Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Diversity Slippage Documented

Send by email
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Report Says Many Papers Peaked in '90s

"Newsroom diversity is below its peak levels at most daily newspapers in the US, including three-fourths of the largest papers, according to a study for the Knight Foundation of newspaper employment from 1990 to 2005," begins the summary of a report by Bill Dedman and Stephen K. Doig released today.

"While the newspaper industry may be slowly adding journalists of color overall, the gains have been uneven. The share of journalism jobs held by non-whites has receded from its high-water mark in most newsrooms, large and small," they wrote for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

"Among the 200 largest newspapers, 73 percent employ fewer non-whites, as a share of the newsroom jobs, than they did in some earlier year from 1990 to 2004. Only 27 percent of these large dailies were at their peak as 2005 began."

"Looking more broadly at all newspapers, only 18 percent were at their peak, while 44 percent have slipped. And those are the papers that employ any non-whites at all. The remaining 37 percent of daily newspapers that divulged their employment figures reported an all-white newsroom."

The two continued in their third annual report for the foundation: "The nation's six largest newspapers have fallen from their peak: Gannett, the company with the best overall record on diversity, has seen non-white employment at its flagship USA Today slide steadily since 1994 (employment at year-end 1993). The Wall Street Journal peaked in the 2000 report, The New York Times in 2003, The Los Angeles Times in 2000, the New York Daily News in 1995, and the Washington Post in 2004.

"Tribune Co.'s Sun newspaper in Baltimore is an example of a paper with stagnant employment of journalists of color, well below its peak. Draw a line around the Sun's circulation area, and the population was 33.9 percent non-white in the 2000 Census.

"In the Sun's newsroom, meanwhile, employment of journalists of color peaked back in 1991 at 19.6 percent of the supervising editors, reporters, copy editors and photographers. That fell to 14.2 percent the next year, struggled back up to 18.0 by 1996, and has drifted lower, settling this year at 15.9 percent of the staff.

". . . What do Greenwood, Miss., and Rocky Ford, Colo. have in common with Plainview, Texas, Sumter, S.C., and Liberal, Kan.? These five communities have a majority of non-whites in the newspaper's circulation area, and all their editors reported having an entirely white newsroom. Another 40 all-white newsrooms serve communities where at least a quarter of the population are non-whites."

Mae Cheng, president of Unity: Journalists of Color, the umbrella organization of the associations of black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists, said in Editor & Publisher:

"I'm really glad they're picking apart the statistics and showing what each paper is doing, because it shows that each individual paper from the biggest to the smallest has a lot of work to do. I think this shows that the large papers have dropped the ball as well."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

CNN Donates $1 Million; Native Journalists Left Out

"CNN has donated $1 million to the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for scholarships for minority students pursuing journalism," the network announced today. "CNN President Jim Walton made the announcement on behalf of CNN's more than 4,000 employees during the 2005 World Report Conference in Atlanta and in conjunction with the cable news network's 25th anniversary.

"CNN's donation, which will be evenly split among the three organizations, will be used to create a CNN25 Scholars Program. Rigorous criteria for scholarships would likely require demonstrated journalistic excellence, consistent with the values of CNN, and a commitment to community involvement."

The news did not sit well with the Native American Journalists Association, which was not included.

"We appreciate CNN's support for our upcoming convention and their pledge of continued support, and we know our UNITY partners will do great things with the money they've received. But it's hard not to be disappointed when the rest of our UNITY partners are recognized in this way and we are not," NAJA president Dan Lewerenz said in a statement.

"Native people are the most underrepresented of all minorities in national network news. I don't know of a single Native person currently working in news production for CNN. And many of our students attend colleges that don't have formal journalism programs or television training opportunities. CNN could have taken tremendous strides toward correcting these imbalances, but chose not to. That's what makes this particularly painful."

Lewerenz said he requested a meeting with Jim Walton and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons to discuss future support for Native students and NAJA programs.

[Added June 2: CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson's office told Journal-isms today that, "CNN chose the three organizations with which it had the most extensive relationships."]

AAJA, meanwhile, told its members that, "$300,000 will be used to provide scholarships to deserving Asian Americans." Executive Director Rene Astudillo said the scholarships would "most likely be the largest scholarship grants AAJA has ever given out to individual recipients. The scholarship awards would be multi-year and could be as much as $25,000 to each recipient. . . . AAJA also celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2006 and the scholarships would be named 'AAJA-CNN 25 Scholars.'"

In an e-mail to NABJ members, President Herbert Lowe said that, "As part of the total $335,000 grant to NABJ, $10,000 will be used to support its 30th Anniversary Convention and Career Fair, set for Aug. 3-7 in Atlanta. Another $10,000 will be given to the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, an NABJ affiliate chapter, and $15,000 will be used to help promote and administer the scholar program."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

"Deep Throat" Also Reflected on Hoover and King

Newly unveiled "Deep Throat" Mark Felt is rightly being praised as a hero for the assistance he gave the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the early '70s while serving as the FBI's No. 2. Some passages from his 1979 book, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," receiving renewed attention today, remind us of the climate in which Felt worked.

In discussing FBI surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., Felt wrote:

"The microphone surveillances and the telephone taps on Dr. King and the SCLC demonstrated conclusively that the civil rights leader continued his contacts with Communists contrary to his promises and that he had attempted to keep this knowledge from the Attorney General [Robert F. Kennedy] with whom he had been less than candid.. . . When the puritanical Director read the transcripts of the tapes disclosing what went on behind Dr. King's closed hotel doors, he was outraged by the drunken sexual orgies, including acts of perversion often involving several persons. Hoover referred to these episodes with repugnance as 'those sexual things'."

The reference is to the discredited FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who had died seven years before the book was published.

"What the tapes recorded was a running account of his extramarital sex life. On his journeyings about the country in quest of civil rights, he had been visited in his hotel rooms by a parade of white females, and it was all there to be heard, right down to his outcries in the throes of passion. Frequently his male visitors joined in the festivities. It is not my purpose to pass judgment on Dr. King's moral conduct and there may even be some who would envy his sexual exploits.

"The point I am trying to make is that it was his personal private conduct, more than the attacks on the Bureau and his association with Communists, which inflamed Hoover and led him to embark on a campaign to discredit Martin Luther King, whom he regarded as a hypocrite who was not fit to lead the civil rights movement."

Felt begins the book with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, "We must not turn the Bill of Rights into a suicide pact," then recounts the threat to the United States from "young anarchists" known as the Weather Underground. As the Associated Press noted today, "When Felt was on trial for authorizing illegal break-ins during the 1970s at homes of people associated with the radical Weather Underground, [Former President Richard] Nixon testified on his behalf.

"And after [President Ronald] Reagan pardoned Felt in 1981, he received a bottle of champagne and this brief note from the disgraced former president: 'Justice ultimately prevails.'"

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Storyteller Oscar Brown Jr. Was Once a Newscaster

Oscar Brown Jr., the brilliant but underappreciated singer, songwriter, poet, actor and activist who died in Chicago Sunday at age 78, claimed newscaster among the roles he played early in his career.

"I had a program called Negro Newsfront and it was on for about five or six years from 1947, the latter part of '47, thru about 1952. It was on several stations 'cause I used to get kicked off the air all the time for being really controversial," he said in a 1996 question-and-answer session with James Porter.

The show, sponsored by various local black businesses, was produced with legendary Chicago journalist Vernon Jarrett. It was the nation's first black daily radio broadcast, first airing on Chicago's WJJD-AM.

In describing Jarrett's funeral last year, Maudlyne Ihejirika of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Before they left the hall to lay Jarrett to rest at Oak Woods Cemetery, good friend and playwright Oscar Brown Jr., with whom Jarrett founded the nation's first black daily radio newscast in 1948, broke into song.

"It was about the life of a leaf from spring to autumn. Apparently, when it has done its job, the leaf just lets go."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Reporter Shapes Up, Wins Bodybuilding Contest

"Look at the pictures. Before: pudgy, stubby and fat. After: lean, toned and taut. The photos say it all," Roberto Santiago wrote last week in the Miami Herald.

"It took five months for me to transform from a 197.5-pound man with 22 percent body fat to a muscular 169-pound athlete. My natural bodybuilding odyssey began last Dec. 9, and the intense diet and weight training -- interrupted by family tragedy and long work hours -- paid off on May 14.

"That morning, I took the stage in my first bodybuilding contest, The Superior in Hialeah, with more than 20 other competitors. This 41-year-old athlete with 12 percent body fat walked away as the 2005 Men's 35 and Over Overall Champion. I also won first place in the Men's 35 and Over lightweight division and third place in the highly competitive Men's Open lightweight class."

Santiago, who was formerly deputy bureau and suburban editor at the New York Daily News, included his mother's pastels, rectangular Puerto Rican meat-and-vegetable pies wrapped in banana leaves and served during Christmas, among the items he consumed over the months.

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Short Takes:

  • "The National Association of Hispanic Journalists will host 'A Conversation with Antonio Villaraigosa,' the mayor-elect of Los Angeles, to open the NAHJ 23rd Annual Convention and Media & Career Expo on June 15-18 in Fort Worth, Texas," NAHJ announced Friday. Actor John Leguizamo headlines a panel discussion on two films about Latin America, "Secuestro Express" and "Crónicas", which are to be released this summer. Leguizamo, who stars in "Crónicas", is to be joined by the directors and producers of each film.


  • Four print and broadcast reporters who were dispatched to Asia to cover the Dec. 26 tsunami plan to discuss their experiences at the annual South Asian Journalists Association conference June 16-19 in New York. Pia Sarkar, reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle; Mehul Srivastava of the Dayton Daily News; Dr. Mona Khanna, reporter at KTVT-TV in Dallas and Suleman Din of the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., "will talk about how they dealt with both the superlative and mundane challenges posed by the assignment, their editors and the horrific circumstances," the SAJA program says .


  • Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks said it plans to launch a Caribbean music and culture cable network by October across the region, and in North America by 2006. It is to be called Tempo, Reuters reported Tuesday.


  • The Orlando, Fla., region's dominant cable-TV system plans to add a 24-hour local news channel in Spanish before the end of next year, Cristina Elías reported Saturday in the Orlando Sentinel. Bright House Networks already operates Central Florida News 13, a round-the-clock news channel in English.


  • "The wife of the chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper denied Tuesday that her husband had engaged in espionage on the mainland, rejecting the Chinese government's first public explanation for the detention of the prominent Hong Kong-based journalist," Philip P. Pan reported today in the Washington Post, discussing reporter Ching Cheong, 55.


  • "Twenty-six Native college students from 11 states are enrolled to attend the fifth annual American Indian Journalism Institute, June 5-24, 2005, at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the University of South Dakota campus," the Freedom Forum announced Tuesday. "AIJI, a joint program of the Freedom Forum and USD, is the country's largest college academic program for Native journalism students."


  • Felicia Middlebrooks, morning news anchor at Chicago's WBBM-AM, is to be inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, to the amazement of Chicago Sun-Times television columnist Robert Feder. "Considering how little actual journalism the supremely self-important Middlebrooks has performed in all her years as a news reader and commercial pitchwoman at 'Newsradio 780,' it's an honor sure to rank right up there with Milli Vanilli's Grammy Award," Feder wrote today.


  • "Four months ago, CNBC began enforcing tough rules that barred its managers and news staff, as well as their spouses and dependents, from owning individual securities. The idea was to avoid potential conflicts of interest in its news coverage, and, despite a bit of grumbling, employees went along," Nat Ives reported Monday in the New York Times. "But on May 18, when word got around that the network chairwoman, Pamela Thomas-Graham, had taken a seat on the board of Idenix Pharmaceuticals along with 15,000 stock options and some additional compensation, newsroom grumbling turned into groans."


  • Amy Nelson, a journalism teacher at South Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, "has been put on leave while school district officials look into insensitive comments published in the most recent edition of the student newspaper, the Scorpion Voice," Amie Streater reported last week in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The comments were printed in a feature that said 52 students had been interviewed on how they felt about the school having a Hispanic majority.


  • "Last Sunday the Globe's City Weekly section had a photo essay where it asked seven people to describe what their clothes say about their 'politics, their personae, and the places they live,'" columnist Derrick Z. Jackson wrote disapprovingly Friday in the Boston Globe. "The only male of color was a 15-year-old black boy. He wore a white do-rag topped by a cocked, backward baseball cap. While all the white subjects smiled, the black boy had no smile. His cold stare matched the nickname for his fashion: 'Sophisticated thug.'"


  • "Doug Smith, a recent visiting professor in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University, is the recipient of a 2005 Writers Notes Book Award in the culture category for his book 'Whirlwind: The Godfather of Black Tennis,'" the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., reported Sunday.


  • On Memorial Day, some public radio shows provided time to representatives of the Black Revolutionary War Patriots project, who must raise $9.5 million by Sept. 15 or they lose their right to space on the national Mall in Washington for a memorial to black Revolutionary War soldiers. As spokesman Maurice Barboza said, it is those soldiers' vision of America that prevailed, not those of the slaveholders already memorialized.


  • On its most recent public radio show, "Latino USA" discussed Mexican President Vicente Fox's remark, "There is no doubt that Mexicans, full of pride, willpower and desire to work, are doing jobs over there that not even blacks want to do." Included on the panel was a black Mexican, who wondered where that view left him.

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.