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Have Black Journalists Overcome?

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Coverage of March Anniversary Shows Progress, Setbacks

. . . O'Reilly Apologizes for Not Doing His Reporting

. . . Dreamers Remember Journalist Salazar in L.A. Tribute

Murdoch's U.S. Papers Beat War Drums on Syria

Black Reporter Calls on White Nationalist — Mind Game?

Miley Cyrus Called Everything but a Child of God

Slain Australian Buried Amid Debate Over Role of Race

GM Woos Hispanic Journalists at Detroit HQ

Al Jazeera America Draws Fraction of Potential Audience

Short Takes

Byron Pitts, who joined ABC News from CBS News this year, was lead reporter on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. On "World News" on Wednesday, his report was followed by one from Pierre Thomas, also a black journalist. (video)

Coverage of Latest March Shows Progress, Setbacks

Could African American progress since the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom be measured by the roles black journalists assumed in coverage of the march's commemoration 50 years later?

One Journal-isms reader in Washington was disappointed. "I noticed there were no black bylines on the main story about Obama's speech in the Post yesterday, the same way it was 50 years ago when [Bob] Kaiser said the post wrote 16 stories about the march but only mentioned king's speech once," he wrote in an email. "I was just struck by a black president commemorating the most well known black activist of our time and no black writers on the main story. Real shame. I wonder how many other major papers carried that story yesterday without black reporters representation?"

Others begged to differ. One was Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post.

"A week ago today, the Style section was dominated by a piece on the role of women then and now in the marches that was written by Krissah Thompson," Baron replied by email.

"On Sunday, the centerpiece march story on the front page included the byline of DeNeen Brown, with a contributor line for Hamil Harris. With that coverage was a column by Courtland Milloy.

"The Monday Style section was dominated by a piece on the march written by Krissah Thompson.

"The Wednesday paper included a front-page story on the march by Michael Fletcher. The Wednesday Style section included a two-page, then-vs.-now photo essay by Michel du Cille.

"A Thursday front-page story on the day's events, including the president's speech, included contributor lines from Hamil Harris and DeNeen Brown."

Another dissenter was ABC News.

"ABC News Chief National Correspondent and Anchor Byron Pitts led the network's coverage across all broadcasts," ABC News spokesman David Ford messaged:

"WATCH 'This Week' —


"WATCH 'World News' —

"WATCH 'Nightline' —

"Bryon Pitts, Linsey Davis, and Pierre Thomas all contributed to the network's special coverage throughout the day. Renowned Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree joined George Stephanopoulos in our New York studio for our special report on the ABC Television Network."

At NPR, spokeswoman Anna Christopher Bross wrote, "I know that Gene Demby and Hansi Lo Wang of our Code Switch team were both on-site at the March, as was reporter Allison Keyes. We did extensive coverage leading up to the 50th anniversary; here's our series page, and also a page dedicated to our summer-long Summer of '63 series:

"March on Washington at 50

"Summer of '63"

The lead stories on the march in the Washington Post and New York Times were not written by African Americans, yet it would have been unthinkable 50 years ago that the managing editors of those papers — Dean Baquet at the Times and Kevin Merida at the Post — would be black journalists.

Or that the Associated Press would assemble a multiracial team to deliver stories that included sidebars on how the march related to immigration, gays, Latinos, tourism, Nelson Mandela and even the U.S. Postal Service, which issued a commemorative stamp.

"Is black participation important on a story like this? Yes. ALL participation is important," messaged Sonya Ross, a black journalist who as race and ethnicity editor coordinated the AP's march coverage. "Many of those involved (myself included) are products of The AP's longstanding intern program," created as a legacy of the civil rights movement. "This includes 2013 intern Shaquille Brewster, a student at Howard University."

Or that on PBS, a biracial team of female journalists, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, would interview the president on the night of the march.

McClatchy Washington Bureau correspondent William Douglas and two others wrote the lead story on Saturday's commemoration, then he moved on to write about Syria. Representatives of other leading newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, along with the other networks, did not reply to inquiries Friday, perhaps owing to the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Still, some journalists found the coverage lacking. "Our involvement was very skimpy at best," Sidmel Estes, a former executive producer at WAGA-TV in Atlanta and a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said by email. "And most of the coverage happened with 'ethnic media'. Yes, we've come a long way, but I believe we are losing ground. . . ."

Estes posted a blog Friday headlined, "Why The Media Industry is Failing Us."

"As I watched and read the coverage of several key issues over the summer, it became apparent to me that the majority of today's so-called journalists don't have a clue," she wrote. "They have no institutional memory, don't do their homework and fail to think deeply enough to explain major topics and their ramifications to their audiences. We are not 'speaking truth to power'. Here are some of those taboo subjects.

"Why are there no open, honest and effective discussions about the state of race in America? This trend started during the civil rights movement and continues to today. We face sometimes painful realities about how we, as a country, have failed to correct many of the injustices of the past. We have created new injustices and we have remained silent. . . ."

Veteran journalist Jack White wrote for The Root, "As an exercise in further deifying Martin Luther King Jr. and further solidifying an oversimplified version of his legacy, yesterday's 50th-anniversary celebration of the historic March on Washington was a huge success.

"But as a means of kindling a new and badly needed social movement that could meaningfully address the unfinished business of persistent and worsening patterns of racial inequality ... well, not so much. . . ."

On Tuesday, Ifill and Dorothy Gilliam, the Washington Post's first black female reporter, discussed the 1963 march at the National Press Club.

"Gilliam spoke of WaPo's coverage of the march, saying the newspaper focused on the violence," Betsy Rothstein reported for FishbowlDC.

"She explained she was on maternity leave at the time and imagined how things might have been different had there been a black editor at the table making coverage decisions. 'The whole focus was on violence and there was no violence,' she said. 'I believe if there had been more racial diversity, if there had been a black editor among the people making the decisions…there were three black people on the whole staff, none of them decision makers.'

"Ifill agreed, but stressed that today’s newsrooms still possess a serious lack of diversity. 'Newsrooms are not that much more diverse now, especially when it comes to decision makers,' she said. Gilliam added, 'As our country gets browner, the media gets whiter. …We're actually losing diversity within media.' "

Even the U.S. Postal Service provided fodder for march coverage. The limited-edi

. . . O'Reilly Apologizes for Not Doing His Reporting

"Bill O'Reilly ate a rare slice of humble pie on Thursday when he apologized for mistakenly reporting that Republicans were not invited to speak at Wednesday's MLK 'I Have a Dream' speech anniversary event," Sara Morrison reported Friday for the Wrap.

" 'Wrong, that's wrong,' O'Reilly admitted, pointing out that other mistakes were made as well — Republicans should not have declined the chance to speak.

"O'Reilly explained that his error was due to a lack of reporting: 'I simply assumed that since all the speakers were liberal Democrats, Republicans were excluded.' . . ."

. . . Dreamers Remember Journalist Salazar in L.A. Tribute

Ruben Salazar"The end of August in Los Angeles has historically been a time of sad recollections for Latinos, especially activists who remember a triumphant civil rights march that turned murderous," Tony Castro wrote Friday for VOXII.

"On Aug. 29, 1970, some 25,000 activists gathered in East Los Angeles to take part in what was billed as the National Chicano Moratorium march, and protest against the Vietnam War.

"They were protesting the disproportionately large number of Latino soldiers who were being killed in Vietnam. It never occurred to any of them that one of three people who would be killed that day as a result of the march would be perhaps the most important Hispanic who would die in the age of civil rights protests.

"Journalist Ruben Salazar, a crusader for Latino rights — especially against law enforcement — was slain when Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies fired a tear gas projectile that struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

"No one was ever arrested — then or since — in connection with Salazar's violent death.

"In the years since, activists have commemorated Salazar's death and the march each late August. But this year, the reflection has taken on deeper meaning, and some suggest this is because of the civil rights fervor created by the 50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

"Indeed, among those participating in last Sunday's commemoration of the Chicano Moratorium march were dozens of so-called Dreamers — young immigrants seeking eventual [citizenship] through immigration reform — who were quick studies about an event that took place more than two decades before any of them were born. . . ."

Raul A. Reyes wrote of Salazar Thursday in an opinion piece for NBCLatino, "it is important to remember him because the issues that he cared about continue to resonate with Latinos today."

Murdoch's U.S. Papers Beat War Drums on Syria

"Back in 2003 I wrote about the fact that all of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers supported the invasion of Iraq. In 'Their master's voice' I remarked on his 'unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him,' " Roy Greenslade wrote Friday for Britain's Guardian newspaper

Thursday's New York Post makes its position clear.

"Ten years on, he may well have chosen his editors wisely again, but the situation for him is now very different. There was, and still is, hacking. His great empire has been split in two.

"It is therefore difficult for the News Corp conductor to convince his British editors to sing so loudly and obediently from the Murdoch hymn book. In the US, however, the KRM chorus is warbling in unison.

"The New York Post's poster-style front page yesterday carried the headline: 'Stop dithering, Obama! If we're serious, we must… TARGET ASSAD'.

"Two days before, the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, in an article headlined 'Target Assad', urged Obama to assassinate Bashar al-Assad and his brother.

"Fox News then conducted an interview with Stephens and carried the Post's article on its website, headlined 'Stop dithering, Mr Obama, if US is serious about Syria we must target Assad.' . . . "

Black Reporter Calls on White Nationalist — Mind Game?

John Eligon"A postscript to my interview with white nationalist, Paul Craig Cobb. . . .," New York Times reporter John Eligon, a black journalist, wrote on his Facebook page.

"I had knocked on doors in high-crime neighborhoods, spent time interviewing people on drug-infested streets late at night and tried to elicit comments from grieving family members, but this was admittedly about as nervous as I had been in my journalism career.

"I was in tiny Leith, N.D., (population 24), approaching the rickety house of a white supremacist. Would the sight of me, a black man, at his door startle him so much that he would shoot first and ask questions later? Would he see me through the peephole and curse me away? Would I have traveled all this way just to get turned away? I was not necessarily concerned that he would hurt me, but there was definitely fear of the unknown.

"But after my journalistic instinct and knack for excitement kicked in, I strode up to the door, with a white female photographer by my side. I stood a bit off center, figuring that if he fired through the door, I would have a better chance of avoiding getting hit. I calmly knocked.

" 'Who is it,' a scruffy voice behind the red door yelled.

" 'It's The New York Times,' I replied.

"He then rattled off something about trying to fix his cell phone and asked me to wait on the sidewalk. He'd be right out, he said.

"Moments later, he emerged. Paul Craig Cobb, a 61-year-old who looks more hippie than Nazi, came to this small town a year ago to try to turn it into a white supremacist colony."

Eligon also wrote, "Cobb was quick to offer up shameful insults of Jews, gays and to The New York Times.

"He said The Times was trying to play mind games by sending a black reporter and a blond-haired, blue-eyed female photographer to interview him. (After I refuted that, he did allow that it could have been a coincidence.) . . ."

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke on MTV's Video Music Awards Sunday. (Credit:

Miley Cyrus Called Everything but a Child of God

"Miley Cyrus 'twerks, stuns VMAs crowd'. She 'vie[s] for attention at MTV's Video Music Awards', alongside Lady Gaga," Kate Dries wrote Monday for Jezebel, commenting on a performance that electrified social media and had tongues wagging on the Monday morning talk shows.

"She 'gives racy performance at MTV's Video Music Awards'. She 'gets embarrassingly raunchy at the VMAs'. Miley Cyrus, ladies and gentleman, is a whore who whored it up at MTV's Video Music Awards on Sunday night. . . . "

"Okay," retorted a woman blogging on the Jezebel site Groupthink as "Ninjacate." ".... but can we talk about the problematic and racist nature of her performance? Her literal use of people as props? Her association of her newfound sexuality with the traditional codifiers of black female culture, thereby perpetuating the Jezebel stereotype that black women are lewd, lascivious and uncontrollably sexualized? Can we talk about the straight up minstrelsy of that performance? Can we talk about how not a single black person won an award last night even though the people who did win awards have been mining black music and culture for years? . . "

In the Washington Post, Clinton Yates took the opposite tack:

"By implying that Cyrus is somehow creating a minstrel act of sorts by including black dancers in her act, you are implying that there is something lesser than about such an act. As if it's completely impossible that she simply enjoys and respects the talents of those she chooses to work with. In short, it is inherently racist to imply that there is anything wrong with anyone other than black women twerking. . . ."

Slain Australian Buried Amid Debate Over Role of Race

"The Australian victim of an alleged 'thrill killing' in the United States was laid to rest in his hometown Wednesday, as an autopsy report revealed he was killed by a single shot to the back," Tim Hume reported for CNN.

"Hundreds of mourners packed Melbourne's St Therese's Church Wednesday for the funeral of Christopher Lane, who was studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship when he was allegedly gunned down at random on August 16."

Hume additionally wrote, "The case also prompted speculation the killing may have been racially-motivated, as one of the alleged shooters, who is black, had allegedly made online comments about disliking white people. District Attorney Jason Hicks said while the post appeared racial in character, there was insufficient evidence to pursue hate crime charges in the case. . . ."

Nevertheless, commentators debated the racial implications.

Grace Lieblein, General Motors vice president for global purchasing and supply c

GM Woos Hispanic Journalists at Detroit HQ

"A dozen Hispanic reporters and media representatives gathered in Detroit Aug. 15-17 to meet some of the individuals behind the company's customer-driven culture, part of a 2½-day program designed to expose them to GM's global and regional priorities," General Motors announced last week.

" 'Hispanic journalists play a critical role in how our company is perceived,' said Grace Lieblein, GM vice president Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, and the summit's executive sponsor. 'We want them to get to know the new GM and give them the information they need about our company, our products, and our focus on Latinos.'

"Hispanics buy one out of every four cars sold in the United States today. According to RL Polk & Co., auto sales to Hispanic consumers increased 27 percent in 2012, effectively doubling the growth rate of the rest of the U.S. auto market. With this in mind, GM has been increasing its outreach to Hispanics with a portfolio of vehicles that responds to their needs and active lifestyles. . . ."

The guests were Jaime Florez, host, Ruedas ESPN Deportes Radio; Al Vazquez, editor and publisher Automotive, FAMA Magazine; Francisco Cortes, director, Fox News Latino; Jesús Chavarria, editor and publisher,; Maria Ballesteros-Coronel, national content editor, La Opinión; Robert Bard, president & CEO, Latina Style magazine; David Quinones, assistant managing editor, PODER magazine; Jaime Gabaldoni, Terra USA; Ligia De Uriarte, host, Univision; Maria Morales Salazar, producer/editor, Univision Chicago; Carlos Zapata, news anchor, Univision/Azteca America Southwest Florida.

Toyota Motor North America, Inc., announced Monday that it will become the "title sponsor" of all regional conferences of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists next year and the "title sponsor" of its 2014 national conference in San Antonio, Texas, after pledging $100,000 in seed money to the group if it staged the national event in the city where Toyota has a major manufacturing plant.

Meanwhile, NAHJ President Hugo Balta struck back at columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. over Navarrette's commentary on an embarrassing incident in which the Democratic speaker of the California Assembly, John A. Pérez, is said to have pressured NAHJ to remove a Republican from a political panel at its just-concluded convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Navarrette began his column with, "The National Association of Hispanic Journalists became irrelevant as a journalism organization this week at its annual conference in Anaheim."

Balta said of Navarrette, "The sophomoric personal attacks became worse once I called him out on his bombastic approach. This isn't a concerned journalist or even wounded NAHJ member (on and off again as Navarrette describes). This is a self absorbed, irresponsible pompous opportunist who cut corners in his storytelling in order to increase readership. . . ." 

Rafael Olmeda, a former NAHJ president, wrote in a comment under Navarrette's piece that "this broadside against NAHJ seems to me to lack a basis in reality."

Other commenters sided with Navarrette, who replied on his Facebook page, "Failed NAHJ President Hugo Balta's narcissistic pouting over the spanking he got in a recent column brings to mind another sore loser: Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, who I scuffled with in 2010 and 2011. . . ."


Al Jazeera America Draws Fraction of Potential Audience

"Despite hundreds of millions invested by the government of Qatar, Al Jazeera America drew only a tiny fraction of its total audience reach in the first few days of the Aug. 20 launch, preliminary data show," Roger Yu reported Wednesday for USA Today.

"The highest rated show for AJAM — 'Real Money with Ali Velshi' on the evening of Aug. 22 — drew 54,000 viewers, according to data from Nielsen that were obtained by TVNewser, an industry news site. . . ."

Short Takes

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Response from NBC Universal on March on Washington coverage

Sept. 3 response from Kathy Kelly Brown of NBCUniversal on March on Washington coverage:

At NBCUniversal, we have a long tradition in News of diverse perspectives on all stories, including those on historical civil rights events, and are proud to count Lester Holt, Tamron Hall, Kristen Welker, Rehema Ellis, and Ron Allen among our many African American journalists.  In 2009, we launched The Grio, a news website dedicated to stories of interest and impact to the African American community, which provided extensive coverage leading up to the anniversary.  (

Our special coverage of the President’s speech was anchored by Lester Holt, who was joined by contributor Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a major figure in the civil rights movement, with Al Roker reporting from the Today Show in DC.

We'e been providing coverage leading up the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for the past few weeks, including a special rebroadcast of the August 25, 1963 edition of “Meet the Press” featuring guests Martin Luther King, Jr. and NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins, which originally aired three days before Dr. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.”

We also launched a social media project to called #DreamDay that asked Americans to finish the statement, “I Have a Dream That _____.”  Answers were submitted through video, text and photos with #dreamday and appeared online at and shared throughout the day on August 28 on various NBC Newscasts.  They also appeared on a billboard in Times Square and on screens in the Rockefeller Center Plaza.   Contributions from notable figures included Martin Luther King III, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Levar Burton, and The Dalai Lama, among many others.

Additionally, MSNBC provided extensive 50th Anniversary remembrance coverage beginning Friday, Aug. 23 with a special two-hour "PoliticsNation" hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton live from Washington. Guests included Tom Joyner, Rep. John Lewis, Martin Luther King III, Joseph Lowery, Marc Morial and others. On Sat. Aug. 24, MSNBC presented a full day of special coverage of the 50th Anniversary March live from Washington. MSNBC hosts included Melissa Harris-Perry, Rev. Al Sharpton, Ed Schulz, Karen Finney, Joy-Ann Reid, and Craig Melvin. journalist Trymaine Lee also contributed to the coverage. On Wednesday, August 28, MSNBC had a full schedule of live coverage hosted by Tamron Hall, Joy-Ann Reid, Chris Matthews, Toure and "The Cycle" team. MSNBC offered rare rebroadcasts of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech at both 4p (anchored by Tamron Hall) and at 8p (anchored by Chris Hayes). Both hours included reactions and reflections from a variety of voices including Myrlie Evers-Williams and Rep. Karen Bass. The night concluded with Rachel Maddow talking with Clarence Jones, advisor and speech writer to MLK jr.

Finally, MSNBC will present a special event on Friday, Sept. 6 - "Advancing the Dream: Live from the Apollo." The live broadcast, hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton, will reflect back on the struggles of the past, celebrate current achievements, and look forward to the challenges ahead. Guests will include [Condoleezza] Rice, Stevie Wonder, Tyler Perry, and Magic Johnson among others.

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