Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Hollow Promises on Diversity?

Send by email
Monday, December 6, 2004

Post-Unity, Industry Appears Not to Be "Serious"

"Diversity, they pledged, was a priority. It is good for everyone and crucial to the industry?s future. Diversity, they promised, would become an important part of the corporate strategy. They held receptions, invited the 'minorities' in town, and toasted our gathering," writes Ernest Sotomayor, outgoing president of Unity: Journalists of Color, in a "letter to the industry."

"Those were the messages that industry executives by the hundreds from print, television, radio and online conveyed to us at UNITY 2004," he said.

In the time "since we adjourned the largest convention of journalists ever held, it is difficult to see just how serious some in the industry are about making our newsroom look more like our nation?s population."

Sotomayor, who presided at the summer convention of 8,000 journalists, goes on to cite a recent wave of setbacks to diversity, including actions at the Washington Post, CNN and the City University of New York, and turnover in the broadcast networks' anchor chairs.

And, of course, there is the impact of layoffs.

"The one place that media companies don't have a problem in boosting our numbers is when it comes to job eliminations, where often people of color are the last ones in and the first to go, or leave because they see so little chance for advancement in an companies still widely dominated by whites," said Sotomayor, who is Long Island editor of

Sotomayor's term as Unity president ends Dec. 31, when he is to be succeeded by Mae Cheng, outgoing president of the Asian American Journalists Association, who works as an editor at Newsday's New York edition.

Brian Williams Clarifies; Doesn't Satisfy NABJ

As reported Monday, new "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams said "we have bigger problems" when asked this question in the November issue of United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine: "There are few women and people of color in top jobs at news organizations. How do we address this lack of diversity?"

Responding to an inquiry from Journal-isms, Williams sought to clarify his statement by saying that he meant that there were more important jobs than those in the news media.

But that answer did not satisfy the National Association of Black Journalists, which issued a statement today. Vice president/broadcast Barbara Ciara said Williams' remarks "could hurt the tenuous image of NBC News, as well as those of other network news organizations, with regard to newsroom diversity."

In turn, the negative reaction prompted a response late today from Neal Shapiro president of NBC News, reiterating the network's commitment to diversity.

In the Hemispheres interview, Williams said:

"We have bigger problems. There are no black members of the U.S. Senate. We should keep some perspective on this. Nevertheless, I am constantly interested to hear of examples in our coverage where viewers think we got it wrong in one way or another because of a skewed viewpoint."

In his response Tuesday to Journal-isms, he said through a spokeswoman:

"I was merely expressing my belief that there are equally important leadership positions in our society than those we in the media may occupy. Since we report policy and do not decide it, our elected representatives are our first stop in the search for equality. Everything I've ever done in my professional life has been aimed at equality in the workplace, as those who've shared newsrooms with me will tell you."

NABJ was not the only journalism organization to criticize Williams' original statement. It was among those cited by Unity President Ernest Sotomayor as examples of the lack of seriousness about diversity in the news business.

Today's NABJ statement also said: "While NABJ applauds NBC for tapping Paula Madison as a top executive -? she is president and general manager of KNBC-TV (Los Angeles) and formerly vice president and senior vice president of diversity for NBC -? NABJ Region III Director Elliott Lewis pointed out the network, like its competitors, continues to struggle to keep journalists of color. Joe Johns, Dan Lothian, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O'Brien and Fredricka Whitfield have all left for another network."

Late today, Shapiro issued this statement to Journal-isms:

"As the person in charge of hiring at NBC News, I'm very concerned with diversity at all levels, including our on-air reporting and our behind-the-scenes hires. I'm particularly proud of the distinguished journalists who are African American who have recently joined our ranks, including Kevin Corke, Rosalind Jordan and Michael Okwu, and of the promotion of Lester Holt to co-anchor at 'Weekend Today'."

ABC News' Vargas Girl Asks: Why So Few Women in Prime Time? (Joe Hagan, New York Observer)

Howard U. to Boast First Black College Daily

The Hilltop, the student newspaper at Howard University, plans to become the nation's first black daily college newspaper on Feb. 28, editor-in-chief Ruth Tisdale said today.

Tisdale told Journal-isms that the step was approved today by the organization's policy board, a panel of administrators, students and journalism professors of about two dozen members. Apart from bragging rights, producing a daily gives students experience that more closely parallels what they will face when they graduate.

In 2001, The Hilltop began publishing twice weekly. Before that, it came out once a week.

This year, in a national survey of students by the Princeton Review, The Hilltop received the most votes as best on a college campus.

Tisdale said she had raised the issue of going daily with the policy board in November and worked on a committee to explore the idea further. Today, with about 15 members present, the policy board gave the OK.

"When I first brought it up to the staff, it was like, 'wow,'" she said. "I told them it was going to be more work, but an . . . opportunity to take a leap forward in the black press. The staff was enthusiastic about going forward."

The paper was co-founded and named by novelist Zora Neale Hurston in 1924.

While The Hilltop is making plans to publish daily and a few other papers at historically black colleges appear at least weekly, a number of others struggle to publish twice a month, if that. Some face issues of interference by administrators and student governments. Most notably, Hampton University's Hampton Script was seized by administrators last year; this year the School of Journalism, under new dean Tony Brown, has sought to distance itself from the paper.

All the News Doesn't Make It to Print (Pearl Stewart, Black Issues in Higher Education)

Tony Cox Wants Tavis Smiley's NPR Host Job

Tony Cox, the substitute host on National Public Radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show," says he wants to replace Smiley, who has announced he is leaving the show Dec. 16.

NPR plans to continue the show with Cox at least until Jan. 7 and will conduct a nationwide search for a new host, David Umansky, NPR's vice president for communications, said last week.

"I intend to apply for the host job like everyone else," Cox told Journal-isms. "If it were not for Tavis, I would not be here. Now that he's leaving, I'm on my own."

In addition to his work on the Smiley show, Cox is a tenure-track assistant professor of television, film and media studies at California State Los Angeles; does television work for the Los Angeles Unified School District; and edits the newsletter of the Minorities and Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC), an organization of journalism instructors. He began his career in 1969.

"None of it is really permanent," Cox said of his various jobs. And if he doesn't get the host position, "I would like to be a contributor in some way, shape or fashion," he said.

NPR would not say how many have applied for Smiley's job. "It is NPR policy not to reveal the names of individuals nor the number of applicants who seek positions at NPR," said spokesman Chad Campbell.

For Latinos, "Whiteness" Called Generational

"Hispanics see race as a measure of belonging, and whiteness as a measure of inclusion, or of perceived inclusion," reports the Pew Hispanic Center, releasing a report Monday called "Shades of Belonging."

"The report reveals that Latinos' choice to identify as white, or not, does not exclusively reflect permanent markers such as skin color or hair texture but that race is also related to characteristics that can change, such as economic status and perceptions of civic enfranchisement. Whiteness is clearly associated with distance from the immigrant experience.

"Thus, the U.S.-born children of immigrants are more likely to declare themselves white than their foreign-born parents, and the share of whiteness is higher still among the grandchildren of immigrants. In addition, the acquisition of U.S. citizenship is associated with whiteness," the center said.

The center is headed by Roberto Suro, former reporter at the New York Times and Washington Post.

Deadline Passes for Newsday Buyouts

Staffers at Newsday had until 5 p.m. today to make a final decision about whether to accept buyouts from the paper.

Of the 50 in the newsroom who had signaled their willingness to take them, 10 were black journalists.

John Mancini, new editor of the paper, said he was not ready to disclose which staffers were on the final list.

However, black journalists who have confirmed to Journal-isms that they are leaving include Regina Holmes, assistant city editor in the New York office; columnist Katti Gray of the features section; Dele Olojede, the former foreign editor who is now an Africa correspondent, and staff writer Erin Texeira. Another black journalist, Mira Lowe, said she had been on the original list but changed her mind.

"Despite all the posturing, the powers that be are not the least bit disturbed about the mass exodus by so many blacks," Holmes told Journal-isms today.

"Why Is Your Black Staff So Upset?"

The first question for Milton Coleman, the Washington Post's deputy managing editor, in an online chat today was: "Mr. Coleman, we've all been reading about the changes at the Post and once again it seems the paper has racial tensions on its staff. To an outsider, the paper seems to be a model of how to communicate with both black and white readers. You cover both communities so comprehensively. Why is your black staff so upset with their own paper?"

Coleman replied: "Diversifying a newsroom and a [newspaper] is a continuous process. There always are fault lines. WE are fortunate at The Post to have staff members of all types--the most recent group included journalists of all races and genders--who want to make THEIR newsroom and THEIR newspaper better. WE welcome their views and are glad they feel they can communicate their thoughts to us."

He was later asked, "I recall your role in reporting on Jesse Jackson's famous 'Hymie Town' remark years and years ago. Do you miss reporting? Would you return to it? (And does Rev. Jackson still speak to you?)"

Coleman replied: "Not that much, maybe and yes."

Meanwhile, Washington Post news managers met for about two hours today discussing the document presented last week by staff members on improving diversity at the paper, and how they would follow up.

Mei-Ling Hopgood Shares Investigative Prize

"A seven-part investigative report that revealed the widespread violence directed at Peace Corps volunteers won the 2004 ICIJ Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting," reads a news release from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity.

"For their Dayton Daily News series, 'Casualties of Peace,' Russell Carollo and Mei-Ling Hopgood traveled around the world, interviewing more than 500 people in 11 countries, to detail the danger of sending volunteers to some of the most dangerous corners of the world. After filing more than 75 Freedom of Information Act requests, the Dayton Daily News ultimately sued the Peace Corps in federal court to free public records that document assaults against volunteers."

New California Media Honors Ethnic Journalism

La Opinion, Nuevo Mundo, ColorLines, Sing Tao Daily and the columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson are among the winners honored in the 6th Annual New California Media Awards contest.

The awards honor news organizations and individuals in print, online, radio and television who serve Californiaís ethnic minority and newcomer communities.

List of winners

Publishers Name Their "20 Under 40"

Alfredo Carbajal-Madrid, managing editor of Al Dia, the Spanish-language offshoot of the Dallas Morning News; Warren C. Dews Jr., circulation director of the Star-Gazette in Elmira, N.Y.; and Rasheeda S. Hakeem, advertising business manager of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, are among those making the Newspaper Association of America's annual "20 Under 40" list.

"Through the efforts of this year's honorees and many more like them, we illustrate a stark counterpoint to the common perception of newspapers as aging dinosaurs," writes Javier J. Aldape, publisher of La Estrella, the Spanish-language product of Texas' Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in introducing the 20.

"Instead, you will find innovation, vision and drive."

Indictments Accuse 2 of Attempted Blackmail

"The two men accused of trying to blackmail Channel 7 morning news anchor Hosea Sanders were indicted this week on four counts of intimidation and two counts of attempted theft. James Brown, 25, and Joseph Cantrell, 22, have a Dec. 14 court date," Robert Feder reported Friday in his Chicago Sun-Times column.

"Brown and Cantrell allegedly threatened to expose drug use and other incriminating details about Sanders unless he paid them $5,000. Police arrested the two in a sting operation Nov. 3."

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.