"I Don't Care About Journalists," MSNBC President Says
Monday, February 13, 2012
MSNBC's Phil Griffin discusses the evolution of MSNBC's "Lean Forward" brand in 2010. (Video)
Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, has an answer for such groups as the National Association of Black Journalists, which have advocated for journalists of color as hosts and anchors on cable news shows:
"I'm sorry, I don't care about journalists. … I want fair-minded, smart people who understand the world and can interpret it," Griffin told media writer Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times.
"If they're journalists, great. This notion that you somehow you have to have done something to earn so-called journalists' credentials? Stop."
The remark by Griffin, a onetime producer at CNN and NBC, is reminiscent of a statement in July by Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, who all but said that the on-air journalists of color it employs are not ready for prime time. He deployed Mark Whitaker, the former Newsweek editor who became a CNN news executive, to talk with NABJ about finding more suitable ones, but none has surfaced.
Griffin made his remarks in a story by Deggans about MSNBC's hiring of Melissa Harris-Perry, a Tulane University professor, author and contributor to the Nation magazine, as a weekend-morning host on MSNBC. She starts Saturday.
"Her ascension also helps answer a prominent critique of MSNBC and cable TV news channels in general: that they aren't diverse enough in important, on-camera anchor jobs," Deggans wrote.
"Before civil rights activist Al Sharpton began hosting his PoliticsNation show last year, MSNBC didn't have a person of color anchoring a show anywhere near the high-profile prime time news hours. Competitors CNN and Fox News still haven't broken that color line, though all channels have anchors of color who appear in the morning or afternoon and on weekends.
". . . Last month, the National Association of Black Journalists announced its 2011 Thumbs Down award for worst practices in journalism would go to all the major cable news channels, for their inability to hire African-American journalists to appear in prime time hours (generally defined as 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.).
"(Full disclosure: I am currently head of the NABJ's Media Monitoring Committee and served on the panel when it recommended candidates for this award.)
"But that perspective didn't sit well with MSNBC president Griffin, who insists Sharpton's show falls inside MSNBC's definition of prime time — 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. — while pointing to efforts to develop a bench of African-American guest hosts who might become full-time anchors.
"Besides Harris-Perry and Sharpton, MSNBC has featured Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson as guest hosts or contributors on the channel.
"While critics like me and groups such as NABJ worry that just one among those four black people under development is a professional journalist, Griffin swats away that notion as unfairly limiting and borderline elitist."
In its January announcement of the Thumbs Down award, NABJ said, "It is important to note that NABJ draws a distinction between personalities working as anchors or hosts and journalists, nearly all whom have disappeared from primetime anchor chairs."
- Huffington Post: MSNBC Chief Phil Griffin: 'I Don't Care About Journalists'
- Zerlina Maxwell, theGrio.com: Al Sharpton defends Melissa Harris Perry from Cornel West's 'arrogant' and 'disingenuous' attacks
- Brian Stelter, New York Times: At MSNBC, a Professor as TV Host
- Dr. Boyce Watkins, yourblackworld.net: Cornel West is Right about Melissa Harris-Perry Being a Fraud (video)
New York magazine Monday removed an online parody of an often-used illustration depicting the evolution of man after African Americans and others complained that picturing President Obama with lower primates harkened to racist imagery.
The cartoon accompanied "Obama Gay Marriage Evolution: Day 468," a "Daily Intel" section opinion by Dan Amira, an associate editor, critical of Obama's stance on gay marriage. It shows Obama holding a rainbow flag.
"Since he first ran for the White House, the president has responded to questions about his stance on LGBT rights by saying that his position on gay marriage is 'evolving,' " Sam Stein noted in the Huffington Post.
New York published this editor's note Monday:
"This post originally used a variation on an iconic illustration of the evolution of man, known as the ‘March of Progress’, which concluded with an image of President Obama holding a rainbow flag. The illustration was intended simply as a symbolic representation of the President's self-described 'evolution' on gay rights, but has been criticized for its similarity to various racist depictions of the President and African-Americans in general.
"While that was not the context of the image (in fact, Daily Intel has criticized such representations before), we recognize that images of this nature do carry troubling associations, and so it's been removed from the post. We apologize for the offense it has caused."
In a tribute to Whitney Houston, LL Cool J leads the audience in prayer at Sunday's Grammy Awards. (Video) (Credit: Grammy.com)
Roy Hobbs, a veteran journalist, was a weekend television anchor in Birmingham, Ala., when he was busted on drug charges in April 2010, his name splashed across local news media. "I was trying to commit suicide," Hobbs told Journal-isms later.
Entertainer Whitney Houston was found underwater and apparently unconscious in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel where she was pronounced dead Saturday night, police said.
Authorities said they could not speculate on what might have caused or contributed to her death, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein reported Monday in the Los Angeles Times, but several prescription drugs were found in Houston's hotel room.
Los Angeles County coroner's officials said it is too soon to say whether the medications played any role in the singer's death. "Authorities have said that they are trying to determine whether she drowned and that determining a cause of death could take weeks," the reporters wrote.
In reading, watching and listening to the reports about Houston, Hobbs, 58, saw parallels between his story and hers. Since his 2010 arrest, he has been in recovery, his case has been dismissed, he is newly engaged and he is "looking for a second chance."
Hobbs explains in this essay for Journal-isms.
By Roy Hobbs
The death of Whitney Houston is the cause of great pain for me. I can identify completely with her story because in many respects it mirrors mine. It is a story of professional success wrapped by disappointments in her personal life. It involves trying to live up to a perception.
I am not a superstar or a onetime sweetheart of the world. What Whitney and I had in common is that we were both addicts. As we look at her story, we might look at ourselves and do what my father tried to teach me: Walk a mile in the other man's shoes.
As journalists, we need to use this terrible loss to bring the issue of depression and addiction out of the darkness. By shining a light, we have the chance to defeat it. Those of us in recovery need to tell our stories and educate people about addiction.
We know all too well about pressures. Deadline pressures, often several times a day. Many times when the long day is done, we throw down a few. Imagine the pressure superstars like Whitney face.
I have no way of knowing all that was going on in Whitney's life, but based on news articles, I see parallels. I am in a very public position, a television news anchor/reporter, who, I am told, is very good at my job. I went through a terrible divorce, as did she with Bobby Brown. I lost my job and my income. She was allegedly broke and had lost her instrument for making a living, her voice.
Those are the seeds of depression. I know. That changes your brain chemistry if suffered for a prolonged period. Most times you don't even know you suffer from it. I didn't. It is truly a silent killer and it nearly killed me. Most family members and friends don't know you're suffering from depression, let alone what to do about it.
Was that the case for Whitney?
Like her, I am an addict. It was hard to accept that at first. It was not what my parents, my children, my friends or I thought I would become.
Addiction is a disease. I didn't know that when I was in active addiction. I thought it was my lack of will or morals.
I fought for years with that mistaken belief. It took me to the bowels of society, and as a respected member of my community, I fought hard to hide it. But the disease took over and despite my every effort, I could not stop.
Addiction is a progressive disease. It might start out as fun, but the ends are always the same — jails, institutions or death.
I went through all three, except when I tried to kill myself, death would not take me. I thought death would free me from my pain, my shame, my hurt.
Today, I know I would only have passed all of that to my children and friends. They would have suffered all that I would have left behind.
Whitney and I could have shared that bleak outlook. But there is another significant difference between us. She never got into recovery. By the grace of God, I did. Otherwise, I too would be gone.
Something greater than me had other plans. I was fortunate enough to go into treatment. It was there that I learned that I suffered from major depression. I was put on medication and it made a difference.
I learned that addicts don't have what "Earth" people have in their brains. "Earth" people have a green "go" button and a red "stop" button. Addicts have only a green "go" button. Once we start, we can't stop.
Based on what I have learned about Whitney, she might not have had a red "stop" button. Recognizing that is the first step to recovery, I cannot do what “Earth” people do. I needed to join a self-help group to be around people like me and hear their experience, gaining strength and hope.
News reports say Whitney went to rehab twice, yet during Grammy week celebrations, she was drinking.
I don't know where Whitney was spiritually, but I had to seek out a connection with a power greater than myself. Some choose to call that a connection with God. I needed that because active addiction left me spiritually empty. Those were just the first steps because I will be an addict for the rest of my life. The difference now is I am a recovering addict. Has it been easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.
It hurt me deeply when I learned that Whitney Houston passed away. What hurts me most of all was that she was not in recovery, because I know she was experiencing deep pain. I pray that she has found her peace outside of her imperfect human body. I pray that she is surrounded with love.
I hope we as journalists write stories that give people hope that they can recover their lives. Show us people who are doing just that.
Who knows how many can be saved?
Roy Hobbs can be reached at hobbscom (at) gmail.com.
- Sil Lai Abrams, Ebony.com: Addiction: the Stranger in the Family
- Chris Ariens, TVNewser: ‘World News’ to Run Extended Portions of 2002 Whitney Houston Interview
- James Crugnale, mediaite.com: Tony Bennett Calls For Legalization Of Drugs Following Whitney Houston’s Death
- Davey D, hiphopandpolitics.com: If We Wanna Honor Whitney, How About We End Addictions?
- Natalie Finn, Baker Machado and Claudia Rosenbaum, eonline: How Much Was Whitney Houston Worth When She Died?
- Toni Fitzgerald, medialifemagazine.com: Huge tune-in to honor Whitney Houston
- Josh Halliday, the Guardian, U.K.: Whitney Houston album price hike sparks controversy
- Hollywood Reporter: Oprah Winfrey to Air Whitney Houston Special on OWN
- "koolking83," Chicago Now blog: We learn from Whitney Houston's drug addiction, not her voice
- Brent Lang, the Wrap.com: Whitney Houston's Death: Why the Media Sidestepped the Lurid Details
- Mike McClanahan, cbs42.com, Birmingham, Ala.: News anchor recounts battle with addiction
- Mark Anthony Neal with Amy Goodman, "Democracy Now!" Pacifica Radio: Whitney Houston Remembered for Unprecedented Crossover Success
- Gene Seymour, CNN: Whitney Houston, special from the start
- Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Whitney Houston Death Drives Viewers to Cable News, CNN In Particular
"CNN's decision to suspend Roland Martin last week brought a new wave of concerns from some viewers (especially many in the African American community) who wondered why the network had not treated controversial comments from other political contributors in the same way," Dylan Byers wrote Monday for Politico.
"For the record, CNN did stop booking Dana Loesch for two-and-a-half weeks after she made comments championing U.S. Marines for urinating on Taliban soldiers and suggesting that she would have done the same."
She made the remarks on Jan. 12.
"Adam," a blogger for the St. Louis Activist Hub, noted, however, that Loesch appeared on "CNN Newsroom" with Kyra Phillips on Jan. 30, "and unsurprisingly, she used the opportunity to further damage CNN's credibility.
". . . First, despite breaking up with the St. Louis Tea Party, Loesch is appealing to the group she created, the 'Gateway Grassroots Initiative,' to establish her 'expertise' on conservative activism. Second, she's shamelessly using CNN to promote her 'group'."
- Jasmyne A. Cannick, syndicated: Has Pink Rage Trumped Common Sense in Black America?
- David Carr, New York Times: Twitter Is All in Good Fun, Until It Isn’t
- Cord Jefferson, bet.com: GLAAD Isn’t Anti-Black
- Trymaine Lee, HuffPost BlackVoices: Roland Martin's Controversial Tweets Draw Attention To Issues Faced By LGBT Blacks, Activists Say
"Like most sports fans (and many non-sports fans, for that matter), I’ve been caught up in Linsanity," Tom Huang wrote Monday for the Poynter Institute.
"That’s the term fans use to describe Jeremy Lin’s stunning breakout performance as point guard for the New York Knicks.
". . . What’s unusual about Lin’s story is that he is a Harvard graduate and an American of Taiwanese descent. There haven’t been that many Harvard graduates in the NBA. And, as best as I can tell, there have been only three or four Asian Americans in the league before Lin.
". . . Even as Lin breaks stereotypes, let’s watch out for subtle stereotyping in our coverage.
"I’ve seen Lin described as a quiet and thoughtful young man, as a hard worker. All of this may be true, and who wouldn’t want to be described that way? These are positive traits, and they speak to Lin’s good character.
"The problem, though, is that many of these traits are typically ascribed to Asian Americans in a stereotypical way. We in the media often don’t go beyond these surface descriptions to try to understand who the individual is.
"The fact of the matter is that Lin appears to be a natural leader — not just a quiet, hard worker. It would be interesting to explore how he has established that leadership on a team of NBA stars in such a short time.
"I’ve also seen Lin described as a 'shifty' shotmaker. I’m sure the writer’s intent was good; he was trying to describe how Lin uses various feints to get open shots against his defenders. But the writer also needs to be aware of the history of describing Asians as shifty — using deceit to gain an advantage. . . . "
- Eric Adelson, thepostgame.com: Floyd Mayweather Hits Jeremy Lin On Race
- Josh Parr, New America Media: Jeremy Lin and Bruce Lee
- William Wong, SFGate.com: Am I Linsane? You betcha!
- Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal: Jeremy Lin’s Pop Culture Slam Dunk
- Dave Zirin, the Nation: Feel the Lin-sanity: Why Jeremy Lin Is More Than a Cultural Curio
A San Antonio television station is hoping to attract more viewers by pitching the news in the style of a telenovela.
Good idea? Depends on whom you ask.
"I know some of you may say this feeds into stereotypes of Mexicans," Rebecca Aguilar wrote last week on the Latino Communicators site. "As a journalist and Mexican American, I don’t have a problem with it. They brought a little Latino flavor into its news promos and had fun with it. And if they had to highlight gorgeous Latinas along the way — fantastic.
"Let’s get real; who didn’t grow up with mom or 'abuelita' glued to her telenovelas. Kudos to WOAI’s promotions department for producing a memorable news promo."
Veronica Villafañe, founder of the Media Moves site, thought differently. "Who was the bird brain who produced this news promo at WOAI in San Antonio? And how could anchor Elsa Ramon play along?" she asked Monday.
"I usually don’t inject opinions on this site, but this is so unbelievably stupid, I just couldn’t help it."
Blogger Laura Martinez described it Friday as "sh*t this blogger couldn’t make up even if she tried."
- The Associated Press has posted information about its now-resumed paid journalism internships for the summer of 2012. They take place "in 10 U.S. cities (including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) and 10 international locations (including London, Jerusalem, Seoul, Mexico City, Rome, Bangkok, Johannesburg, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow)." The application deadline is March 2.
- The Associated Press Monday added an entry on "illegitimate" to its stylebook. "Do not refer to the child of unmarried parents as illegitimate. If it is pertinent to the story, at all, use an expression such as whose mother was not married, whose parents were not married or was born to an unmarried teenager." Mallary Jean Tenore of the Poynter Institute reported Monday that Julie Drizin, director of the Journalism Center on Children & Families, asked journalists last week to stop using the term “illegitimate."
- "A new study of advertising in news by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that, currently, even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online," Katerina Eva Matsa, Kenny Olmstead, Amy Mitchell and Tom Rosenstiel wrote Monday for the project. "The digital advertising they do get appears to be standard ads that are available across many websites. And with only a handful of exceptions, the ads on news sites tend not to be targeted based on the interests of users, the strategy that many experts consider key to the future of digital revenue."
- "In the year since peaceful protests began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, the government has targeted the press corps with assault, detention, harassment, and torture to obstruct their coverage," Khalid Ibrahim wrote Monday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "My organization, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, has documented a systematic campaign by authorities to silence coverage of our country's unrest."
- "There's plenty of evidence that watching TV can help people put the pounds on. Now Comcast and UnitedHealth Group, a health insurer and services provider, are going to see whether TV can help take some off," Stacey Burling wrote Saturday for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "As part of a pilot study available only in Philadelphia and Knoxville, Tenn., later this month, Comcast will offer customers at risk of developing diabetes a chance to participate in a scientific study that uses a reality show on its Video on Demand service as well as Internet and telephone monitoring and coaching, plus Wifi-enabled scales that transmit viewers' weights to study leaders in Minnesota."
- Retired ABC News anchor Carole Simpson is to receive a Legacy Award at Black Enterprise’s 7th Annual Women of Power Summit Feb. 15-18 in Orlando. Speakers include Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior commodities correspondent and personal finance correspondent. Black Enterprise spokesman Andrew Wadium told Journal-isms that headliner Dionne Warwick will not appear as advertised.
- Media Matters for America, founded by David Brock in 2004 "as a liberal counterweight to 'conservative misinformation' in the press . . . has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics," Tucker Carlson, Vince Coglianese, Alex Pappas and Will Rahn wrote Monday for the Daily Caller. "The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country. . . . . According to an internal memo obtained by TheDC, Media Matters intends to spend nearly $20 million in 2012 to influence news coverage."
- In Trinidad and Tobago, "Nine officers of the police Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau raided the offices of the newspaper Newsday on 9 February," Reporters Without Borders reported on Monday. "Their target was the journalist Andre Bagoo who wrote an article about a dispute between Ken Gordon, the chairman of the Integrity Commission, and his deputy Gladys Gafoor. . . . Bagoo had refused to reveal his sources as ordered in a letter sent by the police on 20 January. Documents, three computers and two cell phones belonging to the journalist were seized in the raid and his home was also searched."
- In Bangladesh, "The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the death of two TV journalists in Dhaka and calls on Bangladeshi authorities to act speedily to bring the perpetrators to justice," the Committee said. "The bodies of Golam Mustofa Sarowar and his wife, Meherun Runi, were found by their 5-year-old son on Saturday morning, news reports said. ". . . Local journalists demonstrated at the National Press Club on Saturday afternoon and again on Monday, protesting the deaths of the two journalists. Bangladesh is among the worst nations in the world in combating deadly anti-press violence."
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