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CNN: Can't Find Anyone of Color Qualified

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Whitaker, NABJ to Discuss Lack of Prime-Time Blacks

Media Consolidation Loses, Diversity Gains in Ruling

"Jill Tubman" Gives White House B+ on Tweeter Town Hall

. . . Columnists Say Disrespect Is in the Air

No Tears Shed Here for Demise of News of the World

CPJ: Targeting of Cuba's Independent Journalists Continues

Prison Researchers Give Racist Cops and Courts a Break 

Short Takes

Whitaker, NABJ to Discuss Lack of Prime-Time Blacks

Caption: Clockwise, from left, CNN's T.J. Holmes, Fredricka Whitfield, Don Lemon, Suzanne Malveaux, Roland S. Martin, Soledad O'BrienCNN's top executive has all but said that the on-air journalists of color it employs are not ready for prime time, and deployed Mark Whitaker, the former Newsweek editor who recently became a CNN news executive, to talk with the National Association of Black Journalists about finding more suitable ones.

In a statement protesting CNN's new fall prime-time lineup that was announced Wednesday and includes no journalists of color, NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said she had raised the issue with Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide.

"NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Bob Butler and I talked with President Walton late Thursday, and he told us the network continues to seek and develop a candidate who has the image and substance to carry a prime-time show," she wrote. "I invited Walton to mount an innovative search during the NABJ national convention next month in Philadelphia. It will be packed with outstanding African American talent."

Times told Journal-isms, "He told me to talk to Mark Whitaker about the search."

Whitaker, who is African American, said, "I will be at NABJ and am talking to Kathy next week."

A former vice president at NBC News, he was named in January to the newly created position of executive vice president and managing editor at CNN, reporting directly to Walton.

CNN on Wednesday canceled the political talk show "In the Arena" with Eliot Spitzer, filling his 8 p.m. time slot with Anderson Cooper's "AC360" and unveiling a fall lineup that includes a new general news program with Erin Burnett, formerly of CNBC.

As Times pointed out in her statement, the move came just 17 days after "I sent network news executives an open letter about the deplorable lack of diversity in their prime-time schedules . . . this is not the first time CNN has had an opportunity and failed to diversify its nighttime lineup. During the past two years alone, CNN has made several changes after the departures of Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and Campbell Brown. With each of those changes came an opportunity for diversity; yet in each instance, CNN went in another direction."

On Thursday, the NAACP issued a strongly worded and widely publicized statement expressing its own disappointment with the new CNN lineup and noting that the other networks are no better.

"Currently, there are no African American hosts or anchors on any national news show, cable or broadcast network, from the hours of 5PM-11PM," the NAACP said. "The NAACP is especially troubled because these prime time slots are among the most influential in daily news. Prime time hosts in cable often have the most latitude to express their opinions, and evening news anchors are traditionally seen as the most credible voices in weekday news broadcasts.

Its release continued, " 'The NAACP Hollywood Bureau will be setting up meetings with the presidents of the news divisions to address this issue,' stated NAACP Hollywood Bureau Executive Director Vic Bulluck. 'Throughout the morning hours and during daytime programming, African American journalists such as Robin Roberts, Al Roker, Roland Martin and Tamron Hall have anchor and commentator chairs; however, no African American occupies that space in the prime time evening news cycle.

"We recognize and appreciate that MSNBC often has guest hosts like the Reverend Al Sharpton, and CNN, CBS and NBC have weekend anchors like TJ Holmes, Don Lemon, Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt. Nonetheless, we encourage all networks to acknowledge the talent that exists and to increase the diversity among their prime time anchors and hosts."

Only a few years ago, CNN received some of NABJ's highest honors.

In 2007, NABJ awarded CNN its "Best Practices" award. "NABJ recognized the network’s journalists for their exemplary work in covering issues of significance to the black community and the African diaspora and the news organization as a whole for its efforts to increase diversity on air and behind the scenes," CNN said at the time.

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw — a black journalist who did his best-known work as a prime-time anchor — was presented NABJ's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The next year, Johnita P. Due, then senior counsel and chair of CNN's Diversity Council, received the Ida B. Wells Award, given to a media executive who has demonstrated a commitment to newsroom diversity and improving coverage of communities of color.

Media Consolidation Loses, Diversity Gains in Ruling

"It's not every day that you can celebrate a win for the public over big media. But on Thursday a federal appeals court threw out an attempt by the FCC and industry titans to gut media ownership limits," Timothy Karr of the advocacy group Free Press wrote Thursday on the Huffington Post.

"The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit threw out a 2007 FCC rule change that would have allowed a single company to own a daily newspaper and several broadcast stations in one local market.

"Such a change could have opened the floodgates to media mergers, leading to further layoffs in newsrooms while leeching diverse perspectives from local media.

"The court also upheld the FCC's decision to retain its other local broadcast ownership restrictions, and instructed the agency to better consider how its rules affect broadcast ownership by people of color."

In deciding the case, Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, ". . . the court also blasted the FCC for repeated failures to consider the impact of media consolidation on broadcast license ownership by people of color.

"Free Press research from 2007 exposed the FCC's failure to foster minority ownership of radio and television stations: racial or ethnic minorities own just 7.7 percent of all full-power commercial broadcast radio stations and just 3.26 percent of all TV stations, though they account for 33 percent of the U.S. population.

In the first Twitter Town Hall at the White House, President Obama, assisted by Jack Dorsey of Twitter, answered questions on jobs, the budget, taxes and education. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

"Jill Tubman" Gives White House B+ on Tweeter Town Hall

"I had a great time at the White House yesterday. I somehow had the luck to get seated in the front row and right after the townhall ended, I finally got to shake the President’s hand," Cheryl Contee, aka Jill Tubman of, wrote on Thursday. "My moms was watching on either CNN or MSNBC and texted me: 'Super Proud Mom.' Folks asked me over twitter what I said to him that made him smile so big. I said simply:

"I’ve done my best to try and help you.

"He said warmly:

"It’s nice to see you…"

Ben Feller and Julie Pace wrote for the Associated Press, "President Barack Obama got an avalanche of questions Wednesday at a town hall forum through Twitter, the popular social media service. Of the many thousands that streamed in, he answered 18 in a familiar, spoken explanatory style that well-exceeded the limited length of a tweet."

A Boston Globe chart showed the difference between the questions asked by Twitter users and those posed by the news media.

Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress noted, "Fully 24 percent of questions at briefings were about congressional negotiations as opposed to just two percent of the questions from Twitter."

Contee continued, ". . . Final stats: 169,395 #AskObama Tweets. Hottest topics were Jobs (23%) Budget (18%) Taxes (18%) & Education (11%). I’d give Twitter an A+ on their end.

"I’d have to give the White House a B+. There was a good group in the room…a young group that certainly represented the digerati, eager to live tweet the event and be part of history. Yet there was no WiFi offered in the East Room (?!): people were cool about it and a grassroots energy rose up with people helping each other use personal hotspots, figure out which network — ATT, VZ or T-Mobile worked better on which device etc. Also the chairs were so close together, it was tough to tweet – no elbow room, son. So…that was an unexpected and unusual challenge. Evidently the East Room’s usual participants either just sit there traditionally or take notes on a steno pad or something. Times, they are a-changing. Gotta keep up."

. . . Columnists Say Disrespect Is in the Air

Columnists found fodder this week in Mark Halperin's calling President Obama a vulgar name on MSNBC, for which the Time magazine journalist has been suspended, and in a recent blog by radio jock Tom Joyner blaming Halperin's remark on a climate created by talk-show host Tavis Smiley and Smiley's fellow Obama critic, academician Cornel West.

No Tears Shed Here for Demise of News of the World

Eugene Robinson "The late, unlamented News of the World was a tabloid’s tabloid — meaning that it made the New York Post look formal and stuffy. When I lived in London 20 years ago, you could always count on News of the World to come up with the juiciest, most lurid tidbits of information about the big story of the week. You could love the paper or hate it, but you couldn’t ignore it," Eugene Robinson said in a Washington Post blog on Thursday.

"We now know how the News was getting much of that inside skinny. It was bad enough to learn that the paper had paid private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of celebrities, athletes and members of the royal family. Now it turns out that the News also orchestrated such illicit snooping into the lives of the relatives of slain British servicemen, the families of terrorist-bombing victims and even a kidnapped — and later slain — 13-year-old girl. Even by the swashbuckling standards of Fleet Street, this is obscene.

"In a totally unexpected move, media mogul Rupert Murdoch sentenced what was said to be one of his favorite newspapers to the death penalty: It was announced Thursday that this Sunday’s edition of the 168-year-old paper will be the last.

". . . For years now, not a single newspaper has been headquartered on Fleet Street. The romance is long gone — and now the News of the World is going, too. After Sunday, only the stench will remain."

Lionel Morrison, a veteran black journalist in Britain who is active in the National Union of Journalists of Britain and Ireland and founded its Black Members Council, told Journal-isms that he expected that many of the black journalists — and others who worked at News of the World — would transfer to Murdoch's sister paper the Sun. The News of the World was popular with blacks and other working-class Britons, he said.

CPJ: Targeting of Cuba's Independent Journalists Continues

In Cuba, "As President Raúl Castro’s government seeks greater international engagement, it has freed in the last year more than 20 imprisoned independent journalists and numerous other political detainees who had been held since the notorious Black Spring crackdown of 2003," Karen Phillips said Wednesday in a special report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Government officials talk of political and economic reform, pointing to a plan to introduce high-speed Internet service to the island this summer. But though the government has changed tactics in suppressing independent news and opinion, it has not abandoned repressive practices intended to stifle the free flow of information.

"A CPJ investigation has found that the government persists in aggressively persecuting critical journalists with methods that include arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions. Today’s tactics have yet to attract widespread international attention because they are lower in profile than the Black Spring crackdown, but the government’s oppressive actions are ongoing and significant."

Prison Researchers Give Racist Cops and Courts a Break

"Shocking instances of racism still come to light in the justice system. But racist cops and courts are not the primary reason for racial disparities in incarceration," according to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, and David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

They wrote in the Washington Post: "Consider increased penalties for drug offenses in school zones. Though not racially motivated, these laws disproportionately affect minorities, who more often live in densely populated urban areas with many nearby schools. In New Jersey, for example, 96 percent of people incarcerated under such laws in 2005 were African American or Latino. Judges didn’t necessarily want to sentence these defendants to more prison time than those convicted outside school zones, but under the law, they had to.

"Where we spend money also contributes to the problem. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 appropriated $9.7 billion for prisons and $13.6 billion for law enforcement, but only $6.1 billion for crime prevention. Politicians eager to be seen as tough on crime too often find ways to fund new prison cells, even though they know that minorities will predominantly fill them. This isn’t the fault of racist individuals. It’s the fault of a system that fails to take the promise of equality seriously."

Their words appeared June 19 in the Washington Post print edition, as they presented "5 Myths about Americans in Prison."

The five: 1. Crime has fallen because incarceration has risen. 2. The prison population is rising because more people are being sentenced to prison. 3. Helping prisoners rejoin society will substantially reduce the prison population. 4. There’s a link between race and crime. 5. Racial disparities in incarceration reflect police and judges’ racial prejudice.

Short Takes

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Mark Whitaker: Mouthpiece for CNN

The NABJ can't really expect any juice from Mark Whitaker he does not have any clout to nor decision making power at CNN to install a person of color in a prime time slot at CNN. Whitaker is a colored window dressing gate keeper with a impotent title.....

Primetime Diversity at CNN

I certainly hope T. J. Holmes, Fredericka Whitfield, Don Lemon, Suzanne Malveaux, Roland Martin and Soledad O'Brien are standing in Jim Walton's office on Monday asking him to explain exactly what he meant by suggesting that none of them was ready to carry a primetime program. And if he didn't think any of them, nor anyone else who might come to mind as a possible candidate down the road, was ready, could he please explain what he was doing to get them ready? How do you have someone in your shop for years and don't see the need to groom candidates. That's what good managers do.

Once he gets a list from Whitaker, will he respect Whitaker's judgment? What about that of Bryan Monroe? Or Manuel Perez-Rivas? Or any number of behind-the-scenes professionals of color brought in to help direct coverage, size up talent or train staff?

It seems to me that Walton is the one who isn't ready for primetime. I certainly hope he intends to accompany Whitaker to NABJ. He needs to see for himself, instead of sending someone else whom he can use to be the face of the organization, then disregard his recommendations. We've all seen that game before.

Primetime Diversity at CNN

Once again a mainstream "liberal" media outlet gives the back of their hand to diversity and inclusion and once again NABJ plays the part of the indignant supplicant. 

NABJ President Kathy Times writes, "I invited (Jim) Walton to mount an innovative search during the NABJ national convention next month in Philadelphia. It will be packed with outstanding African American talent."

Is she serious?  The problem isn't that CNN lacks outstanding African American talent.  The problem is CNN will not promote the outstanding African American talent they already have.

The fact of the matter is CNN knows they have a black-out of their Black talent and the days of Bernard Shaw providing the news is over and done.  Now it's easier for a blonde newspaper columnist and a disgraced ex-governor to wander in off the street and get a primetime show than it is for veteran Black journalists at CNN.   This is a network that already has a strong roster of talent to be tapped in Don Lemon, Joe Johns, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O' Brien and Roland Martin, but pointedly ignores their in-house talent to bring in a refugee from CNBC.  

Between CNN president Jim Walton's feckless lip service to diversity and Times' ineffectual wishing on a star, the lily-White status quo of CNN's primetime programming will remain unchanged.   Constantly playing the role of the powerless beggar has left NABJ in a position where news executives know they will be placated by a brief meeting and the only result will be an anemic statement minus any bite, backbone or plan of action.

Same as it ever was.  

CNN: Can't Find Anyone of Color Qualified

Years ago, the mere thought of not having "anyone of color qualified..." to occupy a network news anchor chair would have evoked a snicker or outright laugh-in-your-face reaction. But wasn't this the same quote used by an anonymous executive just before baseball put Jackie Robinson on the field, or the NFL getting their first black QB, or even as recent as NASCAR fielding their first black driver? J. Edgar Hoover died before seeing the first black FBI agent. And, boy were we surprised when Gen. Colin Powell showed up as head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Don't you get it? History keeps repeating itself with this quote-turned-excuse-turned delay. (Remember the Max Robinson anchor story?) I thought the idea was to learn from our mistakes. Maybe that's an ideal statement.  

If it's today's climate of news & gossip meshed with branding and "Q" ratings, supplanted by consultants advising decision makers, here's a tip to the chiefs in the CNN tower of babble. It takes courage to sanction a news anchor of color.

Maybe it would be a good idea for CNN to tell NABJ, NAACP, NAHJ and the NV (national viewership) the real story, whatever that is. This CNN decision is like sitting at the blackjack table standing on 18 and being afraid to bet against the house.

Seems to me you've developed a first-rate team of home growns with talent, experience, skills and good looks to take on the big news chair. Why not "place your bet" on one of your existing team? If not them, who?

How come CNN"S Black Employees are not protesting????

Perhaps NABJ can trigger a boycott of CNN..How come Black employees at CNN will not engaged in a boycott? When can we expect all of CNN"s Black employees to protest and call in sick or create some other work stoppage at CNN??

No Primetime black anchors.

So, essentially CNN is a sundown town.

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