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BET Scales Back T.J. Holmes Show

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Program to Air Weekly as Ratings Disappoint

Election Causes Sharp Rift in Conservative Media

Map Charts Where America's Racist Tweets Originate

Obama's Win Should Be Seen as "Profound Watershed"

AP Introduces Spanish-Language Stylebook

From the Editor: Free Coffee and a Redesigned Paper

Four Tips for Talking About Race

FCC Gets Resistance on Further Media Consolidation

Johnson Publishing to Sell Archival Photos to Public

Story Reports on 3,000 Homeless Female Veterans

Short Takes

T.J. Holmes with a bus promoting his show before its Oct. 1 debut. The bus went

Program to Air Weekly as Ratings Disappoint

BET announced Monday that it is scaling back its much-anticipated late-night, half-hour vehicle for T.J. Holmes, the former CNN anchor, from half an hour Monday through Thursday to an hour once a week.

The show launched Oct. 1. CEO Debra Lee said last month the show is "designed to be a mix of entertainment and news and commentary. We hoped it would have been a Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert-type show [...]. To be honest, the ratings haven't been great in the past two weeks. Our audience always says they want this kind of programming, but they don't show up."

A Nielsen spokesman told Journal-isms by email on Monday, "Don't Sleep on BET in its normal 11 pm time slot [averages] 349,000 people [2 years old and older] tuning in to watch Live or that same day." Stewart's "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, which also airs from 11 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. drew 1.6 million during the week of Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, though reruns aired on two of those nights were reruns because of Hurricane Sandy.

Lisa de Moraes reported Monday for the Washington Post, "Don't Sleep's" launch "averaged about 400,000 viewers on Oct. 1. And while the Oct. 9 episode approached 1 million viewers, it has never come close to that number since, and subsequent episodes have been known to slip as low as 203,000 viewers. Over its brief run to date, the show is attracting about 50 percent fewer viewers than BET had in the timeslot during the same period a year ago."

BET built the show around the affable Holmes, who left CNN last December dissatisfied with his weekend anchor role. He told Akoto Ofori-Atta of the Root that month, "My role will be as a journalist. They brought me on because of my news background and for my news chops. I think many people in the black community would like to turn the TV on when they get home or even in the morning to see news coverage about things that matter to them, coming from people who look like them and talk like them. We have a great opportunity to do that next year, and I hope to play a huge role."

In congratulating Holmes then, Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, likewise mentioned news. He said in a December news release, "NABJ extends our sincere congratulations to T.J. on his move to BET and [applauds] the network for reemphasizing the importance of news as part of its programming."

However, Holmes' show was guided by Stephen G. Hill, president of music programming and specials at BET Networks, and not by BET's lower-priority news division, headed by David Scott. Writing about the show in the New York Times on Oct. 19, Jon Caramanica called "Don't Sleep!" "a mélange of information and straight talk, with only a few labored punch lines strewn about.  . . . The show's tone varies widely, from pedantic, especially when dealing with statistics, to rollicking during the conversations.

". . . it's building a set of social and political norms that could apply not just to this show, but also to a channel that's looking to speak with one voice."

A news release from BET Monday portrayed the change as a triumph for viewers. "The viewers have spoken and due to the overwhelming demand, DON'T SLEEP! will now be expanded to a one hour weekly format allowing for a more comprehensive discussion of the issues and events affecting the African-American community," it began.

Holmes echoed that sentiment in the release and in a statement on his own website:

"We've received so many [comments] and so much feedback about our show.  Without question, the #1 comment has been that 'Don’t Sleep' is too short!  [Viewers] felt we needed more time to not only discuss issues but find solutions. I suppose we've been doing something right if people have overwhelmingly and consistently been saying that the show should be extended from a half hour to an hour.  So, starting this week, 'Don't Sleep' will do just that.  We will now have an hour-long format to educate, empower, and engage.  This will allow us more time to delve deeper into topics and determine how we can all, in our own way, be agents of change.

"As part of being extended to an hour, the show will move to Wednesday nights at 11 p.m.  This will allow us to do on-location reporting from cities and communities across the country. . . ."

Hill remained optimistic that the show would find its audience. "  'We are very proud of the show, and the platform it has provided for the nations' brightest thought leaders," Hill was quoted as saying. "We love the passion of DON'T SLEEP!'s dedicated audience and hope that the weekly appointment viewing of the show will grow that audience."

(Credit: David Horsey/Los Angeles Times)

Election Causes Sharp Rift in Conservative Media

"Rush Limbaugh couldn't have been more right," Dylan Byers wrote Sunday for Politico.

"Months before the election, the conservative radio host made a prediction: 'If Obama wins, the Republican Party is going to try to maneuver things so conservatives get blamed.'

"And that's exactly what's happening.

An "escalating civil war" is "playing out now between moderate and far-right-wing pundits," Byers wrote.

". . . But which path to take for the GOP toward broader appeal — doubling down on a core economic and family values conservative message that transcends identity politics or polishing the party's image by recruiting more women and minority candidates and adopting more moderate positions, particularly on immigration reform — has exposed a sharp rift in the conservative media."

A map of the location quotients for racist tweets: the darker-green the state, t

Map Charts Where America's Racist Tweets Originate

"The day after Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States, the blog Jezebel published a slideshow. The gallery displayed a collection of screen-capped tweets," Megan Garber wrote Friday for the Atlantic.

She displayed three that used the "N-word" and continued, "There were, both shockingly and unsurprisingly, many more where that came from. And many of those tweets were geocoded: Embedded in them were data about where in the U.S. they were sent from.

"Floating Sheep, a group of geography academics, took advantage of that fact to turn hatred — and, just as often, stupidity — into information. The team searched Twitter for racism-revealing terms that appeared in the context of tweets that mentioned 'Obama,' 're-elected,' or 'won.' That search resulted in (a shockingly high and surprisingly low) 395 tweets. The team then sorted the tweets according to the state they were sent from, comparing the racist tweets to the total number of geocoded tweets coming from that state during the same time period (November 1 - 7). . . ."

"Their findings?

"Alabama and Mississippi have the highest LQ [location quotient] measures: They have scores of 8.1 and 7.4, respectively. And the states surrounding these two core states — Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee — also have very high LQ scores and form a fairly distinctive cluster in the southeast.

"What might be most surprising, though, is the distribution of tweets beyond that cluster. North Dakota and Utah both had relatively high LQ scores (3.5 each), as did Missouri (3). And Oregon and Minnesota, though they don't score as high when it comes to LQ, have a higher number of hate tweets than their overall Twitter usage would suggest."

Obama's Win Should Be Seen as "Profound Watershed"

"Aging white guys at some important newspapers have hit upon a bizarre interpretation of the election returns: nothing much changed," William Greider wrote Thursday for the Nation. "Peter Baker of The New York Times: 'When all the shouting is done, the American people have more or less ratified the status quo.' Say what? Baker seems like a smart enough reporter but this analysis is so stupid, he must be in post-partum shock.

". . . the 2012 election was a profound watershed in the life of the nation. Whatever else President Obama accomplishes or fails to accomplish in his second term, his re-election is in some ways even more significant than his initial triumph in 2008. He will be forever remembered as the president who opened America to a different future — more promising and fulfilling, more just and democratic than anything achieved in the American past.

"It may be easier to see this if you ask: Who lost? Forget [Mitt] Romney and the Republicans. The real loser was the bitter legacy of 'white supremacy.' That poisonous prejudice has endured in political reality and the national culture for two centuries. It still does, though it is now cultivated most zealously only by white Southerners who took over the party of Abraham Lincoln (who surely weeps for his Grand Old Party).

"In 2012, white supremacy not only lost the election. It was a crucial factor in explaining how Obama won. Good for Obama and really good for the American people. Whose 'status quo' are these pundits clinging to forlornly? Maybe their own. They have typically belittled the struggles by excluded minorities as 'identity politics.' Well, yes, these people intend to be identified as citizens, fully endowed with the rights any other American enjoy. This election confirmed their goal.

"The re-election of a black president is the most precious fact of 2012, perhaps even more significant than his original election in 2008. If Obama had lost, a wise history professor pointed out to me, it would have taken many years, probably many decades, before either major party would ever again dare to nominate a person of color for president. Black Americans understood this, probably better than most of us white folks. So did Latinos, Asians and a whole bunch of other 'minority' voters. African-Americans might have had quarrels or disappointments with Obama, but they understood their historic stakes in winning a second term for him."

AP Introduces Spanish-Language Stylebook

"The Associated Press will launch a new Spanish-language Stylebook for universal use by publishers, broadcasters and readers from all Spanish-speaking countries, with an emphasis on Latin America and the United States," the news cooperative announced on Monday.

"A small number of AP clients are beta testing Manual de Estilo Online de la AP, a Web-based, searchable, customizable stylebook with a comprehensive list of thousands of the most common standardized Spanish terms, some translated from the well-established English AP Stylebook and the majority written especially for Spanish writers and editors.

"AP will begin selling Manual de Estilo Online de la AP to customers of its Spanish news services beginning Nov. 19, and will mark the launch that same evening with a panel discussion in New York about Spanish writing style. . . ."

The idea came about after journalists from the AP's Mexico City bureau realized they needed a Stylebook that addressed the complexities and evolution of the Spanish language, Mallary Jean Tenore reported for the Poynter Institute.

From the Editor: Free Coffee and a Redesigned Paper

The Philadelphia Daily News Monday launched what it called its most sweeping redesign in almost a decade.

To mark the occasion, the paper sent Editor Michael Days, columnists Ronnie Polaneczky, Jenice Armstrong and Frank Seravalli and photo contributor Reuben "Big Rube" Harley to breakfast spots around town, where they treated readers to a free cup of coffee and a Daily News.

At left, Days greets a reader at the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market.

(Credit: Rhett Hackett, Philadelphia Daily News)


Four Tips for Talking About Race

"When I first started writing about the myriad ways race, society and media intersect, my fondest hope was that I might get other people talking about these issues in ways that would change a few minds and open a few hearts," Eric Deggans wrote Monday in his Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times media blog.

"And a couple of weeks into the release of my first book, Race-Baiter, I can't believe how many people out there seem to want to have the same discussion, fueled by an earnest desire to grapple with issues which have roiled the public space for many years.

Deggans provided four tips for talking about race: "Remember no one owns these subjects," "Falling prey to prejudice doesn't make you a racist," "Talking about race and prejudice doesn't make you a racist" and "This work is never done."

FCC Gets Resistance on Further Media Consolidation

"The FCC is getting some pushback from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights after reports in Multichannel News that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to vote on a media ownership order before the end of the year," John Eggerton reported Monday for Multichannel News.

"The FCC is reviewing its media ownership rules per a congressionally mandated quadrennial review and a remand from the Third Circuit Court of appeals. . . ."

The Seattle Times editorialized against further consolidation Sunday, saying, ". . . Consolidation limits the opportunity for women and minority ownership, and compromises local journalism, as it serves the interests of corporate America to the detriment of ordinary citizens."

President Obama's reelection means a Democrat will remain in the driver's seat at the FCC next year. "But just who that Democrat will be is an open question," Brooks Boliek reported Friday for Politico.

"Current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is coy about his plans, but most observers say he is ready to leave the agency in the coming months.

". . . The two other Democrats already on the commission — Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel — are seen as contenders to succeed Genachowski. Both have powerful political backers on Capitol Hill."

Johnson Publishing to Sell Archival Photos to Public

"Johnson Publishing Co. LLC, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines,Martin Luther King Jr. reads the International Herald Tribune in December 1964 i is making part of its photo archive available for public purchase for the first time since it started chronicling the African-American experience seven decades ago," Lynne Marek reported Monday for Crain's Chicago Business.

"Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice hand-picked 2,000 shots from the magazines' archive, which includes 1 million photos, the company said. As the daughter of the late John Johnson, who co-founded the Chicago media company and now as his successor, Ms. Rice has met many of the people included in the photos.

". . . The company started accepting orders online last week and will mail the photos, framed or unframed. Prices start at $35 per image and depend on the size, framing and treatment of the photo."


Story Reports on 3,000 Homeless Female Veterans

"More than 3,000 female veterans are living on the streets of the United States. They represent the fastest-growing segment of the nation's homeless population," Mimi Chakarov wrote for "Returning Home to Battle," a Veterans Day package by the Center for Investigative Reporting. " 'Her War' tells the story of some of those women and the battles they face when their tours of duty are over."

Another story, by Aaron Glantz, examines "systemic problems in how the agency handles compensation claims filed by Americans wounded physically or mentally in the line of duty."

Short Takes

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BET Scales Back T.J. Holmes Show

Sorry to learn that BET has pulled back the T.J. Holmes show within a month's time because of ratings. Networks normally invest in programs of this ilk and exam more than ratings to build an audience.

BET's quick-finger on pushing the exile button to reduce "Don't Sleep" from a nightly to weekly program may have some validity if they're examining details of what works and what doesn't to build an audience. If this is the case, look carefully at the obvious: time-slot, clarifying what is the show, market promotion on other media, short list of strong guests, relevant music breaks to the key demographic and last but not least, overhalling the production leadership.

However, if this is not BET's plan, and pulling the show to once-a-week in just 30 days - is because you can't sell it, then nothing good will come of this philosophy. T.J. Holmes is by far a diamond in the rough. And if BET is taking a shovel to try and cut this diamond, you're better off buying more old programs and calling it a day.

Networks looking for a strong audience sometimes have to develop shows and that takes time. Jon Stewart's show started with dismal numbers before viewers caught on as to what the show was about. BET, take a lesson from other productions that started low on the totem pole of popularity. Work on developing the program instead of crushing the diamond.

Don't Sleep with TJ Holmes

It is because of TJ Holmes' show, "Don't Sleep", that I now watch BET. I have been so disappointed by the mindless drivel of what the network refers to as entertainment, the over exposure of rap as the only genre of music that African Americans listen to, and the constant reinforcement of negative stereotypes that I made the decision to turn BET off. I hope that BET gives the show a chance, and tries to promote it differently. After all, "The Game" still comes on. "Don't Sleep" is a rare gem in the almost nonexistent African American show. It is refreshing and my friends, family, and I thoroughly enjoy it. How about promoting it on 106 and Park? If they could elevate that audience, and put it on "Don't Sleep's" level, the show might have a fighting chance. Seeing this show, reminded me of Ed Gordon's news show that appeared on BET once upon a time. Don't pull the plug just yet.

Cross-postings from the Root


Show is on at the wrong time. Too late for me.

Samuel Brown

I have watched every show for 'Don't Sleep' I love the show's topics and the way that it flows! TJ does an excellent job.

My one complaint is the short 30 minute time length. I think the show is very informative and educational and it should have 'mandate language' surrouding the powers that be... at BET

In order to compete with the other late night shows it should run at least 1 hour long with a window for musical guest artist which is one of the reasons why many people tune into other late night shows.

I think that BET should give the show more time to catch-on especially due to the quality of the content...

BET should inundate their programming hours of this show with the same intensity of inundating us with repeat episodes of 'Martin' and urban movies like 'Baby Boy" if they think that moving the show to only 1 day a week for 1 hour late in the evening will actually cause more people to watch; I question the sincerity of how they want the show to succeed. Reign Bryant likes this.

joann myers

Needs earlier time slot. Show is competing with The Daily Show. I tape both.


I caught it once and just had to turn the channel. I had to before I destroyed my expensive tv. I believe the show can be better but he needs to realize it needs improving. There was a little too much ego going on amidst the chaos.

Of course, there's a certain cache that comes with being the worst.

ivan cohen The question of an earlier time slot for Don't Sleep has merit. After all MSNBC airs PoliticsNation with Reverend Al Sharpton at 6:00pm. BET could schedule Don't Sleep around the dinner hour if they wanted to. I question their promotion or lack of it for the program. I can see clearly now that BET is going to come out and say, we tried to give you all an alternative but the audience wasn't feeling it. Then BET will go back to hum drum television shows again. Then I'll go back to cherry picking what I care to watch on BET. Reign Bryant likes this.

Letese' C. (Lettuce) RT @NickWestbrooks: I feel like there's more to this than just ratings... "BET Scales Back on TJ Holmes' Show" via ...

Verna Bonaparte Mitchell

Watched the show-took me thirty seconds to realize 'Don't Sleep . . .' is a huge snoozefest and won't last much longer. I thought/hoped the show would have a more political agenda. When the topic of Eric Benet's song "Red Boned Girl" came up, I cringed, switched channels and never went back. Perhaps a title revamp-call the show 'Wake Up, Black America'.


NOOO! I want more TJ not less!


The time slot is just too late for working people to stay up and watch. I really like the conversations, so I just DVRed them and watched it the next day at an earlier time. And by the next day, the information was history.

joann myers Needs earlier time slot. Show is competing with The Daily Show. I tape both.


I caught it once and just had to turn the channel. I had to before I destroyed my expensive tv. I believe the show can be better but he needs to realize it needs improving. There was a little too much ego going on amidst the chaos.

Of course, there's a certain [cachet] that comes with being the worst.

Kirsten West Savali We say we want it but don't support when we get it. “@TheRoot247: BET Scales Back on TJ Holmes' Show”


That is what I am saying. The article could have taken on a completely different tone. Instead of coming off so hateful and "told ya".


don't sleep

I worked for BET twice, my first stint was during the Bob Johnson regime in Washington DC.  We produced a weekly news show  and  daily newsbriefs. Althugh it was a challenge doing a taped national show once a week, we able to do informative pieces on political, economic and social issues affecting the black community. There was also "Lead Story", a panel discussion show much like Meet the Press with some estemed black journalists.  Fast forward to 2004-05. I came back to BET as a writer/producer. The BET Nightly News was a daily half hour show produced by CBS Newspath. In addition to daily news from Capitol Hill and other parts of the country, we were the first national news show to interview then Ilinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama. CBS news then fed the interview to Newspath clients. Execs told us interviews like that were important to CBS News and encouraged us to continue to do break stories the network was unaware of.  I was at the 2005 meeting with BET chief Debra Lee and CBS News President (his name escapes me). Debra said the BET brass had decided to cancel the daily news show and go in a different direction (nowhere).

CBS Execs told us they would help revamp the show and encouraged us not to cancel it. But Debra did it anyway (not having any real commitment to news it showed when she hired a former publishing exec with no news experience to be the VP of news). 

I say all of this to say, Debra has no commitment to anything other than lame sitcoms and stupid video shows. "Don't Sleep" was destined to fail when they put it under the direction of Stephen Hill rather than a seasoned journalist.  The first episode of the show I witnessed was the night of the first 2012 Presidential debate. The show aired a half hour after the debate. I wanted to watch to see what the panelists' reaction would be to the debate. Well the show was taped with a three minute segment about the GOP being up in arms about an old videotape of Obama  speaking to a church gathering in VA.  The next segment was an interview with Queen Latifah about her upcoming Lifetime movie. The debate scehdule had been announced weeks before the show hit the air. 

Rather than BET do a half-assed job it would be better to get rid of the show entirely. Staff it with real journalists and do the right thing or nothing at all. But as with all of BET, there is very little creativity at the network but lots of fearful mediocre producers and execs.


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