Black Farmers Battled for Media Attention
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Updated December 2
Protests by black farmers to gain public attention have included horse-drawn carriages in the nation's capital. (Credit: NBFARally.com)
This is how the Associated Press put it: "American Indian landowners and black farmers who for years have waited for Washington to address their claims of government mistreatment won a hard-fought victory Tuesday as Congress cleared legislation to pay the groups $4.6 billion to settle a pair of historic class-action lawsuits."
This is what John W. Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, said: "We haven't had a whole lot of national play until recently."
Asked how long he had been pressing for redress, Boyd recalled, "John Conyers said 27 years," referring to the veteran Detroit congressman who has risen to chair the House Judiciary Committee. In 1984, Conyers and Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., listened as Arthur Campbell, a black former regional director of the Agriculture Department's Farmers Home Administration, told their House subcommittee, "The truth of the matter is that the FmHA . . . is helping stimulate the decline in farm and rural home ownership by blacks."
In the intervening years, black and Indian farmers won agreement that they had been wronged, but the restitution was long in coming. It took years of lobbying, mule trains in Washington — and efforts to get the news media involved.
"We're poor black people," Boyd told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "We don't have money to give to congressional campaigns, and when you don't have that, your message is difficult to get out there. Even our own black people didn't seem to get behind [it] until recently."
The Associated Press reported, "The package would award some $3.4 billion to American Indians over claims they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for resources like oil, gas and timber. Another $1.2 billion would go to African-Americans who claim they were unfairly denied loans and other assistance from the Agriculture Department."
Like most stories, the saga of the black farmers and news media coverage has heroes and villains, though in this case the villains were guilty mainly of indifference. In Boyd's view, the victory came after the black press and others kept the issue alive so that the mainstream media could put it in the broader public consciousness.
The background: As the Associated Press story noted of Tuesday's development on Capitol Hill, "For the black farmers, it is the second round of funding from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local USDA offices."
Boyd remembers going before the editorial boards of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Wall Street Journal and getting solitary stories in those publications afterward. In 1999, the farmers' plight made the front page of the New York Times with a story by David Firestone, "Agriculture Dept. to Settle Lawsuit by Black Farmers." All along, the black press was supportive.
But it wasn't enough.
"It's hard to get it out in the media three or four days in a row," Boyd said. That's what was needed for sustained attention, he said. That — and television.
In 1998 and 1999, the late Ed Bradley did two stories on the black farmers' plight on CBS' "60 Minutes."
"It is virtually impossible today for any small farmer to stay in business without access to credit," Mike Wallace explained in setting up Bradley's first piece. "Most are dependent on loans from the United States Department of Agriculture to get them through from crop to crop. But while the money for those loans comes from Washington, the Agriculture Department officials who approve them are elected in local counties. And for black farmers, that has been a problem, because they say the white-controlled local committees discriminate against them by not granting them loans they, in fact, qualify for."
"60 Minutes" is the kind of showcase Boyd said his movement needed. "You really need the white mainstream media. Get into living rooms when people are eating at 6:30 at night."
That didn't begin to happen until recently, he continued, until April Ryan, White House reporter and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, began asking questions about the black farmers at the daily White House news briefings. "I been knowing April longer than I can remember," Boyd said. "She worked on it during the Clinton years."
Ryan continued during the Obama administration. "The mainstream media jumped on this after I kept asking about it and couldn't get answers," Ryan told Journal-isms.
At issue was Boyd's complaint that the administration had not earmarked money to pay a $1.25 billion discrimination settlement with the farmers. She took the question to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and to Obama himself at a September presidential news conference.
After her questioning, others in the White House press corps, "people like Ed Henry," the CNN White House correspondent, "took an interest," Ryan said. "A lot of white reporters didn't touch it because they didn't understand it," she said. Once they realized the farmers had been awarded the money more than 10 years ago and hadn't received it, they began to report the story, she said.
Boyd also credits Washington Post reporters Michael Fletcher and Krissah Thompson and in an appearance Monday on radio's "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," thanked Dyson for previously acknowledging the farmers' quest.
The struggle isn't over. As Ryan noted in her blog Wednesday, "Outgoing, House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn has mixed emotions about the passage saying the black farmers settlement bill is not 'clean' as the black farmers are relegated to 50 thousand dollars each in discrimination awards and women and Hispanic farmers can get countless amounts of an award from the Judgment fund. He also feels some of the language placed in the bill could cause intimidation to black farmers."
Boyd also went on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" Wednesday to respond to Republican critics, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
King "likened the black farmers program to 'modern-day reparations' for African-Americans and argued along with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that the claims process is rife with fraud," Ben Evans reported in the AP story cited above.
- Mary C. Curtis, Politics Daily: White House: Now Is Time to Pay Claims of Black Farmers, Native Americans
- Indianz.com: Cobell settlement heads to White House after clearing Congress
- Zenitha Prince, Afro-American Newspapers: Black farmers bill passed but tough road still ahead
- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Fulfilling Our Promise in Indian Country
- Karen Lynn Todd, Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer: Shirley Sherrod speaks on black farmers
- Statement by the President on Settlement Agreement in the Native American Farmers Lawsuit Against USDA (Oct. 19)
- Statement by the President on the Settlement in the Black Farmers Lawsuit against USDA (Feb. 18)
- John W. Boyd Jr. Web page
- National Black Farmers Association
Julia Wallace, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been named senior vice president of news and programming for Cox Media Group Ohio, also part of the Cox media company, the company announced on Thursday.
Kevin Riley, editor-in-chief of Cox Ohio Publishing, will become editor of the Journal-Constitution. The changes are effective Jan. 1.
The announcement said, "Wallace brings a wealth of experience to Dayton, said Alex Taylor, group vice president of CMG’s Dayton and Louisville operations. She started with Cox 10 years ago and became editor of the Journal-Constitution in 2002. Since then, the company has won numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes.
"Wallace was named Editor of the Year by Editor & Publisher, a trade publication, in 2004 and received the Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University," the announcement continued.
"In addition to newspaper experience, she has spent much of her time and energy on growing digital products, Taylor said. AJC.com has logged more than a billion page views every year since 2007."
The alternative newspaper Creative Loafing noted that Wallace "oversaw the AJC's redesign and shifted its resources and focus on the northern 'burbs."
Other changes under Wallace involved black journalists.
In February 2007, James Mallory, managing editor for operations and initiatives, was promoted to senior managing editor and vice president/news, and in April 2009, the paper announced a change in leadership of the editorial page. Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor and syndicated columnist, took a new role as political columnist based in Washington, and Andre Jackson, the AJC’s senior editor for business, federal and state news, was named editorial editor. Mallory, Tucker and Jackson are black journalists.
"Riley, who started his newspaper career in 1983 as copy editor for the Dayton Daily News, was named Cox Ohio’s Editor-in-Chief in January 2007. During his tenure in Dayton, Riley served as sports editor, online general manager and publisher of the Springfield News-Sun," the announcement continued.
"As Editor-in Chief, Riley was responsible for the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield News-Sun, the Middleton Journal and the Hamilton JournalNews, as well as Cox’s weekly newspapers. He 'has overseen vast changes to our newsroom and has been a great community leader in and around Dayton,' Taylor said." [Dec. 2]
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution: New top editor announced at AJC
"I was listening to Gayle King talk on the radio about how . . . Oprah had just broadcast her final 'My Favorite Things' show," Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News columnist, explained to Journal-isms on Wednesday.
"Like everyone else, I'd always wanted to be in the audience when she's giving away cars and flat-screen TVs. Then, it dawned on me that if Oprah was walking away from it, I could step into her shoes and do the same thing for my readers, albeit on a smaller scale. That was a little more than a week ago and here we are."
With a front-page promotional splash, Armstrong announced in her column Wednesday that, "I've decided to take up the tradition and share My Favorite Things. Unlike Oprah, though, I'm limited to the confines of these news pages. But other than that, Jen's Top 10 works the same. I'll tell you about the products that I really like and then give them away to randomly selected Daily News readers.
The gifts include scented candles manufactured in a local studio, chocolate-covered mints that made her knees buckle, a "Heart of Philadelphia necklace," cashmere sweaters, Oprah's favorite luggage tags, spiced apple wine, a women's training camp hoodie, a Ralph Lauren throw, a family photo water globe and behind-the-scenes tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show.
"We've had a tremendous response. When I came in this morning and checked, we had about 300 emails," Armstrong said via e-mail. "I haven't looked back again, but I know there are going to be hundreds more."
"Thus far, most of the mainstream Arab media seems to be either ignoring the [WikiLeaks] revelations or else reporting it in generalities, i.e. reporting that it's happening but not the details in the cables," Marc Lynch wrote in a Wednesday update for Foreign Policy.
"I imagine there are some pretty tense scenes in Arab newsrooms right now, as they try to figure out how to cover the news within their political constraints.
"Al-Jazeera may feel the heat the most, since not covering it (presumably to protect the Qatari royal family) could shatter its reputation for being independent and in tune with the 'Arab street.' So far, the only real story I've seen in the mainstream Arab media is in the populist Arab nationalist paper al-Quds al-Arabi, which covers the front page with a detailed expose focused on its bete noir Saudi Arabia.
"Meanwhile, the details are all over Arabic social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, forums, and online-only news sites like Jordan's Ammon News. This may be a critical test of the real impact of Arabic social media and the internet: can it break through a wall of silence and reach mass publics if the mass media doesn't pick up the story?"
The WikiLeaks story broke a day after Rana Sabbagh reported from Jordan for Gulf Times that, "In the largely autocratic region, where media freedoms are declining, a new generation of bold Arab investigative journalists is drawing a significant line in the sand, exposing human misery and standing up to higher powers. . . .
"Those journalists –hailing from private and public media — are working under the umbrella of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) — the only media support network in the region promoting the culture of in-depth reporting across Arab newsrooms."
- Liz Cox Barrett, Columbia Journalism Review: From "Arab Newsrooms," Day Two
- Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Figure Out What You Think About Wikileaks
- The Guardian, England: Day-by-day guide to the revelations
- Meris Lutz, Los Angeles Times: Arab media play down WikiLeaks reports of support for Iran war
- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Tough times for a superpower
- Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News: Top WikiLeaker proud? Then he should defend his actions in court
- Richard Stengel, Time: TIME's Julian Assange Interview: Full Transcript/Audio
From Jisoo Kim's "Thembi's AIDS Diary" animation
"Thembi’s Diary is an animation made from a true audio documentary (NPR Radio Diaries)," reads the legend below a video by Jisoo Kim. "It is recorded by Thembi a South African girl with Aids. Although her disease is harsh for a 17 year old, Thembi talks to her virus every morning. With a calm voice she says that as long as it leaves her alone she will do the same."
"Today is World AIDS Day and we wanted to share some news about Thembi Ngubane, our friend and diarist who died last year," Joe Richman, executive producer of "Radio Diaries" wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. "A new film about Thembi's life has just been released in South Africa and shown at a few festivals in the US. It was made by the wonderful filmmakers Jo Menell (Mandela) and Richard Mills (Street Talk). You can find information about the film here.
"We also highly recommend that you watch this amazing animation of Thembi. Artist Jisoo Kim was inspired by Thembi's diary and decided to illustrate our radio story with images. It's beautiful.
"And....Unicef's latest report on children and AIDS has Thembi on the cover, along with her boyfriend, Melikhaya, and their daughter, Onwabo. Melikhaya and Onwabo are both healthy and doing well. I will be visiting them in South Africa over the Christmas holiday. Please contact me directly (joe [at] radiodiaries.org) if you would like to send them messages or support them in any way.
"You can listen to Thembi's AIDS Diary and learn about her life here."
- Sheree Crute, theRoot.com: What the New CDC Numbers on HIV/AIDS Really Mean
- Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer: Philadelphia pastor lives with HIV - and preaches about it
- Akiba Solomon, Yanick Rice Lamb, Kendra Lee and Debra Moore, Heart & Soul: Mapping AIDS in Africa
- Patrice J. Williams, theRoot.com: Losing My Father to AIDS: HIV can affect you even when you're not infected
Minnesota Public Radio would like it known that the Star Tribune's efforts to cover its Somali community, recounted here on Monday, haven't been the only ones undertaken by the Twin Cities mainstream news outlets.
"Reporters Laura Yuen and Sasha Aslanian spent months knocking on doors in Somali neighborhoods as they reported on the investigation into whether Somali-American men left Minneapolis to fight with hard-line Islamists in Somalia ’s civil war," Bill Gray, MPR communications director, wrote to Journal-isms.
"They developed sources who wouldn’t tell their stories to other media outlets, or even to the FBI. Their coverage also led to a series, 'Civil War Kids', which broke new ground on the turmoil inside the young generation of Somali-Americans who were born into Somalia’s escalating violence and forced to flee their homeland at an early age. They escaped the chaos of Mogadishu, only to find new perils in Minnesota. No other media outlet has explored the young generation’s struggles with identity issues, mental illness, and absent fathers.
"Our coverage has gone beyond exploring links to terrorism, and the most recent case of an alleged prostitution ring involving Minneapolis-based Somali gangs, to highlight the human stories and successes of the Somali community. Several links to such stories are below:
- "A gym of their own: Somali girls learn basketball
- "Swedish delegation seeks answers to Somali success
- "First Somali-American elected to public office in Minn.
- "Burnsville man pivotal in freeing British couple from pirates"
Meanwhile, the Oregonian in Portland has provided a link on its home page to all of its stories about Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, "the 19-year-old man accused of trying to ignite a van full of fake explosives near Pioneer Courthouse Square last week."
The alternative Willamette Week provided what it called "the five most noteworthy pieces of this puzzle."
- Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Maybe FBI needs to find a real terrorist
The national associations of black and Hispanic journalists are offering earlier-than-ever discounts to those who register for their summer conventions by Dec. 31.
The National Association of Black Journalists promises a $50 savings for its Aug. 3-7 convention in Philadelphia.
NAHJ plans a "holiday special" of $50 off for all professional members (not students) for its June 15-18 gathering at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando.
Kathy Chow, executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association, said, "Our early bird registration is already available online, but we are not offering any additional incentives to register before the end of the year." The AAJA convention is Aug. 10-13 in Detroit.
Jeff Harjo, executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, said his group is also offering an early bird registration but did not have details. The NAJA conference is planned for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 13-17.
Memphis disk jockey George Klein says goodbye to meteorologist Leon Griffin, right. (Credit: WHBQ-TV)
- In Memphis, "Leon Griffin is retiring from Fox13. His last day is Friday, Griffin announced on 'Good Morning Memphis' Tuesday. Griffin has been in broadcast for more than 40 years. He has left Fox13 before but his retirement ends his latest stint which lasted 13 years," according to the website the Memphis 10.
- A "plan from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to ensure an open and neutral Internet drew mixed reviews on Wednesday from consumer advocates and Internet service providers, presenting the agency with an uncertain way forward as it considers new broadband regulation," Edward Wyatt reported for the New York Times. "The proposal, by Julius Genachowski, would forbid both wired and wireless Internet service providers from blocking lawful content."
- U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Vance Wednesday sentenced former New Orleans police officer Michael Hunter to eight years in prison for his role in the fatal police shooting of two men and the wounding of four others on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as an elaborate cover-up. Hunter drove the rental truck full of officers to the bridge, Brendan McCarthy reported for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Times-Picayune, PBS "Frontline" and ProPublica investigated "a string of violent encounters between police and civilians in the wake of the hurricane, examining the deaths of Danny Brumfield, Matt McDonald, and Henry Glover, as well as the non-fatal shooting of Keenon McCann," as ProPublica has said.
- Natalie Hopkinson, analyzing a profile of Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy Jr. in the Washington City Paper, compared the economic status of blacks and whites in the District of Columbia. "This is what they mean when they talk about class warfare: two trains — one privileged, one not — running in opposite directions at a dizzying speed, each with divergent needs and expectations from government," Hopkinson wrote. "No need to invent it or 'inject race' into it; this is the objective reality of life in the District. Yet somehow the narrative about change becomes 'Courtland Milloy doesn't care about white people!' "
- "Come January, 'Tavis Smiley' will move to KOCE-TV, the Orange County station that will be the primary PBS affiliate in the Los Angeles area. The program will retain its 11 p.m. slot going into its eighth season," Scott Collins reported last week in the Los Angeles Times. "After wrangling for months with network officials over dues and other issues, KCET is dropping virtually its entire lineup of PBS shows." Smiley, whose show is now based at KCET, said he felt out of the loop when KCET's decision was made.
- " 'The Simpsons' executive producer Al Jean tells TheWrap that his show's jabs at Fox News are over — after the network elected to laugh off two weeks of jokes at its expense," Tim Molloy reported Monday for TheWrap.com. ". . . Last week's episode of the Fox cartoon featured a Fox News helicopter with the slogan, 'Not Racist, But #1 With Racists.' This week the chopper's slogan changed to 'Unsuitable for Viewers Under 75.' "
- "What is a television network about all things Caribbean that is seen in 26 islands doing in Newark?" Peter Applebome asked Monday in the New York Times. ". . . The answers begin and end with Frederick A. Morton, who grew up in St. Croix, V.I., with parents from Nevis, speaks with a rich Caribbean lilt, and willed into existence Tempo Networks, which reaches three million people via cable providers with names like Cable Bahamas Ltd., TDS Curacao and Karib Cable Communications."
- "Jodi Hernandez was doing double duty — selling burritos after filing news reports for KOVR-13, when she opened Papalote Mexican Grill in San Francisco with husband Victor Escobedo and brother-in-law Miguel. That was 12 years ago," Veronica Villafañe reported Wednesday on her Media Moves site. "Starting today, Jodi and Victor's business goes nationwide as they start mass marketing their 'secret recipe' Papalote roasted tomato salsa."
- The New York Times unveiled its annual holiday gift guide but without a repeat special section for people of color. Last year, the website NYTpicker called the listing by Simone S. Oliver, a black journalist, racist.
- In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post Tuesday, actor-director Ben Affleck challenged readers to name the bloodiest war since World War II. "By far, the deadliest conflict was in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2003," Affleck told readers, urging a number of steps "to help the Congolese people secure their region for the long term." Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative advocacy group this year.
- "The man often referred to as the 'Jackie Robinson of Journalism' for being the first African-American journalist at the Nashville Banner will have his legacy live on as his name adorns the district’s first museum magnet school, Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary," Lea Ann Overstreet wrote Tuesday for the Tennessean in Nashville. "The Churchwell family joined Metro Schools Director Jesse Register, Mayor Karl Dean and other officials for a dedication ceremony on Nov. 18." Churchwell died last year at 91.
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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