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Clashing Native Images

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Advertising Agencies Launch Diversity Effort

Black Links, "Redskins" Topics as Museum Opens

The opening Tuesday of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington attracted scores of journalists, including a contingent from the Native American Journalists Association, and provided an opportunity to explore some issues rarely touched upon, such as ties between blacks and Indians.

The latter story, "Black and Indian Connection Coming into Focus," was written for BlackAmericaWeb by Nia Ngina Meeks.

"Behind the festivities, the black perspective of that story is just starting to come into focus," her story said.

"Tens of thousands of blacks with both African and Native American ancestors are engaged in 'Roots II' of sorts, seeking to come to terms with what it means to be of that mixed heritage.

"It is a quest that often leads to raised eyebrows, scoffs and sometimes outright rejection from both sides. Yet rebuffs have not hindered the burgeoning scholars, genealogists and activists committed to reconciling the past and laying claim to their cultural duality."

Among those from the Native American Journalists Association who came to Washington were president Dan Lewerenz, executive director Ron Walters and immediate past president Patty Talahongva.

In the Washington Post, at least one letter writer noted the paper's simultaneous front-page coverage of the museum opening and the NFL's Washington Redskins:

"I couldn't help but note the irony of your Sept. 13 front page. The story and photo chronicling Sunday's Washington Redskins victory dwarfed the article and picture announcing the opening of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. Clearly, in this city, nostalgic old feelings and offensive old racial stereotypes continue to trump the new voices of Native Americans," wrote David Bjelajac.

Metro columnist Courtland Milloy, who is black, added today that he, too, was "struck by the clash of images: of real Indians and of gung-ho Redskins fans impersonating Indians."

And Talahongva, appearing on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation," told listeners Monday that:

"NAJA called on the media to stop using these racist words and images because you can still tell a story whether it's in radio or print or television without using these racist words and images. And, unfortunately, the media, mainstream establishment media, did not answer that call very well. Print was more inclined to do away with mascot names and such, but not broadcast. And again, it boggles my mind.

"It hurts me when I see a young person, a young Native person wearing a Redskins or some other mascot T-shirt or cap or whatever, because that plants an idea in their head and into non-Native people's heads that it's OK to make fun of Native people; it's OK to characterize them in this way, with big nose and, you know, reddish face or whatever, you know," she continued.

"It's not OK. You know, we did away with stereotypes with Asian people; we did away with stereotypes with black people and with Latinos. But what's up with Native Americans? Why can't we do away with that? It's not -- I don't want to say it's an emotional issue. It's a practical issue, and it's not -- what's the other term they always tell us? Oh, you know, you're so sensitive or whatever."

Overall, executive director Walters told the Associated Press, the mainstream media "has done a fairly good job covering the event considering their past record," the AP reporter wrote.

"Walters said news reports have done well in bringing in American Indian voices, but he wonders if the event would have been covered as extensively if it had been outside Washington," AP said.

"Boondocks" Offensive, Barber Shop Crowd Says

This week's "Boondocks" strip, "based on a curious concept: hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons creating an Apprentice-style reality show dubbed Can a N--a Get a Job?" didn't go down well with ordinary black folks, at least the ones in his local barber shop, writes Eric Deggans in the St. Petersburg Times.

"When they first heard the concept, the feedback was immediate, bringing . . . laughter . . . What out-of-work brother hasn't muttered those words once or twice, they said, relishing the idea of seeing black folks get a shot at Trump-level status, if only in a cartoon. But then they saw the strips, and their attitudes changed."

"'Why's it got to be "n--a" '? asked a barber. 'Can't he just say, "Can a black man get a job?' The language was too spicy and the images too stereotypical, said most of the crowd, who weren't regular Boondocks readers."

"Anticipating client concerns, the syndicator offered newspapers a choice: one version with the middle letters of the n-word dashed out, another version with the entire word replaced by symbols, and an older set of strips from last year on a different subject entirely. The Chicago Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times are among major newspapers that ran the dashed-out version, but the Washington Post chose to substitute the older strip," Deggans wrote.

Should Stories Read "Women" or "White Women"?

A New York Times/CBS News Poll has provided grist for political reporters to speculate about the reasons Democrat John Kerry's appeal to women voters appears to be shrinking.

This morning in the Times, for example, Katharine Q. Seelye wrote: "In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, women who are registered to vote were more likely to say they would vote for Mr. Bush than for Mr. Kerry, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush and 43 percent favoring Mr. Kerry.

"In 2000, 54 percent of women voted for Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, while 43 percent voted for Mr. Bush.

"Democratic and Republican pollsters say the reason for the change this year is that an issue Mr. Bush had initially pitched as part of an overall message -- which candidate would be best able to protect the United States from terrorists -- has become particularly compelling for women."

But should it be "women" -- or "white women" -- since black women, particularly, seem unlikely to desert the Democrats for President Bush?

An answer, from Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis: "There weren't enough women of color in the sample to analyze them separately."

TV Magazine Targets Asian Pacific Americans

"Jan Yanehiro, Dianne Fukami, gayle k. yamada, and Steven Chin of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter are part of the team that is producing a new weekly television magazine show about Asian Pacific Americans," reads a notice on the Asian American Journalists Association Web site.

"'Pacific Fusion' debuts Sept. 26 at 12:30 p.m. on KRON4 in the Bay Area. Hosted by former Miss Universe Brook Lee, the show explores and the diversity and flair of Asian Pacific American cultures and lifestyles.

". . . Pacific Fusion also airs in Honolulu on Fox-affiliate KHON2, with plans for broadcast in other markets throughout the country.

"For an online video preview of the show and for more information, visit www.pacificfusiontv.com."

S. Fla. NABJ Chapter Registers 18 Voters

The South Florida Black Journalists Association registered 18 voters over the weekend, as 11 members set up tables Sunday at a Jamaican Jerk Festival to conduct the chapter's voter education project.

Association president Terence Shepherd, weekend business editor at the Miami Herald, acknowledged that some members initially raised questions about whether journalists should participate in the exercise, but he reiterated that the effort was strictly nonpartisan. While African Americans are identified with the Democratic party, there is "a strong black Republican contingent," he said. Still, some broadcasters, particularly, decided not to participate.

The chapter rejected a bid to partner with another local group, called Soca D'Vote, because that group endorses candidates, Shepherd told Journal-isms.

He said the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel helped with a billboard of newspaper pages reporting on recent primary elections.

The "Voter Preparation Checklist" handed out by the chapter read:

"tip # 1: Register to vote.

"tip # 2: Educate yourself about the candidates and issues.

"tip # 3: Interested in voting by absentee ballot? For details, contact your local election office.

"tip # 4: Know your assigned polling place.

"tip # 5: Bring valid identification and your voter registration card to the poll.

It listed key dates in the voting process and "election helpline" telephone numbers.

Shepherd conceded that journalists could assist the voting process simply by reporting on voter registration efforts, but said, "we try to do new things down here in Miami."

Paper Says No Candidates Merit Endorsement

"For the first time in its 171-year history, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle will not endorse any candidates running for the New York state legislature," writes Joe Strupp in Editor & Publisher.

"Why? They?re not good enough, say editors.

"'We're getting off the merry-go-round because we are as much a part of the problem as the candidates,' James Lawrence, Democrat and Chronicle editorial page editor, who has run more than 50 editorials this year criticizing the state legislators, told E & P. 'For us to come back at election season and endorse these people is as bad as anything they?ve done.'"

Verdict on Suede: It's No Essence Clone

"Suede, the progeny of Essence's marriage to deep-pocketed Time Inc., hit newsstands this month and immediately made clear that the high-fashion glossy is its own animal," Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in his "Press Clips" column in New York's Village Voice.

"Suede is less service-y than Marie Claire, more spasmodic than Elle, thinner than Vogue, and blacker than all of them, not that the last one required much. The actual contents are a mix of peaks and valleys. At least in its first issue, Suede looks best when it talks least. The spread of black chicks in church-wear is as gorgeous as the ode to cuckolding is cringe-worthy.

But one question Suede must answer is, according to Coates:

"Is Suede a black magazine? (Full disclosure: Press Clips' partner works for Suede, not that it helped.) A Suede flack declined interview requests for anyone at the publication, but not before insisting that, despite the abundance of Negroes on the debut edition's pages, Suede's target audience is multicultural (read: "We're not black, we're just laid out that way!").

"The inaugural note from Suede's editor, Suzanne Boyd, does a marvelous job of speaking to black girls and those who emulate them. 'You wore the track suit before it got Juicy, got a weave years before Donatella and knew to buy bling before everyone else could look it up in the dictionary,' writes Boyd. Her message isn't aimed just at readers, but at potential clients, too. Undoubtedly, she is serving notice to advertisers who would direct Suede to the colored section."

Vanguarde Partner Plans More Magazines

Since Vanguarde Media, his joint venture with Keith Clinkscales, went under last November, Leo Burnett has stayed busy, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in a second "Press Clips" item.

"His most recent project is Uptown, a city magazine for upscale refined Harlemites. The first issue's cover hails 'the return of the gentleman' and positions Fonzworth Bentley as pitchman and cover boy. . .

"Later this year, Burnett says, he's launching Mynt, a shopping magazine for black boys distributed through a partnership with the kicks merchant Dr. Jay's. Then in 2005 he plans to launch Bronzeville, slated to be the official bible of Chicago buppiedom. 'The key to publishing, now more than ever, is that your magazine be urgent to the consumer,' says Burnett. It takes an urgent publisher to know that."

Questions About Race You Were Afraid to Ask

"I can?t quite see a white person asking a brother this question ? especially not to his face," writes Tonyaa Weathersbee on blackamericaweb.com.

?'Why do black men look good in purple suits,' P. Ryan wants to know, 'but white men look like dorks?'

"Or this one:

"'Do black people who have thick lips kiss better than people with thin lips?' asks H.B.G., a 55-year-old white man. 'In other words, is it more fun to have more lip?'"

Weathersbee is writing about the work of her colleague at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Phillip Milano, assistant metro editor and assigning editor for community editions, a guy who has long been interested in diversity issues.

"First he started a Web site called Y? The National Forum on People?s Differences. The forum ?- which can be accessed at www.yforum.com ?- is a place where people like P. Ryan [and] H.B.G. . . . can ask their questions without worrying about feeling stupid for doing so ?- and get answers not only from the black people they are inquiring about, but from an expert as well," Weathersbee explains.

"Then Milano compiled the responses into two books. The first one, which he published in the late 1990s, was entitled 'Why Do White People Smell Like Wet Dogs When They Come In From the Rain?' was a modest hit, but his most recent book, entitled 'I Can?t Believe You Asked That!' is making its way up the Amazon sales list at a good clip."

The book was also the subject of a column Sunday by Wendi C. Thomas in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Advertising Agencies Launch Diversity Effort

"The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), with the endorsement of chief executive officers from six of the industry's world-wide communications firms, today launched 'Operation Success,' a program to increase ethnic diversity and inclusiveness in key operational areas of the advertising business, a news release reads.

"Endorsing the initiative are: David Bell, chairman and chief executive officer, Interpublic; Maurice Levy, chairman and chief executive officer, Publicis Groupe; Edward Meyer, president and chief executive officer, Grey Global Group; Alain de Pouzilhac, chairman and chief executive, Havas; Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP; John Wren, president and chief executive officer, Omnicom Group."

Adds Stuart Elliot in the New York Times: "It is believed to be the first time that all six have agreed to support a single such initiative -- or anything else, for that matter.

'''I'll be honest with you,' Mr. Drake of the Four A's said. 'If you don't have a commitment from the very top, diversity doesn't happen. We really have got to go at it.'

"The initiative, Mr. Drake said, is meant to expand substantially on previous measures like minority scholarship and internship programs, which have brought total minority employment at the 100 largest agencies to 17.2 percent of the work force, according to Four A's data. That is up from a 10-year low of 13.4 percent in 1994 but below the 10-year high of 18.7 percent in 2002.

Among the parts of the initiative are hiring recruitment firms owned by minorities to find more minority candidates for openings; starting a database of minority members currently working in advertising who could be hired or promoted; encouraging the formation of mentoring programs at individual agencies; starting a training program with the City University of New York/Medgar Evers College and historically black colleges and universities; and asking agencies to use more minority suppliers and subcontractors.

"The agency industry has been a recent target of protests by minority and community activist organizations unhappy with the pace of progress in diversifying employee rosters. Indeed, there is a threat that those critics may picket today at an Advertising Week event sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, the Diversity Achievement and Mosaic Awards and Forum, to be held at the New York Athletic Club."

Oprah's Free Pontiacs Weren't Really So Free

For many of the 276 recipients of the new Pontiac G6 sedans that Oprah Winfrey gave away last week, there was a bit of reality to come with that dream -- they are going to have to fork over thousands of dollars in taxes, writes Lucio Guerrero today in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"It turns out that free car wasn't so free.

"That's because while Pontiac agreed to pay for most of the local charges -- things like state sales tax and licensing fees -- the recipients have to report the cars as income once tax time comes."

On Monday, Winfrey undertook another giveaway, according to Tennessee's Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.

"Winfrey, supermodel Cindy Crawford and country singers Martina McBride and Kenny Chesney visited Fort Campbell on Monday to shower soldiers' pregnant wives with gifts. . . The merchandise included baby carriers, play centers, pajamas, nursing pillows and booties. Amazon.com also donated children's books to the expectant mothers.

"A show spokeswoman said several audience members received big-ticket items, including $1,000 plane tickets, but she wouldn't give details.

"Winfrey decided to visit the Army post to tape her show after seeing a story that said Fort Campbell expects hundreds of births this fall because the 101st Airborne Division came home from Iraq in February and March," the story said.

In the New York Post, Michael Starr reported Sunday that the Pontiac giveaway "spiked traffic to her Web site -- and also drove viewers to Pontiac's online site.

"The cars were donated by Pontiac, which coughed up over $7 million but got a huge advertising bang for its buck since the story made headlines around the country (and is on the cover of the upcoming People magazine).

"According to comScore Networks, which tracks site traffic, visitation to oprah.com jumped 800 percent from Monday to Tuesday as over 600,000 people logged on after seeing 'Oprah.' Visitation to pontiac.com jumped 600 percent in the same period as over 140,000 people viewed the site, the company noted."

Richard Prince's Book Notes?: 10 for Fall Reading

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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