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Beyoncé Award Prompts New Look at Criteria

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

N.Y. Black Journalists to Honor Pop Star's Essay in Essence

Gilbert Bailón Named Editor of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NAHJ Projects Revenue Surplus Exceeding $100,000

No African Americans in Incoming Nieman Fellowships Class

Headlines, Puns About Elizabeth Warren Draw Fire

N.Y. Post Writer Raises Hackles Over Jay-Z and N-word

A "Blood-American" Helps Answer "What Is a Chicano?"

Press Freedom Day Begins With Mexican Violence

Short Takes


Beyoncé Knowles says she is "truly honored" by her first-place award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. (Video)

N.Y. Black Journalists to Honor Pop Star's Essay in Essence

The New York Association of Black Journalists "is going to be looking at the criteria for next year" after its announcement that pop star Beyoncé Knowles had won one of its journalism awards was greeted with surprise, criticism — and headlines, president Michael J. Feeney told Journal-isms on Friday.

Feeney and his predecessor as NYABJ president, Gary Anthony Ramsay, defended the association's selection of Beyoncé for "Eat, Play, Love," a first-person story for Essence magazine about how she was reenergized after taking a nine-month hiatus from show business. Essence submitted the article, which the New York organization asked the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists to judge.

"As far as I am concerned, Beyoncé won fair and square," Feeney said by telephone. "There was no stipulation that you had to be a member of NYABJ or a writer or journalist. The current board is going to be looking at the criteria for next year. We're just honoring what was passed on to us." He hastened to say that 40 actual journalists were to be honored.

Ramsay, who was president of the group when the competition took place, said by telephone, "Having seen a lot of pieces over the years, it would not be the first time a celebrity or a so-called nonjournalist" won in New York or elsewhere.

Eric Deggans, media critic for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, who chairs the Media Monitoring Committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, articulated some of the concern about the award to Beyoncé.

"I know there's a lot of great practical reasons why giving Beyoncé a journalism award makes sense for this chapter," Deggans said by email.

"But at a time when everyone from politicians to entertainers is trying to co-opt the credibility of journalists without actually adhering to the ethical standards which [make] our work trustworthy in the first place, journalists need to be the ones who stand against this stuff.

"Our awards should be the final place where we insist that work meet the highest standards. If groups that are supposed to be about maintaining journalism excellence are willing to lower the bar for a celebrity or because that's the only entries we got for our contest, why should anyone else respect our reputations?

"If we're willing to grade on a curve to make a celebrity look good, we're only hurting the reputation of the awards and our own reputations as well."

Feeney said the judges called the Beyoncé entry "insightful, refreshingly honest."

Cheryl Smith, president of the Dallas association, said the chapter received no pressure from anywhere, overt or implied. Feeney said, "Cheryl assured me it was the best entry that was submitted. That's what she said, and that's what we had to go with. I spoke with the people at Essence." Speaking of Beyoncé, Feeney said, "They assured me that they believe that she wrote it."

But, he added, "We've heard the complaints loud and clear."

Cori Murray, entertainment director of Essence, told the Daily News, "She's a real writer. We had to edit her, but everyone gets edited except Toni Morrison."

Feeney said he was not certain Beyoncé would be present for the May 15 awards ceremony, as she is scheduled to be preparing for an Atlantic City engagement then. However, the pop star sent a brief video thank you to the association.

Meanwhile, Essence announced that its special June issue, on newsstands May 11, was guest-edited by singer Mary J. Blige.

Arnie Robbins, left, outgoing editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Gilbert Bailón, named to succeed him, in the lobby of the newspaper on Friday. (Credit: David Carson/Post-Dispatch)

Gilbert Bailón Named Editor of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Gilbert Bailón, editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was named editor of the paper on Friday, succeeding Arnie Robbins and becoming one of a handful of Latino editors of mainstream dailies.

"Gilbert is a strong and talented team leader with knowledge of our newsroom, our industry and our community,'' Publisher Kevin Mowbray said in his announcement. "I'm confident that Gilbert will continue the outstanding and exceptional work that is produced by our newsroom each and every day.''

Robbins has been editor for more than six years and was managing editor for seven years. His last day is to be May 18.

Bailón, a former executive editor of the Dallas Morning News who launched that paper's Spanish-language offshoot, Al Día, of which he was editor and publisher, was named editorial page editor of the Post-Dispatch in 2007.

He is also a past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, a past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a former board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

"The ranks of minority journalists at all levels have taken large hits in the newsroom downsizings, including top editors," Bailón told Journal-isms by email Friday. "Fewer people of color remain in top posts. Without a doubt, diversity of top newsroom executives has declined over the last five years although demographic trends continue to show the growth of minority populations."

Aminda "Mindy" Marques Gonzalez was named executive editor of the Miami Herald in 2010.

In 2008, when Mike Fannin was named editor at the Kansas City Star, that paper became the largest-circulation U.S. newspaper with a Hispanic editor. Fannin told readers then, "I am white and Latino, a mix of Irish, Mexican and German heritage, but, make no mistake, all American."

Carolina Garcia, the editor of the Daily News in Los Angeles, in October was named executive editor for the Daily Breeze and the Press-Telegram in Long Beach as well.

Both Garcia and Bailón can claim to lead the newsroom of the largest mainstream daily edited by a Hispanic, depending on how the numbers are counted. On Sundays, the Post-Dispatch claims a circulation of 333,529, larger than that of the Kansas City Star, the Miami Herald or the combined circulation of the three California papers. But the three California papers' combined Monday-through-Friday circulation of 238,846 is larger than that of the Post-Dispatch, the Star or the Herald.

Bailón said in the Post-Dispatch story that he was "excited for the opportunity to lead the newsroom as we evolve our print and digital products. Our future is bright and meaningful journalism remains our foundation and strength as we keep news content central to our readers' lives."

NAHJ Projects Revenue Surplus Exceeding $100,000

Rosa Morales, assistant editor at Mi Gente Hispana Magazine, was named Region 6 director of NAHJ. (Video)

"Members, we have a budget!" Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said in a message to members posted on the NAHJ website Friday.

"The board of directors unanimously passed nearly a $900,000 budget for fiscal year 2012 during their spring meeting, held April 20 at the Uptown Sheraton in Albuquerque, N.M. Financial officer Russell Contreras and the Finance Committee, working with Interim Executive Director Anna Lopez Buck, proposed a very conservative spending plan, with the bulk of revenue coming from membership renewals, UNITY registrations, sponsorships and member donations.

"If we stay on plan, we should end 2012 for a second year with a revenue surplus of more than $100,000. I’m proud to report that the first installment of repayments to the Scholarship Fund and the Investment Fund is included in the 2012 budget, as is an audit of accounts — the first in several years. Members will receive details of the repayment plan as well as the financials at the membership meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2 in Las Vegas.

". . . We have two new board members. Please join me in welcoming Marcela Garcia of Boston and Rosa Morales of Ann Arbor. The board unanimously approved the appointment of Marcela Garcia, editor of La Planeta, as Spanish Language at-Large Officer, and Rosa Morales, assistant editor at Mi Gente [Hispana] Magazine, as Region 6 Director, effective immediately.

"Garcia will fill the unexpired term of Ada Alvarez Conde, who resigned January 31 to serve as communications director for Puerto Rico's Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and work on a doctorate degree.

". . . A founding member of NAHJ, Morales will fill the unexpired term of Region 6 director Marcela Toledo, who resigned March 9 for personal reasons."

No African Americans in Incoming Nieman Fellowships Class

Less than a week after the Knight journalism fellowships program at Stanford University chose a fellowship class comprising more than half journalists of color, the Nieman fellowships at Harvard University announced an incoming class that appears to be devoid of African Americans.

Ann Marie Lipinksi, a former editor of the Chicago Tribune who became curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism last summer, said she was in a day-long workshop on Friday, the day the new fellows were announced, and did not know the racial breakdown of the new fellowship class.

However, the fellows do include:

  • Alexandra Garcia, a video journalist at the Washington Post, who is to study how news organizations can create visual experiences that engage users. She also plans to explore interactive storytelling forms.

  • Laura Wides-Muñoz, Hispanic affairs writer for the Associated Press, who plans to study the nexus between immigration and economics. "She will examine how the global financial crisis affects the integration of immigrants into U.S. society and explore multimedia platforms for presenting the data in new and dynamic ways." [Wides-Muñoz clarified in an email to Journal-isms on May 8, "I am not Hispanic. I am married to a Guatemalan, thus the hyphenated surname."]

In the current Nieman class, Jonathan Blakley, an African American foreign desk producer at NPR, is the only U.S. journalist of color.

The number of African American applicants fell from 16 in 2010 to six in 2011, from 15 Hispanics to seven and from two Native Americans to one, curator Bob Giles told Journal-isms at the time.

"Our African American applicant pool has been growing steadily. We put more recruiting time and energy into minority recruitment, especially African Americans, than any other group. The decline in the number of African American applicants is both disappointing and a mystery," he said.

Headlines, Puns About Elizabeth Warren  Draw Fire

Elizabeth Warren"NAJA is disappointed that coverage of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claimed Native heritage has resulted in a series of disrespectful headlines and puns that show disregard for Native Americans and our history," the Native American Journalists Association said in a statement Thursday.

Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and a Democrat, is vying for the seat held by Scott Brown, R-Mass. She has identified herself as having Cherokee and Delaware Indian heritage.

The NAJA statement said, "A recent article posted by Michelle Malkin with the headline 'Sacaja-whiner: Elizabeth Warren and the Oppression Olympics' paired partial references to multiple Native American names with ways to ridicule Ms. Warren's ancestry claims. Ms. Malkin wrote: 'Call her "Pinocchio-hontas," "Chief Full-of-Lies," "'Running Joke' or "Sacaja-whiner." '

". . . While allegations surrounding her claims are unsettling, making fun of Native names that have history, respect, and honor is worse. The names are being belittled by Ms. Malkin for a joke that many Americans had a laugh at.

"The Daily Caller further belittled the names by re-posting her piece, initially in connection with the headline 'Sitting Bulls**t.'

". . . Tribal nations deserve respect. They are not for the amusement of the media."

N.Y. Post Writer Raises Hackles Over Jay-Z and N-word

"The NY Post has had their fair share of racist controversies — just recently, there was the cartoon which portrayed Muslims as terrorists — but it seems as though columnist Phil Mushnick really wants to take things to the next level," Ben Yakas wrote Friday on

"Today, he rails against the new Brooklyn Nets and Jay-Z, who owns 1.47% of the team: 'Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N------s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B----hes or Hoes." Wow. Here's the full quote in its grotesque context:

" 'As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new 'urban' home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?

" 'Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N------s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B----hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!"

Many in the blogosphere, including some black journalists, called for Mushnick's firing.

Mushnick replied to the Village Voice and others, "James — did you actually read what I wrote and what I've been writing for 30 years? I don't call black men niggas; my kids never heard the word until folks such as Jay-Z came along. I'd suggest you talk to him about it. What I wrote today was on Jay Z's artistry, and only the wishful and foolish would so badly misinterpret and mischaracterize it as you plan to do. Thanks — mushnick."

A "Blood-American" Helps Answer "What Is a Chicano?"

Cheech MarinIn what is advertised by the Huffington Post as first in a series, "actor, director and art advocate" Cheech Marin, half of the '60s comedy team Cheech and Chong, asks, "What Is a Chicano?"

An excerpt:

"Because I am the only official version of what being Chicano is, I say Mexican-American is the politically correct middle ground between Hispanic and Chicano. Like in the song I wrote to be sung by a Chicano trying to be P.C. 'Mexican-Americans; don't like to just get into gang fights; they like flowers and music; and white girls named Debbie too.'

"All those names made it confusing for me growing up. I lived in an all-black neighborhood, followed by an all-white one, and other kids in the always called me Mexican in both neighborhoods.

"It never bothered me until one day I thought to myself 'Hey, wait a minute, I'm not Mexican.' I've never even been to Mexico and I don't speak Spanish. Sure, I eat Mexican food at family gatherings where all of the adults speak Spanish, but I eat Cheerios and pizza and hamburgers more. No, I'm definitely not a 'Mexican.' Maybe I was 'Mexican-ish,' just like some people were 'Jew-ish.'

"These thoughts all ran through my mind when I chased down an alley by five young African-American kids. 'Yo, Messican!' they called out in their patois. I stopped in my tracks and spun around. 'I'm not a Mexican!' I shouted defiantly. They stopped too, then stared at me. The leader spoke, 'Fool! What you talking 'bout? You Mexican as a taco. Look at you.'

" 'No,' I said. 'To be a Mexican, you have to be from Mexico. You're African-American. Are you from Africa?'

" 'N--. You crazy. I'm from South-Central, just like you.'

" 'That's exactly what I'm talking about!' I said. 'Did anybody knock on your door and ask you did you want to be African-American?'

" 'Hell no! The social workers don't even knock on our door, they too scared,' he said, cracking everyone up.

" 'Then why you letting people call you whatever they want? What do you want to be called?' I asked.

"He looked at the others, thought about it for a few seconds and then said proudly, 'I'm a Blood.'

" 'Ooo-kay,' I said making it up as I went along. 'Then you're a Blood-American.'

"That seemed to go over well. They all nodded. 'Yeah, we Blood-American.'

" 'Well, then go out and be the best Blood-Americans that you can be. Peace, brothers, I got to blow.' I walked away and so did they. Self-identification saved the day. Yet, I still was dissatisfied with what I wanted to call myself. . . ."

Press Freedom Day Begins With Mexican Violence

"It was a bloody start to World Press Freedom Day in Mexico as authorities in the eastern state of Veracruz discovered the bodies of three news photographers slain and dumped together in plastic bags near a canal, less than a week after the killing in the same state of a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine," Fox News Latino reported Thursday via the Associated Press.

"Press advocates called for immediate government action to halt a wave of attacks that has killed at least six current and former reporters and photographers in Veracruz over the last year, most of them among the few journalists still working on crime-related stories in the state. The deaths have spawned an atmosphere of terror and self-censorship among journalists."

Short Takes

  • Niala K. Boodhoo, a reporter with WBEZ-FM, Chicago Public Media, and the Asian American Journalists Association/Chicago chapter representative on the AAJA National Advisory Board, is running unopposed for vice president/broadcast, AAJA announced Friday. Gautham V. Nagesh, editor of the Technology Executive Briefing at Congressional Quarterly and a member of the AAJA/Washington, D.C. Chapter, is running unopposed for treasurer.

  • "Remember Khristopher Brooks, the young reporter who was fired from the Wilmington [Del.] News Journal before even starting the job because of an I've-been-acquired press release he posted?" Jim Romenesko asked Wednesday on his media blog. "Brooks says he was 'bombarded with great job offers' after that brouhaha, and he's accepted one of them." Brooks' LinkedIn page lists his occupation as K-12 education reporter for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

  • Wesley Yang"Paper Tigers," by Wesley Yang in New York magazine, won a National Magazine Award in the essays and criticism category Thursday. "What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?" a headline over the piece asked. "Time was the surprise winner of Magazine of the Year, beating out favorites like New York, The New Yorker and Esquire," reported. How much does diversity count? Time lost its only black correspondent in December. List of winners.

  • At the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Effective today, Michael Days will take a lead role in coordinating our multimedia content at all levels," according to a memo Thursday from William K. Marimow, who returned to the paper as editor on May 1 [PDF], and Stan Wischnowski, Marimow's successor and predecessor as editor, and now part of Marimow's team. "This includes expanding our social media reach, working closely with Sam Wood," social media editor. Days, who is managing editor, "will also oversee the online breaking news desk, improve our network of bloggers, work . . . on the Inquirer iPad app, and ensure that our investigative and enterprise projects include strong audio and video components. Mike will continue to oversee the photo department and work with the metro team. At the same time, Mike Leary will become deputy managing editor for Metro; he will continue to supervise our investigative projects. As deputy managing editor, Mike will oversee the city desk, Jersey desk, the Pennsylvania suburban and political desk."

  • "North Carolina's largest newspaper rescinded its endorsement in a congressional primary Thursday, saying the Republican candidate 'has done nothing but embarrass us and himself ' since receiving their backing less than a week ago," Gregory Wallace reported for CNN. "Noting recent 'birther' comments Jim Pendergraph made shortly after receiving their nod last Saturday, The Charlotte Observer said in an editorial there are 'at least two better choices' among the nine GOP contenders seeking to fill the vacant 9th district seat."

  • "Fox News political analyst Juan Williams misses working for NPR 'big time,' " Glynnis MacNicol reported Friday for capitalnew " 'Because that's such an informed and influential audience,' he told me last night at the swanky Industria Studios, a big loft and event space in the far West Village. 'And the thing is that audience really liked me and I would often times help raise money for NPR.' "

  • "With the presidential election six months away, CNN this month will launch a series of documentaries that will focus on the issues surrounding minority and veteran voters," R. Thomas Umstead reported Friday for Multichannel News. ". . . In July, Voters in America will debut Who Counts, an in-depth look at how election law changes enacted in 14 states since 2008 may impact poll access for the elderly, students, and minorities and ultimately influence the election."

  • C-SPAN3 is broadcasting Sunday a conference at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the presidency and civil rights. Scheduled for 8:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, topics include Franklin D. Roosevelt's World War II internment of Japanese Americans, Harry S Truman's desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces, and Dwight D. Eisenhower's Supreme Court appointments of five justices opposed to segregation.

  • Sports Illustrated is devoting much of its issue this week to Title IX and its impact on women's sports.

  • The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee and the Cliff Dwellers of Chicago co-hosted a fundraiser on March 7 to benefit development of a monument to honor Wells, journalist and anti-lynching crusader, the committee announced on April 28. Chicago artist Richard Hunt, who was commissioned to create the monument, was present as more than $10,000 was raised toward the $300,000 goal.

  • Ken Ward "Charlotte TV reporter Ken Ward, who was found stricken at his Lake Norman-area home Jan. 4, died of hypertensive heart disease, the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s office said Thursday," the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported. "Ward, 44, a morning reporter on WSOC-TV (Channel 9), left the station at the end of December to take a new job at Tampa’s ABC affiliate."

  • In New York, "WBLS (107.5 FM) will retain the popular 'Open Line' public affairs show from the late Kiss-FM, WBLS program director Skip Dillard said Thursday," David Hinckley reported Thursday for the Daily News in New York. " 'Open Line,' which is cohosted by Bob Slade, James Mtume and Bob Pickett, will stay in its 10 a.m.-noon timeslot Sundays. It will follow The Rev. Al Sharpton, 9-10 a.m."

  • In Nigeria, media houses in Kaduna State have removed their signage after threats by the militant Boko Haram sect to attack them, Ismail Mudashir reported Friday for the Daily Trust in Abuja. "Early this week, the sect in an 18 minutes video posted on You Tube, said 11 media organisations are on their list for possible attack."

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Revisiting Criteria for ABJ award rules

Revisiting NY ABJ award rules is not the point. I'd like to think it is fine as it is currently, devised and shaped for those working in the field of journalism or having produced a stellar piece of journalistic work that was more than about contemplating one's navel over 9 months.

  Beyonce's piece was a one-time essay and if it was that strong that's what it should have been entered as and honored as. If there was no category that fit the piece then it should not have been considered, not even as a mention. Simple as that. I believe star-struck emotion overtook the Dallas judges who confused their appreciation of Beyonce as a home-town celebrity and the job they were asked to do. 

Does recording one's thoughts and experiences in a journal make one a journalist? Now there's a thought.

Beyoncé Award


Some thoughts/comments on the Beyonce Award: I did a couple of Essence pieces back in the day when it was a black-owned publication (at their request); all were edited — usually for space concerns — none were "mangled" and they were pretty much close to what what I submitted. The Essence editors and journalistic standards then were first-rate/professional. Have they lowered their standards since it's become a white-owned publication? It would be presumptuous and racist of me to assume that they have just because they're now white-owned (you remember Judith Miller, Mike Barnicle, et al — white publications=bad journalistic standards If I choose to be simplistic and racist); I'd need to read Essence magazine consistently before passing judgment on their journalistic standards or lack thereof. I do not, and therefore will not.

The magazine's editors believed Beyonce wrote the first- person piece and thought it worthy enough to be submitted from amongst who knows how many other pieces they had/ran in the previous 12 months. That's their call to make, not NYABJ's. The Dallas/Ft. Worth judges READ the piece amongst who knows how many other entries, and made their decisions based on their own individual skills, experience and — dare I say it — integrity. Their call to make, albeit at the request of NYABJ, but nonetheless still their call. As someone who has judged submissions (in the quite near and very distant past) for the Deadline Club, the National Endowment for the Humanities, NYABJ and the International Film & TV Festival of New York, among others, I would bristle if anyone impugned my fairness and integrity as a judge by implying that anything but the actual work in question had entered into my decisions on the merits and worthiness of the submissions being judged. I expect no less of Dallas/Ft. Worth Black Journalists.

Did Eric Deggans and the other critics READ the Beyonce piece? Did they have the opportunity to judge it against other submissions before weighing-in with their criticism? I did not. I therefore have no criticism to make. Nor will I engage in maligning the professionalism and integrity of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Journalists who performed the judging task.


I'll close on this note: before there was an NABJ Media Watch Task Force or Committee there was an NYABJ Media Watch Committee and Media Watch Show (born 1991). NYABJ still has a Media Watch Committee and a Media Watch Show. As a former NYABJ president and current Media Watch co-chair, this chapter apologizes to no one for our professionalism and tenacious adherence to and advocacy for the highest journalistic standards.

(Editor's note: Essence has made the Beyonce piece available for all to read. It's linked to above. Click on the title ""Eat, Play, Love.")


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