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CNN Diversity on Trial

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Court Receives Memos on Racial Factors in Hiring

"A federal employment discrimination claim against CNN could turn on whether it was legal for the network to designate specific on-air positions for minorities as it sought to increase the diversity of its news staff," according to R. Robin McDonald, writing Friday in Georgia's Fulton County Daily Report, a legal-affairs publication.



"CNN's attorney has argued that, regardless of its diversity objectives, it hires and fires primarily on the basis of talent. The network says it didn't renew the contract of roving anchor Marina Kolbe in 2003 because she didn't measure up to its standards for on-air talent, not because she was white.

"Internal CNN memos introduced at a federal trial this week suggest that, beginning in 1999, in some cases a job candidate's race and ethnicity were key factors in hiring on-air talent.

"One memo also revealed a push by CNN to hire 'younger, more attractive anchors' to draw younger audiences in what was fast becoming a highly competitive 24-hour news environment.

"Kolbe— a white Canadian woman who had worked as a correspondent and as a roving anchor for CNN International, CNN USA and CNN Financial—sued the network in 2003, claiming that her age (then 42) and her complexion were the primary reasons that managers refused to renew her contract and denied her freelance work. Since leaving CNN, Kolbe has worked as a freelance producer.

"After four years of litigation, the case against CNN went to trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta last week. Kolbe, now 46, wants her job back at CNN, back pay for the four years that have elapsed since her contract expired and additional monetary damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress."

CNN has been praised for its diversity efforts. At the National Association of Black Journalists convention in August, the network received the association's Best Practices award. In accepting that citation, Johnita Due, who chairs CNN's Diversity Council, said Jim Walton, CNN Worldwide president, had become such a diversity advocate he had been referred to as "the first black CNN president."

At the Atlanta trial, however, CNN's efforts to add Hispanics and Asian Americans, including South Asians, to its airwaves are also being questioned.

On Wednesday, Eason Jordan, formerly CNN's chief news executive, testified that he began formally emphasizing diversity in hiring at CNN in 1999. "When he began his diversity initiative, CNN's on-air talent was predominantly white and male, he said," McDonald wrote. "'We needed diversity across-the-board. . . . I felt for too long there had been significant discrimination against women, African Americans and Hispanics. . . . I, as CEO of the company, was looking at it in a company-wide way,' he continued. 'In order for us to achieve general diversity, we had to look at the most qualified candidates beyond white males.'"

But Bonnie Anderson, CNN's former vice president of minority recruiting and a Cuban-American who filed her own suit against CNN after being let go in 2001, then wrote a book that criticized the network, testified that senior management "had taken what was good-intentioned to a very dangerous extreme," according to the story.

At CNN International, in particular, a desire to make anchors more "international" in appearance led managers to replace Kolbe with younger, less-experienced South Asian anchors of predominantly Indian descent, Kolbe's lead lawyer, Edward D. Buckley III, has alleged.

A March 17, 2000, memo from Tom Johnson, retired CNN News Group chairman and CEO, "sent to former CNN Executive Vice President Bob Furnad; Bonnie Anderson, CNN's former vice president of minority recruiting; and others, stated, 'Please do everything practical to recruit a minority anchor for the vacancy left open by the move of Cinnamon Stouffer to CNN. My very strong preference is for either a Hispanic female or an African-American male or female.' Stouffer is a blonde white woman," the story said.

"The following year, on March 11, 2001, Eason Jordan, then CNN's chief news executive, sent a memo to Johnson; Phil Kent, then CNN News Group president; Jim Walton, then-president of CNN Worldwide; and Chris Cramer (who supervised CNN International hires) on the subject of 'diversity hires.' In the memo, Jordan listed six U.S. cities and Beijing where correspondent slots were open and designated by race or ethnicity how he planned to fill them."

CNN's lead lawyer, Charles A. Hawkins II, "has said that CNN only sought to hire 'the best of the best' who were 'great journalists and great presenters' rather than just 'a pretty face.' Kolbe, he told the jury, lost her job because, while competent, she was 'not a star,'" McDonald wrote.

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Gregory Stanford Among 22 Leaving in Milwaukee

Gregory Stanford, who with 19 years' service is one of the nation's longest-serving African American editorial writers, is among 22 newsroom employees taking a buyout at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



Stanford, 61, told Journal-isms that after 36 years at the Journal Sentinel and the old Milwaukee Journal, he planned to write books and possibly continue his Sunday column.

"I've been saying to myself for years, I've got to do some other stuff. Finally, this came along, and I said if I don't do this now, I'll never do it."

"Journal Sentinel Inc. said Wednesday that 55 to 60 full-time employees would leave the company through its recently announced buyout program, saving the newspaper between $3.9 million and $4.3 million a year starting in 2008," Paul Gores wrote on the Journal Sentinel Web site on Wednesday.

"The company said when it offered the buyouts last month, it expected that 35 to 50 people — or about 3.5% to 5% of its full-time employees — would accept it. The move was needed because of falling revenue, the company said.

"The buyouts of 22 newsroom employees will prompt a reorganization, and some new hires will be made to fill key positions, said Editor Martin Kaiser. The newsroom, including the print and online staff, currently has about 280 full-time equivalent employees."

Stanford is the only African American on the paper's editorial board. O. Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor, told Journal-isms that the paper is "looking for a worthy replacement" and added, "I know it's extremely important to have an African American" on the board. He said he hoped to cast a wide net for Stanford's successor.

Kaiser did not respond to inquiries about the effect of the buyouts on newsroom diversity and about other journalists of color who are leaving. Stanford said his last day would be Nov. 15.

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Tribal Leaders Force Out Newspaper Editor

The editor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' tribal newspaper has been placed on administrative leave, wrote on Thursday, citing a story by Jennifer Garlesky in the Smoky Mountain News in western North Carolina.

"On October 31, Joe Martin, the editor of the Cherokee One Feather, was told he was being transferred to the tribe's day care center. On November 2, he was told he 'resigned' his position because he failed to respond to the transfer.

"Martin said he was removed because he disagreed with Chief Michell Hicks, who ordered the paper to remove an anonymous 'Rants and Raves' column. Martin also has written columns in The Asheville Citizen-Times that have criticized tribal leaders."

Garlesky's story added, "Tribal officials said they would not comment on Martin's removal since it is a personnel issue."

Conflicts between tribal governments and tribal newspapers are of long standing. In 2003, the weekly Navajo Times in Window Rock, Ariz., secured a vote from the Navajo tribal council that fulfilled the dream of many Native journalists — independence from the tribal government. Publisher Tom Arviso Jr. told Journal-isms then, "They realize a government shouldn't be running a newspaper."

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4 Leading GOP Candidates Agree to Univision Debate

"Jilted by the GOP earlier this year, viewers of the nation's largest Spanish-language television network will get a chance to see the Republican presidential candidates debate in Miami on Dec. 9," Beth Reinhard reported Friday in the Miami Herald.

"Three of the leading candidates— Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney — agreed Thursday to participate in the forum at the University of Miami, joining John McCain and lesser-known candidates Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter.

"Only McCain and Hunter accepted a Sept. 16 invitation from Univisión, forcing the network to call the debate off and allowing the Democrats to lay claim the week before to a history-making opportunity to reach more than two million Hispanic voters."

The leading GOP candidates also endured criticism for refusing to show up in September at Tavis Smiley's "All American Presidential Forum" at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore.

In Miami, "The GOP contenders are expected to face pointed questions about immigration, forcing them to tread carefully on an issue of paramount concern to conservative voters without alienating the predominantly Hispanic television audience," Reinhard wrote.

"As in the Democratic debate, the questions will be asked in Spanish and translated into English for the candidates, who will wear earphones. Their responses will be translated into Spanish for viewers.

"The only two candidates who are not confirmed for the Dec. 9 debate are Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo. Tancredo has centered his campaign on assailing illegal immigration and has said he would never participate in a Spanish-language forum."

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Citizen Journalism Flourishes in Pakistan Crisis

"In Pakistan, citizen journalism is flourishing when it's needed most," Taimur Khan reported Thursday on the Web site of the South Asian Journalists Association.

To fill the information void left by Gen. Pervez Musharraf's media blackout, "anonymous Pakistani student activists have created The Emergency Times, a blog they describe as 'an independent Pakistani student initiative against injustice and oppression.' In addition to its ardent calls to action, the site provides daily multimedia updates on the latest developments in Pakistan and features eyewitness accounts and photos of student protests, posts from other news websites and blogs, information on upcoming direct actions, and even motivational poems for Pakistan's embattled democracy movement," Khan wrote.

The international group Reporters Without Borders said Thursday, "The main journalists and media groupings — the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association and the South Asia Free Media Association — have announced a national campaign for the repeal of the ordinances that amended the print and broadcast media laws.

"Gen. Musharraf has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom predators since 2004."

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Burma Images Fade, but Exiled Journalists Continue

"International media interest in Burma seems to have cooled down after images of the violent dispersal of pro-democracy demonstrators were splashed on TV screens and newspapers late September. But exiled Burmese journalists are determined to keep the flame going over radio and the Internet," Lynette Lee Corporal reported Thursday for Inter-Press Service.

"'While there has not been a united policy (among exiled Burmese all over the world) the struggle is going to continue, and we're going to keep on reporting until we see a change in the government,' declared Aung Zaw, editor and director of the Chiang Mai-based 'The Irrawaddy' magazine, which focuses on Burma," Corporal wrote.

"Along with Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt and National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma spokesman U Zin Linn, Aung Zaw faced a barrage of questions from journalists at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand here on Wednesday."

Aung Zaw, a former student activist, "cautions against high expectations about the exiled Burmese media, intimating that they can only do so much, given the resources available to them.

"'Yes, we did feel such expectations, both from the people in Burma and the international community. It's okay to have expectations, but these have to be realistic ones. In the final analysis, it's going to be the Burmese people who will decide (on the future),' he said. But definitely, he continued, the exiled media will be there to report on this."

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Free Press Honors 40 Years of Aretha's "Respect"

Apart from the "Summer of Love," uprisings in Detroit and Newark and escalation of the Vietnam war, 1967 was the year Aretha Franklin released her anthem "Respect," and the Detroit Free Press celebrated that milestone with a Web presentation by music critic Kelley Carter, who left in August to cover arts and entertainment for the Chicago Tribune.


"Since its run, I've gotten approached by several editors who want to do similar type projects at their newsrooms; heck, it's likely a big reason why I'm here at the Trib now!" Carter told Journal-isms this week.

The video places the song, first written and recorded by Otis Redding, in the context of the church and the frustrations of women and African Americans. But it notes its enduring appeal with comments such as those by Dr. Lyn Lewis, a sociology professor at the University of Detroit, who compares the song with Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech, "Ain't I a Woman." "I always follow it up with, 'give me some R-E-S-P-E-C-T," Lewis said.

"And just to make sure you've been paying attention, the Free-Press added a little quiz to test your Aretha Knowledge," Pauline Millard wrote last week in Editor & Publisher. She added, "The Free-Press should be lauded not only for their research and reporting skills, but for making this project as slick and professional looking as it is. They hit a truly high note with this one."

Among those on separate videos discussing the song are R&B singers Ciara and Musiq Soulchild, Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, hip-hop artist Phat Kat, Teddy Richards, Franklin's son, and blues singer Johnnie Bassett.

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Obama, Kerry Press Minority Ownership

"The FCC has failed to adequately assess the state of minority-owned media or develop constructive ways to encourage underrepresented entities to become larger players in the media landscape," Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John F. Kerry, D-Mass., wrote Wednesday in the Politico.



"Now we understand the FCC may soon consider changes in the media ownership rules that only help big media get bigger, but do nothing to make media more responsive to minority viewpoints and local communities.

". . . We need to not only create the opportunity for minority-owned businesses to participate in the market, but also to help those who enter this business succeed. We will keep fighting until we have a free and open media that represents every American in our diverse nation."

Meanwhile, "Appearing Thursday before the Senate Commerce Committee, National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales said the state of minority ownership in media is 'in crisis' and told lawmakers that no changes should be made to the FCC's media-ownership regulations until the commission completes a comprehensive study of minority ownership," Radio Ink reported on Thursday.

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Short Takes

  • The Philadelphia School District and Prime Movers of George Washington



  • University launched a national model to help restore student journalism to Americaâ??s schools with the creation of media clubs in 24 public high schools, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which awarded $500,000 in grants to the district and Prime Movers, announced on Friday. "The Prime Movers/ Philadelphia journalism program, which will be part of the high schoolsâ?? after-school offerings, will bring professional journalists from Philadelphia newspaper, radio and television companies and Temple University journalism interns into the high schools. They will assist in teaching journalism fundamentals and civic engagement and help students use those skills to tell stories of their schools and communities. In addition to the expansion of clubs that District will also develop a companion journalism course that will be available as an option for high schools to offer as an elective course," the announcement said. Acel Moore, Philadelphia Inquirer associate editor emeritus, is program manager and Dorothy Gilliam, former Washington Post editor and columnist, is founder and director of Prime Movers at George Washington.
  • "The first few spectators began lining up about 7 a.m. in hopes of landing one of the few seats in the courtroom not already taken by attorneys, reporters, and relatives of the witnesses and defendants," Henry Brean reported Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It was the preliminary hearing for O.J. Simpson, 60, Clarence Stewart and Charles Ehrlich, both 53, who each are charged with 12 counts including robbery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and conspiracy. Simpson led a hotel room raid to reclaim his treasured sports mementos, the paper explained.
  • "Hours before a heavily promoted documentary about the Falun Gong spiritual sect in China was scheduled to go on the air, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation withdrew the show from its lineup, saying its decision was influenced in part by phone calls from Chinese diplomats in Canada," Ian Austen reported Friday in the New York Times.
  • A town hall meeting in Norfolk, Va., last week, part of the Virginian-Pilot's involvement with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Parity Project, found that community members "want to see their faces and hear their voices, especially in stories that don't center on their race or ethnicity. They want the paper to get to know them, as individuals and culturally, so it can better reflect their lives and concerns — something that doesn't happen if the media merely parachute in for ethnic festivals. They want more 'positive' news, to counterbalance a perceived emphasis on crime-related coverage. And they want more diverse op-ed voices," public editor Marvin Lake wrote Sunday in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
  • "Like much of our industry, the Merc has been in a nosedive the past few years," the San Jose Mercury News wrote community members, according to an e-mail quoted by blogger JD Lasica. "Our newsroom has shrunk from 400 to 200 people since 2001. After the latest round of cuts in June, our executive editor, Carole Leigh Hutton, said it was time to 'blow up the newsroom.' And that began an ambitious attempt to re-imagine what the Mercury News could and should be, though under a somewhat more benign name: Rethinking the Mercury News. . . . Our first step in that direction is to announce that we will begin publicly discussing everything weâ??re doing to Rethink the Merc."
  • "Jose Ramon Fernandez, long considered an institution in Mexican sports journalism, will join ESPN's Spanish-language commentary team," ESPN announced on Monday. Nov. 11 will mark Fernandez's first appearance as host of ESPN's Mexican soccer news and information program "Futbol Picante."


Don Imus

  • Tim Russert, host of NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," reiterated his desire to continue to appear on Don Imus' radio show when Imus returns, telling Aaron Barnhart on Thursday, "I know [Don Imus has] learned a lot from what happened. He told me as much. I don't know what NBC's policy is going to be . . . but if he asks me to come back and talk about political developments, I would absolutely do that. But I'll have to raise that with the folks at NBC."
  • On Nov. 13, "a limited series of one-hour radio documentaries entitled 'Against The Odds' will be available from Public Radio International," the network announced on Thursday. "Hosted and produced by award-winning Newsweek columnist Ellis Cose, each program introduces individuals who have struggled against, and often triumphed over, tremendous odds. The series documents people and communities often relegated to the margins of a globalized world, aiming to stimulate thought on how they can overcome their marginalization. The pilot show follows Abass Hassan, born in war-torn Somalia, who escaped to a refugee camp in Kenya where he spent most of his childhood."
  • "We, the media, particularly black members of the media, are always crying when athletes won't speak out on important issues," Jason Whitlock wrote on "We want 22-year-old LeBron James to have a position on Darfur, a place he's probably never been. We scolded Michael Jordan for not having a social conscience. . . . But white sports figures aren't required to have a social conscience. They can satisfy themselves chasing supermodels and filming cute commercials." He was discussing the plight of Andy Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles coach whose son Garrett Reid, prosecutors say, smuggled 89 pills into jail after failing a drug test. He was sentenced two days later to two to 23 months in jail for a previous DUI crash, the Associated Press reported. "Only the uninformed, butt-kissing media members or delusional Eagles fans believe any of this transpired without Andy and Tammy Reid knowing," Whitlock wrote.
  • "AZN Television, the network for Asian Americans, has launched Outspoken, a new community forum on Outspoken was developed to provide visitors with a platform for discussions on current events, lifestyle and cultural issues. The new forum, at, includes weekly postings. The areas of racism, citizenship, interracial dating, and weight are among the first issues to be discussed," the network announced on Wednesday.
  • Rapper Anthony Blocker, also known as Black Reign, wrote a song called "Gun Shine State" but didn't recognize a gunshot when it was fired at his show. The St. Petersburg Times wrote that Blocker admitted hiding in a women's restroom when panic erupted and is struggling to cope with the consequence of knowing a woman was shot to death at the concert. The paper's tabloid TBT used the headline, "Street Cred? Shot"! although the story never explicitly reached that conclusion. Media critic Eric Deggans wrote Thursday that "TBT's headlines, blunt as they are, sum up what many of us are thinking about these stories, anyway. . . .But sometimes being fair to sources means letting the public take that step on their own, if they so choose."
  • "The name of Chauncey Bailey, who was gunned down while on


J.C. Clemons

  • his way to his job as editor of the Oakland Post, will be added to the Fallen Journalists Memorial Wall at Cal State Northridge during a special ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 15, at the university," the school announced.
  • James (J.C.) Clemons III, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who was diagnosed last year with a rare form of blood cancer, Waldenstrom's Macrogloblulemia, wrote on his blog this week, "No, the treatments did not retard the cancer's growth (for which there is no cure), but more important, time has allowed a Higher Power to move. For you see, no longer am I obsessed with dying. While I accept the path laid before me, I tread merrily along— in spirit. So please keep the cards and notes coming: 6436 Valerie Bluff, Lithonia, GA 30058."

"Many international donors, who claim to be working to reduce poverty are yet to appreciate 'that a vibrant and independent media sector is essential for development and needs support,'" Kunle Somorin wrote on Tuesday in the Nigerian publication Leadership, quoting from a recent report by Panos, a London-based communication think-tank. "The report notes that by raising awkward questions and championing the views of poor people, partnering with the media can bring about the re-sharpening of public opinion and act as a lever for policy change."

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 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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