."

Charles Perez Returning to N.Y. From Miami

"Charles Perez, best known as the host of a 1990s daytime talk show, is returning to New York -- as an anchor at WABC/Ch. 7," Richard Huff reports in the New York Daily News.

"Perez will join the station in September as a weekend anchor and a reporter.

"He's currently working at Miami station WSVN-TV, where he's also been a weekend anchor, reporter and the main substitute anchor for weekday newscasts."

Univision, Al Dia Web Site Win Murrow Awards

Univision and the Web site for al Dia, the Spanish-language offshoot of the Dallas Morning News, were among the winners of the Edward R. Murrow Awards of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. won for Web site in the under 200,000 category; Univision in the news series category for "Mis Padres, Mis Verdugos (My Parents, My Tormentors)" and in videography for "En Busca de Un Milagro (In Search of a Miracle)."

Natives Have Reparations, "Passing" Issues

As the Unity convention approaches, two recent news items note that Native Americans have issues similar to those among African Americans.

"A resolution to apologize for the federal government's treatment of Native peoples is being delayed by the Bush administration, supporters of the measure said," reports, in language reminiscent of the reparations debate.

And Andrew Kramer reports for the Associated Press, in a story that recalls "passing" from one race to another for economic reasons:

"American Indians are discovering that one route out of poverty is joining a tribe with a successful casino, a transfer that is allowed if they can show they have blood ties to the tribe.

"'We're experiencing people enrolling in one tribe and relinquishing from another,' said Lynn Holder, an Indian demographer and director of the University of Washington tribal community partnership program. 'Typically, this happens around the tribes that have been economically stronger and provide more housing and services.'"

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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