Grambling Turmoil Snares Student Editors
Monday, October 21, 2013
Two student editors were suspended at Grambling State University's student newspaper, the Gramblinite, in an incident that raises student free-press issues and highlights the consequences of states turning down federal stimulus money. One student said he plans to resign.
Tracie Powell reported Sunday for allDigitocracy.com, "David Lankster Sr. said he's been fired after tweeting statements from anonymous sources and photos of dilapidated facilities (here and here) using the newspaper's Twitter account, and he accused the school's Director of Public Relations and Communications, former journalist Will Sutton, of attempting to censor student journalists.
" 'I was behind it. I was the only one on the ground hearing from the students and players,' said Lankster, the former sports editor who has worked at the paper since 2009. 'Sutton was trying to mute our voice because we were tweeting the real news, the truth about what was going on.' "
However, Matt Vines reported for the News-Star in nearby Monroe, La., "Lankster believed he was terminated from his position after retweeting pictures of mildewed facilities from the paper's Twitter account Friday.
Vines also reported that graduate student Kimberly Monroe "used Instagram to spread information about Thursday's student rally, and she was initially suspended from her position as The Gramblinite opinion editor, but that decision was overturned."
Sutton, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and newspaper manager, issued this statement on Monday:
"I frequently give advice and counsel to our communications students. As an editor I've had high standards for anonymous sourcing and I wish more journalists had higher standards. I fully support The Gramblinite, and I encourage them to be aggressive. If anything, they need to be far more aggressive. I want them to set high ethical and moral standards and pursue journalism like a pit bull.
"We can disagree about sourcing standards, but I match mine up there with The News & Observer, The Philadelphia Inquirer and others of high quality. I had nothing to do with the actions taken at the campus newspaper. I don't advise the newspaper. But I support the actions.
"It would be silly to compare this situation – which, by the way, has been an ongoing area of tension on the staff – to Watergate because even those Washington Post reporters knew that they couldn't simply go with what 'Deep Throat' told them; they worked to confirm everything before publishing – and not before."
However, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told Journal-isms that when it disagrees with the newspaper's actions, the administration's response cannot go beyond advice.
"It's disturbing if non-student Grambling employees are firing or suspending student journalists for what they decide to publish, particularly on social media," LoMonte said by email, adding that none of the students had contacted him for advice. "It's fine for Mr. Sutton or Ms. Peters to express a strong opinion about the adequacy of the journalists' sourcing — that's totally fair — but the First Amendment means their input has to stop with just advice.
"Public university employees can't use their governmental authority to punish journalists for their choice of editorial content, period. Every student newsroom should have a student-run complaint process where a student editor can make the judgment on whether staff members acted ethically and professionally, and we're concerned if that process was disrespected and [consisted of an] end-run at Grambling. I suspect that once the university gets legal advice, any adverse action against a student journalist imposed by a college employee will be recognized as unlawful and remedied, the sooner the better."
Lankster told Roland Martin on his "NewsOne Now" radio show Monday that the problems with the facilities extended to the Gramblinite offices. "The closet has mold and mildew running rampant," he said, "and the only solution we got was to lock the doors."
He said the paper has not reported that problem because, "Who knows what that would have meant?" The administration suspended the paper in 2007 after complaints about a plagiarized story that the university said was not met with strong enough sanctions. However, editors defied the order and published.
Powell's story continued, "Tensions that have been simmering for weeks came to a head last week when Grambling football players walked out of a meeting with college president Frank Pogue; and they refused to play in a scheduled game over the weekend, taking a forfeit. Students are upset about crumbling buildings and a lack of teachers among other things, they said. There's even mold in one of sections of the newsroom, Lankster said. Doors to the area are kept locked and students are told not to enter the area, he added.
"While Lankster was fired, his colleague Kimberly Monroe was informed she was being suspended for two weeks. Monroe, the editor of the newspaper's opinion section, said she was asked by the newspaper's adviser to remove parts of a column submitted by Grambling's student government president, including the president's email address that he asked students to use to report problems on campus. . . ."
Sean Isabella updated Monday for the News-Star, "Grambling's football players ended their near week-long boycott Monday and emphatically returned to practice with a new sense of optimism.
"Senior safety Naquan Smith released a letter early Monday, announcing the Tigers would come back to the field in a unanimous decision after skipping out on two days of practice last week and forfeiting a game at Jackson State.
"With the support of 82 teammates behind him, Smith then addressed the media at 3 p.m. in front of the Eddie G. Robinson Museum before the team took part in a brief 30-minute conditioning workout on the practice field. . . ."
"State funding for the school has been cut 57 percent since 2007-08, according to the school's fundraising literature. State funding for the school has been cut 57 percent since 2007-08, according to the school's fundraising literature," he wrote.
Republican "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state legislature have cut $269 million from higher education since 2009, the year Jindal turned down federal stimulus funds. Grambling lost $6 million, causing the school's Office of Finance and Administration to say the school has gone from state 'funded' to state 'assisted.' . . ."
- David Brandt, Associated Press: Jackson State: Game against Grambling cancelled after players refuse to travel to Mississippi
- Dom Cosentino, Deadspin: What's Behind The Grambling Football Team's Protest
- George Dohrmann, Sports Illustrated: The inside story of what caused Grambling football players to revolt
- James Joyner, outsidethebeltway.com: Sorry State of Affairs at Grambling State
- Brett Martel, Associated Press: Grambling officials meeting to resolve dispute
- William C. Rhoden, New York Times: Making a Stand for Reform at Grambling, and at the N.C.A.A.
Donald E. Graham, chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Co., speaks of the work of the District of Columbia College Access Program, his pride and joy. (Video)
Past and present employees of the Washington Post threw a tribute to Donald E. Graham Monday night, with 600 people — some reportedly coming from as far away as Europe — treated to Politico Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder John F. Harris' impression of Graham, a brief review of the Graham family's 80-year ownership of the Post, and roomful of talented journalists who in many cases hadn't seen each other in decades.
There were Gwen Ifill of PBS, Michele Norris of NPR, auto columnist Warren Brown, USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer, Ebony photographer Dudley Brooks, author Patrice Gaines and dozens more Post alums, along with the legendary editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, Watergate star Bob Woodward and others who continue to work at the newspaper for which Jeff Bezos of Amazon assumed ownership this month.
Dorothy Gilliam, who in 1961 became the first black woman hired to write at the Post, was present. And so was the city of Washington.
The District of Columbia played a supporting role as Graham was cited for his ties to the majority-black city in which he grew up. Four speakers were chosen to represent each decade that Graham worked at the paper, moving from reporter to sports editor to publisher to CEO and chairman of the Washington Post Co., with stops in between.
Before learning the family business, Graham, 68, spent time as a D.C. police officer. In that job, Graham has said, "you learned the grinding hardship of kids born into poverty." Columnist Eugene Robinson, chosen to represent the first decade of the 2000s, spoke about performances inside and outside the Post by the Eastern High School choir, part of Graham's determination to "reaffirm and cement the relationship between the newspaper and the city." The choir even sang in the newsroom.
Robinson spoke of the District of Columbia College Access Program, which Graham chairs and which sends low-income people to college. "He has changed so many lives and so many families," Robinson said.
Among the crowd, which gathered at the Post building in an auditorium situated where presses once rolled, were three Iraqis from the Post's Baghdad bureau. Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman who is a former Post foreign editor and assistant managing editor, recalled Graham paying for horses to take reporter Keith Richburg and photographer Lucian Perkins across the Afghan border, and financing a charter jet to speed reporter Edward Cody to Lockerbie, Scotland, after the bombed Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in 1988, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members.
When budgets were exceeded, "He never called us on the carpet for journalism that matters," said Shirley Carswell, former deputy managing editor handling the newsroom budget, and a former treasurer of the Washington Association of Black Journalists.
Staffers were appreciative of Graham's personal touch. He opened a newspaper-wrapped gift from his former employees by saying, "I appreciate this tribute to the classified pages," and read the inscription on the plaque inside: "On this elevator, Don Graham greeted Post employees by name 806,132 times from 1972-2013."
When the ceremony was over, Graham seemed to take as much pleasure in introducing attendees to Kayce Ataiyero, one of the first beneficiaries of the Herbert H. Denton scholarship program and a former student at H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast Washington, far from the city's tourist attractions. Ataiyero became a journalist at the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere and then press secretary to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
The scholarship program was named after a black journalist who served with Graham in Vietnam, attended Harvard with him and, as the New York Times noted when Denton died at 45 in 1989, "was one of the first blacks to reach a position of authority in the newsroom of the Post."
Graham "almost singlehandedly kept the Herb Denton Scholarship going," Getler said.
The board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists votes Tuesday on whether it will leave the Unity: Journalists for Diversity coalition after hearing from Unity President David Steinberg and Roland Martin, a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
"As one of the four NAHJ representatives, which includes Mekahlo Medina, Yvonne Latty, and Maria Burns Ortiz on the UNITY board, I join them and NAHJ executive director Anna Lopez Buck in recommending NAHJ leave UNITY" President Hugo Balta reiterated in a message to members on Monday.
"To those who simplify the crisis by saying, 'go back to the negotiating table,' and 'how about one more chance?' — I say how many chances do you need?"
Over the weekend, NABJ President Bob Butler challenged a statement by Michele Salcedo, immediate past NAHJ president, last week in a conference call with NAHJ members on the Unity question.
Salcedo said NABJ sustained a loss as of June 30 of $330,532.32, citing the members-only section of the NABJ website. However, Butler responded in a Facebook posting, "Unfortunately there are people who want you to think NABJ is struggling. That is not true. The report on the members-only section of the NABJ website to which Michele Salcedo is referencing is the balance sheet for the period ending June 30, 2013. It shows a 'Net Income From Operations' of $332,532.32, not a loss."
The issue arose after Balta said he had begun discussions with NABJ about holding a joint convention in 2016. Salcedo cautioned wariness because of what she said was NABJ's financial situation.
Finances remain an agenda item at NABJ, however. The NABJ board met in Boston over the weekend. Butler told Journal-isms he had replaced most members of the Finance Committee, which had been critical of the organization's financial situation. As the "NABJ Coalition for Transparency & Accountability, many of them are co-founders of a website, www.nabjboardwatch.org."
Butler said he had not chosen a chair for the committee, but named John Yearwood, Jackie Greene, Shirley Carswell and Michelle Singletary among its members.
Meanwhile, Joanna Hernandez, an NAHJ member who was president of Unity when NABJ left in 2011, citing financial and governance issues, told Journal-isms she would support whatever decision on Unity that NAHJ made.
"What struck me most was Hugo's concern about finances," Hernandez said by email. "As you know, NAHJ was on the brink because of finances, and although the organization is doing better now financially than before, the economy is still shaky, and NAHJ is not out of the woods yet.
"It also struck me when Hugo said that emotions had to be taken out of any decision, because when I was president of UNITY, the board made many decisions based on emotions instead of basing it on due diligence.
"It's Hugo job as president to look out for the good of NAHJ. And so far, he has done a phenomenal job.
"The majority of NAHJ members voted for Hugo to be president. And as the leader of NAHJ, he must be allowed to lead. That is my opinion.
"UNITY has been going through many changes, including having three presidents since January.
"This is certainly a new UNITY, and the NAHJ president, executive director and board members have the right to examine and decide whether our organization should be part of this new group. They have engaged the members, and they are listening. And I respect any decision that our NAHJ leaders make."
New York Post editors acknowledged that a white Post columnist called a black colleague "a token nigger," according to a new book on Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns the Post.
Writing Monday for Media Matters for America, Ben Dimiero and Matt Gerzen reported an article headlined, "5 Of The Most Interesting Stories From David Folkenflik's Upcoming Murdoch Biography."
Dimiero and Gerzen wrote, "In a section focusing on the 'frat house aura' that has flourished at the New York Post under editor Col Allan, Folkenflik reports that former Post columnist Steve Dunleavy once called fellow columnist Robert George a 'token nigger.' According to Folkenflik, the sum total of Dunleavy's punishment for having directed a slur at his black colleague was that he was 'chastised':"
They quote from the book "Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires" by Folkenflik, NPR's media reporter:
"Under Allan, the Australian culture of mateship allowed a frat house aura to flourish at the New York Post. Sandra Guzman, a Latina journalist who had been fired as editor of a Post magazine section, accused Allan of sidling up to her and several other female employees to show them pictures of a man displaying his penis on his cell phone; she also alleged he rubbed himself lewdly against a female colleague, and that she herself was serenaded with 'I Want to Be in America' — an allusion to the Puerto Rican character who sang the musical number of that name in the musical West Side Story.
"The paper contested her charges. Yet under oath, Post editors admitted that Dunleavy had called conservative black columnist Robert George 'a token nigger,' saying he would never have his job at the paper if not for his race. The city editor, James Murdoch's closest childhood friend Jesse Angelo, chastised Dunleavy. No other punishment was meted out. [Murdoch's World, pg. 45]."
George, who also writes Post editorials, did not respond to a request for comment.
"As the debate over the name of Washington's football team grows louder, one of the more vocal groups on the issue has found itself unexpectedly silenced," Theresa Vargas reported Friday for the Washington Post.
"The Oneida Indian Nation learned Friday that the radio ad it had scheduled to run in Washington this weekend as part of its national 'Change the Mascot' campaign, will not air. A representative of CBS Radio Washington cited increased discussion around the name as the reason for pulling the ad from two of its stations, WJFK and WPGC.
" 'Based on the amount of on-air debate, adding paid commercials from one side is not something that we think is beneficial for this discussion and for our audience,' Steve Swenson, senior vice president of CBS Radio Washington wrote in an e-mail that was provided by the Oneida Nation to The Post. . . ."
- Andrew Cohen, the Atlantic: ESPN: No Comment on Talent 'Wearing the Native Equivalent of Black Face'
- Tim Giago, indianz.com: Native Americans are human beings and not mascots
"Free Press Research Director Derek Turner wasn't afraid to give away the ending, titling his analysis of media consolidation, 'Cease to Resist: How the FCC's Failure to Enforce its Rules Created a New Wave of Media Consolidation,' " John Eggerton wrote Monday for Broadcasting & Cable.
"According to Turner and Free Press, who are releasing the report Monday, local broadcast journalism has been suffering from the 'rampant media consolidation' of the past two decades, and it isn't getting any better. He points a finger squarely at deregulatory FCC policies, saying that the FCC has been a 'willing accomplice to this destruction of local journalism.' . . ."
A news release added:
" 'TV consolidation is out of control, and communities are paying the price,' said Free Press Research Director and report author S. Derek Turner. 'Companies are swallowing up stations at an alarming rate, often through deals that violate the law. If the FCC doesn't start enforcing its rules, the damage to local competition and viewpoint diversity will be overwhelming and irreversible.'
"The report comes as Sinclair Broadcast Group spearheads one of the largest waves of TV consolidation in history. The report also looks at tactics used by Gannett, Media General, Nexstar and Tribune. . . ."
In the nation's capital, Caryn Mathes, general manager of NPR affiliate WAMU-FM, is leaving what she called "the most listened-to public radio station nationally" at the end of the year to be the general manager of KUOW-FM and president of Puget Sound Public Radio in Seattle, WAMU announced on Monday.
"Caryn has led the station since joining in 2005. She's overseen growth of news coverage and original programming, as well as the expansion to new stations and Internet streams," the announcement said.
"WAMU has grown into a $22 million operation from $9 million in 2005 when Mathes joined the station. The station's contributor base has increased 58 percent to 56,000 members. Mathes worked closely with American University colleagues to acquire and renovate WAMU's new media center and headquarters at 4401 Connecticut Ave., which became fully operational in September."
In a memo to the staff, Mathes said, "This was not an easy decision! I am personally and professionally invested in WAMU and I'm proud of each and every one of you. What we have accomplished together over the past nine years is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Together we have created the most listened-to Washington, DC radio station and the most listened-to public radio station nationally with WAMU, a strong terrestrial and social media presence for Bluegrass Country [a second WAMU channel], and significant expansion of programming, news, and digital media.
"WAMU, and its new Media Center, are now among the national standards for high performing public media. It has been my joy to work with you to accomplish this.
"As you know, I am driven by and thrive on building public media organizations. My decision to leave is, in part, because I will have the opportunity to help KUOW build audience and programming. KUOW also offers a progressive model of governance and finance that will allow rapid deployment of resources to build the organization in a highly competitive public radio market. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. . . ."
"One of my favourite writers on writing is an Australian, Mark Tredinnick, who says writers have a duty of care, and they owe this duty to their readers, to the cause or purpose of their writing, to their societies, to their people and to their language," Joe Thloloe wrote Sunday for the Independent in London.
"The South African Press Code also expresses itself — rather more bluntly — on this duty: 'The press exists to serve society.'
"These are the standards by which we will look at Percy Peter Tshediso Qoboza's journalism and at journalism today, as we remember Black Wednesday — October 19, 1977 — and celebrate the freedom of expression, press freedom and the freedom of other media we inherited from the Qobozas, the Aggrey Klaastes, the Can Thembas, the Casey Motsisis, the Mike Nortons, the Mono Badelas, the Moffat Zungus, the Es’kia Mphahleles, the Nat Nakasas, the Ruth Firsts, the Lewis Nkosis, the Zwelakhe Sisulus — a long, long list of heroes that could take weeks to recite.
"Today, we remember the closure of the World, the Weekend World and the ecumenical publication Pro Veritate on that Wednesday in 1977 and we remember the banning of black organisations like the Union of Black Journalists, the South African Students Organisation, the Black People's Convention and others.
"Qoboza and Klaaste, one of his assistants at the World, and scores of other people were locked up by the security police on that day.
"Today we also reflect on the veiled threats to press freedom embedded in laws like the Protection of State Information Bill.
"But who was Percy Qoboza?
"He was a complex, multi-layered personality, as most of us are. . . . "
The National Association of Black Journalists honors a foreign journalist each year with its Percy Qoboza Award.
- On Oct. 28, Univision's "Despierta America" ("Wake Up America") and ABC’s "Good Morning America" "fuse" for a day to celebrate the launch of Fusion, a news, pop culture and satire network from ABC and Univision, which launches that day at 6:57 p.m. Eastern time, the two networks announced Monday. "America's #1 morning shows in English and Spanish will simulcast portions of their broadcasts to both television networks — a combined audience of over 6 million viewers. . . ."
- Rashod Ollison of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.; Juan Castillo of the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman; Evelio Contreras, Moni Basu and Christal Presley of CNN.com; and Alexandra Garcia of the Washington Post were first-place winners in the Excellence in Writing contest of the Society of Features Journalism this month.
- "The horrifically profitable practice of slavery and the brutal inhumanity of Jim Crow loom large in 'The African Americans' (premiering Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET; check local listings), which, through its six hours, performs a neat trick: Its reach extends far beyond American shores, venturing through the Caribbean region and all the way to Africa, while deftly folding this sprawl of black history into the larger American story that, too often, has kept the role of black America shunted to the margins," Frazier Moore wrote Monday for the Associated Press.
- "I covered the NFL over four decades dating back to 1972," Leonard Shapiro wrote for Sunday's editions of the Washington Post. "Now semi-retired myself and five years removed from day-to-day football coverage, I have one main regret: not focusing more of my reporting and writing on the absolute brutality of the sport, particularly the painful post-football lives of so many players. Instead, like many other sports journalists, I spent much of my career writing positive pieces about the league and its players — puffy features and breathless accounts of thrilling victories and agonizing defeats. . . ."
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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