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In Smartphone Era, New Ideas for Diversity

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

News Leaders Brainstorm to Kick-start Interest

Attendees at the "Leadership in Diversity" Summit

Navy Official Urges Coverage of Walking Wounded

Mexican Journalists Tell NAHJ They Want OK for Asylum

Dwight Lewis Retiring as Tennessean Editorial Page Editor

Short Takes

Newsroom Leaders Brainstorm to Kick-start Interest

Mei-Mei Chan, left, Walt Swanston, Milton ColemanThe push for newsroom diversity isn't dead; it just needs to be refitted for an era of smartphones, "diversity fatigue," shrinking budgets and changing demographics, a roomful of the industry's leading diversity advocates agreed in brainstorming sessions Tuesday and Wednesday.

The brain trust — assembled by the American Society of News Editors — didn't lack for ideas.

For example:

  • Using smartphones to deliver health care information to underserved communities, in different languages, providing news-you-can-use about health fairs and screenings.

  • Creating microsites that update the old "Welcome Wagon" that greeted newcomers to town, but now featuring bloggers and videos of local leaders, and including mobile-only coupons and a database of restaurants?

  • Bringing in millennials as employees who would repackage the news for their peers, then having the millennials publicize their work via social networks and offer feedback to the newsroom. These ambassadors would be part of the daily news meetings. And if enough news outlets tried the idea, a network of such sites would link to one another.

  • Using mobile applications to identify services that cater to particular ethnic groups, a service particularly helpful to newcomers to town.

  • A website for high school juniors and seniors, supervised by the news organizations' young journalists.

  • Staging a television show that can also be a podcast, in which citizens discuss the news with reporters, critics and other newsroom employees, an idea already being implemented at the Chicago Tribune.

  • A website for people who live alone, delivering information about everything from financial planning to the best restaurants where solo diners "won't feel like you are that odd person."

Each of these ideas came with a component to sell advertising.

The sessions were held on the sprawling grounds of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in a convention center whose architecture was inspired by Mexico and the Southwest and which is hosting the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for the rest of the week.

"Leadership in Diversity: New Models for Growing Audience, Talent and Revenue" was conceived last year as the news industry failed to keep pace with its goal of matching newsrooms with the percentage of people of color in the general population by 2025.

The number of journalists of color in daily newspaper and online-only newsrooms declined for the third consecutive year, ASNE reported in April.

"The point here is clear. We want to repurpose the news diversity argument from the context of a social experiment to a business opportunity. We want news organization business leaders to learn from those who have found real financial gain through diversity," Milton Coleman, senior editor at the Washington Post and then ASNE president, said. He chose Walt Swanston, veteran of newsroom diversity efforts,  as conference organizer, and other journalism groups signed on as partners.

Moderator Mei-Mei Chan, publisher of the News-Press Media Group in Fort Myers, Fla.,  said on Monday, "If you walk away with one or two ideas, then that's a victory." It turned out to be a low bar.

First, though, the group had to get back to basics and define what diversity means.

Presenter Howard Schaffer, a diversity consultant with the Silver Spring, Md., firm of Cook Ross Inc., said later that his job wasn't as easy as it might seem. Scientists and journalists are trained to believe that they are the experts, he said.

But Schaffer demonstrated not only that diversity also encompasses age, political beliefs and other factors beyond race, ethnicity and gender, but additionally must take into account unconscious biases that people don't even realize.

At least one of those assembled confided skepticism about what the sessions could accomplish, having toiled in the vineyards for decades. But this isn't the same diversity climate, speakers said: Declining resources have rocked the idea of organizational stability, giving way in many places to fear and insecurity. "It can sometimes lead to paranoia," Coleman said.

Moreover, the infusion of nonjournalists has led to confusion about what is "content" and what is "journalism." The advent of social media and new technologies have presented different ways of accessing news. The projected demographic shift to a white-minority nation, coupled with the belief by some that the nation will have a "postracial" society, provides further complications.

Among the good news: Young people still find journalism exciting, and their would-be mentors say some techniques from the pre-Internet era still work.

"We do it because we can make an impact," said Robert Hernandez, an assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, who represented millennials. "We're not afraid of what is out there. . . . and there are these cool new tools to help us tell stories in a different way."

Virgil Smith, a Gannett Co. executive, agreed. "I think this is the greatest time in the history of the business. I'm finding a lot of young people who are engaged." Smith made that comment even though he lost out on a new graduate who chose to work for a New York software company offering $80,000 a year, a signing bonus and options rather than the $40,000 Gannett was offering. As Smith wisely observed, the competition has changed.

Michael Oreskes, left, and Robert Hernandez

Accountability is still effective as strategy and principle. Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at the Associated Press, said hiring editors there are required to describe the pool from which they chose. That puts pressure on the hiring editor to be sure the pool is diverse and surfaces candidates who might be considered for other openings. Dana Canedy, senior editor at the New York Times, said having the Times' Diversity Council, which comprises the top editors, review newsroom diversity figures monthly keeps the issue in focus.

Coleman said the suggestions for new products would be presented to a new group he plans to assemble at the New York Times in September. That group will include the "suits" — people on the business side of news organizations — whose cooperation is crucial to implement newsroom initiatives.

Juan Gonzalez, a New York Daily News columnist and past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, urged that Internet companies, which produce the eyeball-snatching AOL, Google News and Yahoo News, not be left out. "Arianna Huffington hired 500 people to the Patch. Who's holding her accountable?" Gonzalez asked.

He said the same about those who invest in media companies. "Hold them accountable for how they make decisions about who to invest in."

Chan urged the participants to take the ideas back to their organizations and work with their counterparts in advertising departments. "We all embrace that which we have helped create," she said.

On opening day, Coleman talked about the reluctance of advertising professionals to market Post products in black churches, which they feared as unfamiliar, and perhaps inappropriate territory. At the close, he professed a simple goal. "If the Washington Post can find a way to get into black churches with mobile, I will be happy. There is money to be made there."

Attendees at the "Leadership in Diversity" Summit

The following were scheduled to attend the "Leadership in Diversity" meeting organized by the American Society of News Editors in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Tuesday and Wednesday. A few failed to show:

Javier Aldape, vice president, niche products, E.W. Scripps Company, Cincinnati, Ohio; Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president for digital innovation, American Public Media, St. Paul, Minn.; Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor, St. Louis-Post Dispatch; Elysa Batista, multimedia journalist, Naples (Fla.) Daily News; Dorothy Bland, journalism division director, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Fla.

Paula Bouknight, assistant managing editor, the Boston Globe; Dana Canedy, senior editor, the New York Times; Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor, Al Día, Dallas; Shirley Carswell, deputy managing editor, the Washington Post; Mei-Mei Chan, president and publisher, the News-Press Media Group, Fort Myers, Fla.

Milton Coleman, senior editor, the Washington Post; Aly Colón, consultant, American Society of Newspaper Editors, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Mike Connelly, executive editor, Naples (Fla.) Daily News; Poli Corella, metro editor, Arizona Daily Star, Tuscon; Desiree Dancy, chief diversity officer and vice president, corporate human resources, the New York Times Co..

Ralph De La Cruz, reporter/blogger, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, North Miami, Fla.; Fernando Diaz, managing editor, Hoy, Chicago, Joel Dreyfuss, managing editor, the Root, Washington; Johnita Due, assistant general counsel and Diversity Council chair, CNN Worldwide, Atlanta; Michelle Ehrlich, director, global labor and employee relations, the Associated Press.

Jeanne Fox-Alston, vice president, NAA Foundation, Arlington, Va.; Marilyn Garateix, assistant metro editor, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; Manny Garcia, executive editor, El Nuevo Herald, Miami; Roxanne Garcia, deputy regional director, NBC News, New York; Juan M. Garcia III, assistant secretary of the Navy (manpower and reserve affairs), Arlington, Va.

Juan Gonzalez, columnist, New York Daily News; Joanna Hernandez, multiplatform editor, the Washington Post and president, Unity: Journalists of Color; Robert Hernandez, assistant professor, professional practice, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Kenny Irby, senior faculty, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Crystal Johns, director of development and diversity, CBS News, New York.

Brent Jones, reader advocate, USA Today, McLean, Va.; David Joyner, vice president of content, Community News Holdings Inc., Birmingham, Ala.; Emi Kolawole, producer,, the Washington Post; Rhonda LeValdo, president, Native American Journalists Association, Norman, Okla.; Duke Maas, managing editor, Tampa (Fla.) Tribune.

Karen Magnuson, editor, vice president/news, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester,  N.Y.; Onica Makakwa, executive director, Unity: Journalists of Color, McLean, Va.; Dori Maynard, president, the Maynard Institute, Oakland, Calif.; Emily Mendez, senior packager/editor, the Palm Beach  (Fla.) Post; Walter Middlebrook, assistant managing editor, the Detroit News.

Tracy Miguel-Navarro, multi-media journalist, Naples (Fla.) Daily News; Constance Mitchell-Ford, real estate bureau chief, the Wall Street Journal, New York; Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor, the Associated Press, New York; Rafael Palacio, editor, El Sentinel, Orlando, Fla.; Ken Paulson, president and CEO, First Amendment Center, Nashville, Tenn., and president, American Society of News Editors.

Chris Peck, editor, the Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.; Akili Ramsess, photo editor, Orlando Sentinel; Toni Randolph, editor for new audiences, Minnesota Public Radio, Minneapolis; Monica Richardson, deputy managing editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta; Erik Reyna; multimedia journalist, University of Texas at Austin.

Mark Russell, editor, Orlando Sentinel; Michele Salcedo, president, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Washington; Howard Schaffer, vice president, Cook Ross Inc., Silver Spring, Md.; Lars Schmidt, director, talent acquisition, National Public Radio, Washington; Virgil Smith, vice president talent acquisition, diversity, Gannett Co., McLean, Va.

Sheila Solomon, cross media editor, Chicago Tribune; Ernest Sotomayor, assistant dean, career services and continuing education, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York; Walt Swanston, diversity consultant, ASNE, Reston, Va.; Kathy Y. Times, president, National Association of Black Journalists, College Park, Md.

Robyn Tomlin, executive editor, Star News, Wilmington, N.C.; Karen Toulon, New York bureau chief, Bloomberg News; Hollis Towns, executive editor, vice president for news, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press and president Associated Press Managing Editors; Doris Truong, president, Asian American Journalists Association, Arlington, Va.; Eric Wee, president,, Pasedena, Calif.; Will Wright, manager, digital production, NBC News, New York.

Navy Official Urges Coverage of Walking Wounded

Juan M. GarciaThe wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and advances in combat medicine have created a challenge for the nation that deserves greater media attention, an assistant Navy secretary told editors on Wednesday, asking: "Can we integrate this cadre of wounded warriors into the population?"

"Double amputees, triple amputees, quadruple amputees — we haven't seen that before," Juan M. Garcia, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, told the Leadership in Diversity summit in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., organized by the American Society of News Editors.

Then he referred to traumatic stress injury, improvised explosive devices and post-traumatic stress disorder. "TBI and IED and PTSD," Garcia said. "I humbly suggest this is one of the stories of our time."

Garcia spoke before the group to explain the Navy's success in creating a more diverse workforce, attributed not least to casting a wide net and a belief that no potential sources of manpower should be overlooked.

But the fan of newspapers, who requires his children to bring to the dinner table a story for discussion from the Sunday New York Times, also told the group that "stories about the wounded have gone from page 1 to page 2 to page 3 to many times not at all.

"I'd ask you not to miss the story."

Denise Grady reported on June 1 for the New York Times that "about 320,000 American troops have sustained traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them mild, according to a 2008 report by the RAND Corporation. The injuries are poorly understood, and sometimes produce lasting mental, physical and emotional problems." 

Bill Landauer of the Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., wrote Wednesday about John Konopka of Philadelphia who participated in a Wounded Warrior Hero Walk Wednesday in Wrightsville, Pa.

Konopka "was with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. He served in Iraq, Haiti and Japan.

"In 2005, he was riding in a truck that was hit by an IED. He took shrapnel to the face.

"Traumatic brain injury and PTSD sometimes leaves him confused and forgetful, he said.

"Anything can set it off. 'Something loud,' he said. 'Certain smells.'

"It got so bad that he couldn't cope with life out of the service and reenlisted. The memory loss and fears ebbed during his stint, he said.

"Today, doctors tell him to keep active."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tesitfied Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"The military health system and the Veterans Affairs Department need to get at traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress now, the admiral said. 'The more quickly we get at the problem, the less likely the damage or the damage is reduced significantly, and yet there's still a great deal on the TBI side that we don’t understand,' " wrote Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

Attendees register for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention on Wednesday. (Credit: Melvin Felix/Latino Reporter Digital)

Mexican Journalists Tell NAHJ They Want OK for Asylum

"Three journalists facing death threats in Mexico want the U.S. government to speed up approval of their asylum petitions," the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"Emilio Gutierrez Soto told the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on Wednesday he first received threats in 2005 after writing stories about alleged military involvement in drug trafficking in the state of Chihuahua. Two years later, his house was ransacked and he received more threats. He fled the country with his 15-year-old son. . . .

"Reporter Ricardo Chavez Aldana, a native of Ciudad Juarez, attacked the drug cartels on his radio show until his nephews were killed outside their home. He says he and his wife, mother and son received repeated death threats until they crossed the border in 2009 into El Paso, Texas. . . .

"Alejandro Hernandez was a TV cameraman kidnapped last July in Durango, Mexico, allegedly by one of the country's largest drug cartels. He was freed a week later and crossed the border in October. . . .

"All three men's asylum cases are pending, and they acknowledged that while they may be able to document the persecution they've faced as journalists, they face an added challenge because of the U.S. public's concerns about the flood of immigrants from Mexico.

"But all three said they will not return to Mexico."

Alejandra Cruz reported for Latino Reporter Digital, the convention news outlet, that "Executive Director Ivan Roman said 750 people had registered as of Tuesday. The organization faces a $28,000 penalty if its hotel room quota is not met.

". . . NAHJ has nearly 1,500 members and is hoping to reach 2,000 by the end of the year, according to NAHJ board president Michele Salcedo."

Dwight Lewis Retiring as Tennessean Editorial Page Editor

Dwight  Lewis"Dwight Lewis has decided to retire at the end of September after 40 years of providing outstanding journalism and community leadership for The Tennessean," Mark Silverman, editor of the Tennessean in Nashville, told the staff on Tuesday.

"Dwight began as a Tennessean campus correspondent and has covered just about every important reporting beat, including serving as The Tennessean's Washington correspondent. He has been an editor on the local news side, an influential columnist, and most recently has led our editorial and opinion coverage. He has walked the streets of poor and rich neighborhoods, interviewed inmates on death row, and participated in White House interviews with presidents.

". . . While we will miss Dwight's insight and leadership at The Tennessean, so too will his thousands of readers. We will soon begin preparing for his departure, determining the most effective ways to maintain and grow our community leadership and engagement going forward. We hope there are ways for us to continue to share Dwight's voice with readers after he retires."

Lewis told Journal-isms, "I have been at The Tennessean for 40 years, two months and 18 days. I think it's time to move on and finish some other projects I have putting off."

In 2008, Lewis became the first African American editorial page editor at a paper whose legacy includes a role in the early civil rights movement.

Lewis is also a onetime board member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a member of the Trotter Group of African American columnists. He has often served visiting journalists as an ambassador to the city and to its black community.

He is also a colon cancer survivor, as he reminded readers periodically.

"I've told this story before, but it merits repeating today," Lewis wrote in 2009, "as The Tennessean's Heidi Hall is reporting in this newspaper that statistics show Tennessee ranks 22nd in the nation in the rate of residents diagnosed with cancer but fifth in the cancer death rate. And one of the major reasons is that far too many of us fail to get screenings for cancer when it has been proven that such screenings help save lives.

'I want to use this space once again to warn some of you not to be like me when it comes to getting medical screenings, and in this particular case, screenings for cancer.

" 'I tried to get you to come in to get your colon examined when you turned 50,' said Dr. Jeffrey Eskind, a gastroenterologist who practices at Nashville's Saint Thomas Hospital.

" 'You almost waited too late, and if you had waited just a little while
longer, you would have been dead meat.'

"Because I wasn't having any symptoms of colorectal cancer, Dr. Eskind said he was just going to look at my lower colon. 'Everything is beautiful,' I could hear him saying (I wasn't sedated). 'Since you're taking it OK, I am going to go ahead and look up top.''

"Thank goodness he did, because he discovered a small tumor. His brother, Dr. Steven Eskind, removed it during surgery the next day.

"Further examination revealed that the cancer had not spread. I was released from Saint Thomas four days later and, luckily, did not have to have any chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

"That was because the tumor was discovered in its early stages. As Dr. Eskind told me, if I had waited just a little while longer, I would have started having symptoms and 'would have been dead meat.'

"I am not the only one today who will tell you that early screenings for cancer can help prevent you from getting the disease or enable you to get treatments early enough so that cancer isn't a death sentence."

Short Takes

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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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