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At AP, "Changes Taking Place"

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Curley Issues "Specific Directions" on Diversity

Tom Curley, the President and CEO of the Associated Press who has been accused of disinterest in diversity efforts, asserts that, "I've given very specific directions to the management group" at the news cooperative to improve those efforts.

"I've seen a lot of hiring to suggest that there are changes taking place," he told Journal-isms.

Curley spoke after delivering a short address in New York Saturday night at the awards dinner of the South Asian Journalists Association, where Curley was presented the organization's Journalism Leader Award for his efforts on behalf of press freedom. The AP had previously spoken of its diversity efforts in terms of mentoring and internships.

As reported in May, Jeffrey A. Hastie, a fired AP vice president who was the most senior African American at the world's largest news organization, filed a lawsuit claiming that racial discrimination led to his dismissal.

As best as can be determined, the AP's entire management committee is white, and its senior headquarters news management team – which includes the executive editor, managing editor, three deputy managing editors, director of photography, business editor, sports editor, online director, graphics director, writing coach, director of news operations, director of career development and director of the News and Information Research Center – is said to include only one person of color, Robert Naylor, director of career development.

In an interview after his speech, Curley said that "if you look at just the domestic part" of AP, "the numbers are lower than we'd like." But overseas, he said, "we're infused with a global cultural view that is very helpful."

While some inside the AP have said the organization's Diversity Council is on its last legs, Curley said he had asked the group to be more effective.

"Diverse candidates are interviewed" when jobs open up, Curley added. "We expect this year to be better than last year."

About 550 people were present for Curley's dinner address in Columbia University's Lerner Hall, which followed the acceptance by Andrew Rosenthal, deputy editor of the editorial page of the New York Times, of a posthumous induction of his father, longtime Times editor A.M. Rosenthal, into SAJA's Hall of Fame. The elder Rosenthal was the Times' India correspondent in the latter 1950s, and in 1997 wrote a column, "India, Mon Amour," which was provided each dinner guest.

Curley said South Asian journalists "bring the perspective we need to tell the story."

Speaking of the Internet portals from which many consumers get their news, Curley said that "none of them is going to commit journalism. Journalism is very expensive and it's difficult."

He also called for "a willingness to look all the rules in the eye, and throw out" the constraints of newsholes and 22-minute newscasts. He praised the New York Times and its editor, Bill Keller, for courage in the face of attacks over the Times' publication of anti-terrorism information the administration and some in Congress have called too sensitive for public consumption.

Two new organizations were introduced at the convention: the Muslim American Journalists Association, founded by Shabina Khatri, reporter at the Detroit Free Press; and the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association, whose president is Walid el-Gabry, a news editor at Dow Jones Newswires.

The banquet, where guests were encouraged to wear ethnic dress and of course Indian food was served, featured comedians of South Asian background. But jokes by stand-up comic Rahul Siddharth about his own Hindu religion prompted one audience member to stand up and shout that the jokes were offensive.

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Jim Crutchfield to Step Down as Akron Publisher

James N. Crutchfield, publisher of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal since 2001, is stepping down and will "take some time off to relax and think about the next phase of his life," Mary Ethridge reported in the Beacon Journal today.

Edward R. Moss, vice president of sales and marketing for Richmond, Va.-based Media General, was named the new publisher, effective Aug. 7.

The Knight Ridder paper was sold to Black Press Ltd., a Canadian company, and its subsidiary, Sound Publishing Holdings Inc. They become the newspaper's owner on or about July 28.

Moss "has a good track record of growing revenue and circulation," Crutchfield said this morning during a meeting with the Beacon Journal staff, the story said.

Crutchfield said he will stay at the Beacon Journal for another six weeks to ease the transition.

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Hispanics Prefer "Noticias" to Leno, "Nightline"

While African Americans tune in to ABC-TV's "Nightline" in greater proportions than the general viewing audience, as reported on Friday, Hispanics prefer the top-rated "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, according to the latest Nielsen ratings comparing the broadcast networks.

[Added July 18: Once cable ratings are counted, however, Hispanics' choices become clearer: Some 1,428,000 were watching "Noticias Univision - Ultima Hora" on Univision, according to Univision spokeswoman Lenis Guzman.]

The ratings for the second quarter of the year, March 27 to June 25, showed "Nightline" with a rating among Hispanics of 0.6, or 110,000 Hispanic viewers, compared with 0.8, or 130,000, for Leno on NBC, and 0.4, or 60,000 Hispanic viewers for "Late Night With David Letterman" on CBS, according to figures from ABC spokeswoman Alison Bridgman.

The comparable figures for African Americans were a 2.57 rating, or 920,000 African American viewers, for "Nightline," compared with 1.96, or 700,000, for Leno on NBC and 1.81, or 640,000 black viewers for Letterman on CBS.

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Trial Date Set for Former Amsterdam News Editor

A New York judge today set a Sept. 6 trial date for Jamal Watson, former executive editor of the New York Amsterdam News, who faces charges of fourth-degree grand larceny after Publisher Elinor Tatum accused him of stealing checks from summer interns. Watson denies the charges.

"Several checks were written out to interns without the proper endorsement," Tatum told Journal-isms in November, after the story was reported in the New York Post and Daily News. "We looked at the back of the checks, and it was questionable."

New York state Supreme Court Judge Maxwell Wiley took videotaped testimony today from Alexis Okeowo, an intern last year at the African American weekly who plans to be out of the country when the trial begins, court spokeswoman Jennifer Kushner said.

"What's unfortunate is that we should have paid these bright young students more than a measly $100 per week," Watson said in November, "but the owner refused to do so. I had to fight them tooth and nail just to provide metro [transit] cards to these students so they wouldn't have to spend their own money to cover story assignments."

"Jamal Watson is not guilty and a jury will say as much when we try his case," Watson's lawyer, John Balestriere, told Journal-isms today.

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Will Journalists of Color Report From Lebanon?

With the Israel-Lebanon clashes becoming the highest-profile foreign story of the moment, Brian Stelter's TV Newser is compiling a list of the cable news correspondents going to Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere in the war zone.

African American, Hispanic and Asian American names seem to be in short supply, save for a couple of Middle Easterners.

On the print side, Joe Strupp reported today that opportunities for would-be war correspondents could be expanding at newspapers.

"With many newspapers already limited in their foreign coverage by the ongoing Iraq War, and some budget cutbacks, the current Middle East conflict – which escalated over the weekend with new attacks on both sides and numerous civilian casualties – has thrown a new wrench of staffing and news space demands," Strupp wrote.

"Although most foreign editors say they have been able to keep their Iraq-dedicated staffers in that war-torn country as the Lebanon-Israel violence unfolds, they admit having to shuffle other reporters and photographers to properly cover the latest Middle East conflict," his story said.

The Lebanon developments took place last week as the Baltimore Sun announced it was closing its three foreign bureaus. Sun ombudsman Paul Moore wrote Sunday that the Sun's article "effectively announced the end of 119 years of reporting by Sun staff members stationed overseas. To some readers it had the feel of a corporate press release masquerading as a news story. In my view, the article was thinly reported, underplayed and did not provide readers with enough useful information."

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Stanley Crouch: "The Thrill of the Kill Dies Hard"

"The world breathes a collective sigh of relief as a major figure in the Iraq insurgency is killed. No more from him," columnist Stanley Crouch wrote Thursday in the New York Daily News. "Then the son of a gun who claimed responsibility for some of the worst atrocities committed by the Chechen rebels is caught . . . and slain. He is then laid out for the cameras like some form of recently killed big game. Another sigh of relief.

"But just a few days ago, we were forced to react to the terrorist bombings of seven trains in Mumbai, all of which exploded within about 11 minutes. Coordinated. Some people were impressed by the precision of the planning. I was not impressed.

"If someone wants to start an esthetic discussion of mass murder so that we can marvel at its high-quality planning, let's not stop in Mumbai.

"Let's commend the Nazis for redesigning their train system in order to get their prisoners transported to places where they would literally go up in smoke. Then we can congratulate the German officers for their well-run death camps or high-five the Rwandan Tutsis for keeping their machetes clean and sharp so they could hack Hutus to death with greater accuracy.

"There is no way to make murder less horrible."

Others weighed in on war- and terrorism-related issues:

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On Racial Oreo, Sony Ads: Why Go There?

"Inflammatory race talk is not only not necessarily racism, it is often the opposite of racism," columnist Bob Garfield wrote today in Advertising Age.

"But what about in advertising, which is certainly not social science? Apart from demographically narrowing down your user base, why invoke race at all? Why, especially, toy with its imagery?

"The answer is that it triggers emotion, which so little advertising does. If racial imagery can confront consumers' conflicted feelings about race without exploiting or disparaging anyone, and the brand gets some attention, where's the harm?

"Trick question. There is harm, because provocative racial imagery absent any direct relevance to the brand is by definition exploitive – of the consumer's emotions and of the tortured social history of race. The wounds of slavery and Jim Crow are still too raw for anyone to scratch at them for the purpose of selling video games."

Garfield was discussing an ad campaign in which "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson serves as judge for a new Oreo jingle, and another in which Sony introduces a portable game player by showing a white woman and a black woman in various scenes of physical confrontation.

"It's not racist for Sony to pit white against . . . black in ambiguous scenes suggesting hatred and violence, but it sure is sleazy," the columnist concluded.

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"Time for the United States to Keep Its Word"

A "suit filed by Elouise Cobell, from Montana's Blackfeet Nation, claims the federal government mismanaged oil, gas, timber and other royalties beginning in the 1880s," Mark Trahant, editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, wrote Sunday, writing about a case that many outside Indian Country no doubt know nothing about.

"The litigation involves some 500,000 people – and the claims could total tens of billions of dollars. (A note of disclosure: I am a member of Idaho's Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, but not a direct beneficiary of the litigation)," Trahant wrote.

"Last week a three-judge panel from the appeals court removed the judge from the case, saying he could no longer be objective.

"U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, has made his contempt for the government's actions pretty clear. 'At times, it seems that the parties, particularly (the Department of the) Interior, lose sight of what this case is really about,' Lamberth wrote in an opinion. 'What remains is the raw, shocking, humiliating truth at the bottom: After all these years, our government still treats Native American Indians as if they were less deserving of the respect that should be afforded to everyone in a society where all people are supposed to be equal.'

". . . The Cobell case is one of the more complicated issues tried in the federal system: The docket sheet has some 3,000 entries and different aspects of the case have been appealed nine times in six years. And still the substantive issues remain years away."

A settlement would save money, Trahant argued, and moreover, "It's time for the United States to keep its word."

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Short Takes

  • "France will pass a cultural landmark today when a black presenter reads the evening news bulletin on the country's most popular television channel for the first time," Adam Sage wrote today in London's Guardian. "The arrival of Harry Roselmack," 33, of Martinique, "on the private TF1 station comes after a call by President Chirac for the media to promote members of ethnic minorities as part of a policy of racial integration."
  • Public editor Angela Tuck of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution defended the paper Saturday from charges by some readers that it "went overboard" in covering the May 19 arrest in Dubai of Dallas Austin, a Grammy-winning music producer, on drug charges. "Did Austin receive special treatment because of his celebrity status? I think we all know the answer. That aspect of the case alone is enough to justify continued coverage of the case," she wrote.
  • "Two horrific murders riveted readers' attention and brought questions about why The Post did not give the murders equal display and why race is not always reported for suspects," ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote Sunday in the Washington Post. In one case, not enough about the crime was known, she said. As for the other question: "Practically, what help is it to know that a suspect was black or mixed-race or a whiter shade of pale if there aren't enough details to be able to identify a suspect and call the police? Or if it's not pertinent to the crime. Will knowing the color of a person's skin make you feel any safer?"
  • "The Story," a newspaper drama based on the case of Janet Cooke at the Washington Post, whose made-up story forced the Post to return a Pulitzer Prize, has opened in Memphis and Atlanta. It has been staged in cities ranging from Long Beach, Calif., Lexington, Ky., and Chicago to Washington and New York.
  • "At least 14 Salvadoran reporters and photographers were attacked or harassed during three days of violent street protests last week in the capital, San Salvador, according to interviews and research by the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ today condemned the assaults and urged a thorough investigation," the organization reported on Friday.
  • The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum have called on the Chinese government to free Li Yuanlong, a journalist who was jailed for two years for publishing an essay on democracy and freedom, the organizations reported. "In a letter to Premier Wen Jiabao, the Paris-based organisations also said they were concerned over the recent deterioration of press freedom in China, where at least 32 journalists and 51 'cyber-dissidents' are currently imprisoned.
  • "After a brief respite while hosting the African Union summit, Gambian authorities have resumed a crackdown on the media. One journalist has not been seen since July 7, five days after the summit ended. He is believed to have been arrested, while another has gone into hiding fearing arrest, sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists," the committee reported Friday.
  • The Hispanic Link Journalism Foundation and the Scripps Howard Foundation have announced two journalism fellowships in Washington, for the fall (Sept. 11 – Dec. 17) and spring (Jan. 8 – April 13) semesters. The fellowships provide a stipend of $2,500 plus housing for an undergraduate college student. For more information, contact Alex Meneses Miyashita or Charlie Ericksen at (202) 234-0280.

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 BugMeNot.com 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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