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Bernard Shaw Issues a Warning

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ex-Anchor Has Messages for White Males, Owners

Bernard Shaw, the veteran journalist who retired as CNN anchor in 2000, struck out at unnamed media owners who are "sabotaging the public good" with their "profit fixations," and, as he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night from the National Association of Black Journalists, warned white males that they ignore diversity at their peril.

 

 

 

"Journalists, hear me tonight," Shaw told an awards banquet audience at the NABJ convention in Bally's hotel in Las Vegas. "There are some owners in the business — bosses, parent companies — whose profit fixation and staffing directives and decisions sabotage the public good they profess to serve.

"They are turning the people's right to know into the people's fight to know," he said.

"Beyond this ballroom tonight, white males, wake up," Shaw continued. "Globally, you are an island speck in an ocean of color.

"The reins of power will weaken and so will your grip — if you do not faithfully support our nation's greatest strength, diversity.

"To you, caught in the middle, stay vigilant. You must stay strong."

Shaw emphasized the word "globally" in discussing his remarks afterward with Journal-isms, saying he was aiming at a worldwide audience. "What matters is that my words give hope" to people of various ethnic groups, he said. Shaw would not name the white males or the companies he was talking about. "People in the media know who they are," he said. "All you have to do is look at the numbers. They know who they are and we know who they are."

Shaw, 67, also said, "I was speaking for the historical record. I expect my words to resonate long after I'm dead." He said a speech accepting the NABJ's Lifetime Achievement Award deserved carefully chosen words. "That was in the tradition of Frederick Douglass," the first well-known black journalist, he said. "I was seeking to inspire, to inform and to light a fire under some asses."

Also honored during the program was Steve Capus, president of NBC News, who had said on Friday of ousted radio host Don Imus, "I'm not going to bring him back to MSNBC."

 

 

Capus received the Ida B. Wells Award, presented by NABJ and the National Conference of Editorial Writers, in part for his actions during the Imus affair in April, when the radio host described the Rutgers women's basketball team in racist and sexist terms. Capus ended MSNBC's simulcasting of the Imus show from CBS-owned WFAN radio in New York. CBS pulled the plug on Imus the next day.

"Whether he deserves another shot on somebody else's airwaves, someone else will decide," Capus said. "I'm not going to bring him back to MSNBC." He was responding to a question about a comment by "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert that he would return to Imus' show should it be reinstated.

The NBC News executive, who was also praised for appointing two African American vice presidents, Mark Whitaker and Lyn Pitts, said he was proud of the diversity-friendly culture at NBC. He noted on Saturday night that the GE African American Forum, part of the NBC Universal operation, had raised $100,000 for the NABJ scholarship fund, and that his network's commitment shows in its coverage.

Anchor Lester Holt is in Africa, looking at Zimbabwe border clashes and doing stories on South Africa and global warming, and Capus said reporter Ann Curry had made seven trips to Sudan in connection with the Darfur genocide crisis.

 

 

Shaw's honor was just one for CNN at the convention. The network also received the association's Best Practices award. In accepting that citation on Thursday, Johnita Due, who chairs CNN's Diversity Council, said Jim Walton, CNN Worldwide president, had become such a diversity advocate he had been referred to as "the first black CNN president."

As evidence of CNN's commitment, she pointed to CNN's coverage of the "Jena Six" case in Louisiana, where six young black men were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit attempted second-degree murder after a white student was beaten and knocked unconscious at school; and the Aug. 2 slaying of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. The coverage was enhanced by a black presence at the network, she said.

"We will not become complacent," said Due.

 

 

In declaring Black Entertainment Television the winner of the organization's Thumbs Down award, Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times, who chairs the NABJ's Media Monitoring Committee, Thursday cited not only BET's dearth of regular public affairs programming and its failure to broadcast live the funeral of Coretta Scott King.

He said the "College Hill" reality series distorted life at historically black colleges and that "Hot Ghetto Mess," retitled "We Got to Do Better," was an example of "the problematic images that BET continues to present."

"NABJ objects to the channel's perpetuation of harmful Black stereotypes due to the airing [of] hip-hop videos that often have misogynistic, materialistic and violent themes," the organization said in its convention booklet.

Despite that, BET News walked away with at least two of NABJ's "Salute to Excellence" awards, both for a discontinued Sunday morning show called "The Chop Up."

The Saturday night program also saw Dean Baquet, who returned to the New York Times in March as Washington bureau chief after battling over financial cutbacks with the Tribune Co. as editor of the Los Angeles Times, accept an award as Journalist of the Year.

"If I could make one request," Baquet said, "let's stop gazing at our own navels" and focus on why we became journalists. Rather than spend all of our time focusing on our own problems, Baquet said, we should remember that we have to cover two wars, economic upheaval, political turmoil in our cities, and a presidential election unlike any we've seen in a generation.

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2 Somalis Assassinated as NABJ Honors Their Union

While the leader of the National Union of Somali Journalists was in Las Vegas Saturday being honored by the National Association of Black Journalists, two of his constituents were assassinated.

One was Ali Iman Sharmarke, owner of the HornAfrik Media Company, who was killed after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb that was remotely detonated. The other, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, the director of Capital Voice, Horn Afrik's second FM station, was shot dead by two men armed with pistols, according to the Shabelle news service in Somalia.

"HornAfrik's broadcasts have criticized both the government and the Islamic militants who have been trying to topple the administration through a bloody insurgency," Mohamed Olad Hassan reported for the Associated Press.

"There was no immediate indication of who had killed the men. Deputy police commissioner Abdullahi Hassan Barise said the men were targeted because of their jobs at the independent radio station."

Omar Faruk Osman, secretary general of the journalists union, told Journal-isms he had spoken to one of the victims just 20 minutes before he was killed.

Osman came to the convention to accept the Percy Qoboza Foreign Journalist Award on behalf of the union.

"Freedom of the press is an uncommon liberty in Somalia, a country ravaged by internal warfare and repressive regional authorities seeking to gain control of the region's territories," the NABJ's convention booklet said. "The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has earned a reputation for exposing press freedom infringements, campaigning against repression of journalism and pushing for the release of detained journalists while advocating for journalists' rights."

John Yearwood, the NABJ treasurer and world editor of the Miami Herald, who hosted Osman at the convention, said he would urge NABJ to observe a moment of silence at its gospel brunch on Sunday.

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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