Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

"I Don't Care About Journalists," MSNBC President Says

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Phil Griffin Dismisses Idea of Reporting Credentials

New York Magazine Pulls Cartoon on Obama's "Evolution"

What Journalists Can Learn From Whitney Houston's Death

CNN Doesn't Suspend Dana Loesch but Keeps Her Off Air

Traps for Reporters to Avoid in Covering "Linsanity"

San Antonio Station Pitches News as Steamy Telenovela

Short Takes

MSNBC's Phil Griffin discusses the evolution of MSNBC's "Lean Forward" brand in 2010. (Video)

Phil Griffin Dismisses Idea of Reporting Credentials

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."

New York Magazine Pulls Cartoon on Obama's "Evolution"

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.

NY Magazine Obama CartoonThe 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."

L.L. Cool J. leads the audience in prayer at Sunday's Grammy Awards

In a tribute to Whitney Houston, LL Cool J leads the audience in prayer at Sunday's Grammy Awards. (Video) (Credit:

What Journalists Can Learn From Whitney Houston's Death

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.Roy Hobbs

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)

CNN Doesn't Suspend Dana Loesch, but Keeps Her Off Air

"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," Dana LoeschDylan 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'."

Traps for Reporters to Avoid in Covering "Linsanity"

Jeremy Lin"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. . . . "

San Antonio Station Pitches News as Steamy Telenovela

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."

Short Takes

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MSNBC President Phil Griffin's remarks about not prioritizing journalism credentials over smart and talented people with unique perspectives is a core point that NABJ might take to heart. While Griffin's point isn't new (news orgs have a long history of hiring non-journalists, typically those emerging from high profile political positions or affiliations), it does highlight the business decisions media execs make as they compete for eyeballs, sustained levels of loyal audiences and market share that boosts the bottom line.

NABJ advocates for the best interests of its members. In a transitioning media landscape, where entrepreneurship has emerged as a disruptive factor and catapulted numerous new media organizations into job creators, NABJ may do well to heed Griffin's remarks, which dovetail directly with his peers. Instead of NABJ giving a "Thumbs Down" award to a handful of media orgs that haven't conformed to NABJ's perspective of how media orgs should operate their business, perhaps it may be time to recognize the opportunities inherent within its own operation. Perhaps NABJ members have the capacity to become job creators and not merely job seekers. Perhaps Griffin's message is a wakeup call?

Nonsense nothing Griffin

Nonsense nothing Griffin vomited out his mouth warrants affirmation or further explanation. The objectives of seasoned journalism have nothing to do with the themes of market driven entrepreneurship .

Griffin is just mouthpiece with a mission to achieve the corporate objectives of his superiors and peers . NABJ and other advocates I am sure have encountered myopic driven personalities like Griffin reacting to empty suits like Griffin I expect is not a newsflash nor will it require deep posturing.

Journalists from my vantage are not job creators nor job seekers they are journalists!. Clearly it is Griffin and his apologists who need a wake up call.

Phil Griffin: Don't care about Journalists.

So another white media ober-lord doesn't care about journalists of any stripe, much less journalists of color... In today's media climate are we really shocked?  So Griffin wants " fair-minded, smart people who understand the world and can interpret it".... Really? And where's he looking for such folk?

Has he approached highly personable, seasoned, credentialed individuals like Lester Holt or Russ Mitchell? Or maybe a Les Payne, Earl Caldwell or Playthell Benjamin? Maybe they're just too old, seasoned, and — heaven forbid — too much of a strong, black MALE presence (who are not now and never were in the pocket of the FBI) for his comfort level.  Okay, these "powerful" white males seem more "at ease" around our feminine members, so in addition to the Harris-Perry experiment, he might want to recruit such Author-Academic-Journalists as A'lelia Bundles and/or June Cross, just to name a couple of seasoned professionals, who like Holt, Mitchell, Benjamin Caldwell and Payne "understand the world and can interpret it." 

Phil Griffin --Real Journalists Need Not Apply


Please tell Phil Griffin that old dog is asleep on the back porch, in retirement.  He can’t find African-American, Latino, Asian or Native American journalists with gravitas? Yet Griffin handed out slots to Luke Russert?  Jenna Bush? Chelsea Clinton?  All of them are fair-minded and smart? No!  It’s pure nepotism on white bread. Silver spoon legacies.


Griffin needs to ‘fess up. Ultra-conservative, telecommunications giant,  Comcast, is the parent company of NBCUNI. It wields a lot of power over what we see and hear. President Obama can’t get arrested. His news conferences get “peek-a-boo” coverage. But it’s wall-to-wall treatment for the GOP circus. You may recall, Occupy Wall Street was ignored by MSM until several white women were pepper-sprayed by a NYC cop. 


Phil must acknowledge that media frames and limits the messages. Real journalists dig into stories, uncover truths, bring balance.  Hiring inexperience saves money. It’s like training Pavlov’s dog. Dumb them down early. They become automatons, spewing corporate talking points. History and nuance are lost on the newbies.


Griffin, IMO, has credentials--he is the Peacock’s newest cipher. 




Roy Hobbs

Hobbs' column is very insightful. But he and other addicts are "Earth" people, they worked too hard to convince the world that they come from no place else but here. To err is human. Sad news about Whitney, too much talent and too much to live for to die like that. I'm just learning, or completely forgot the work she did against Apartheid during the Reagan years. This is nothing to sneeze at considering Reagan's very effective campaign to normalize racism and eliminate guilt. All those smart-ass remarks conservative whites sneer today in the face of facts about racism was inspired by him. A very bold and risky move by her during a time when she was becoming a media darling. Nelson Mandela loved her for it. I'm sure she is in a better place now.

MSNBC Griffin Comments

Ok so now we know what and how they're thinking so let's do a multi-strategy approach.  Let's start mentoring black folks on how to go the commentator/contributor route with more interpretive personality while continung to push traditional black journalists to take on a more new media style of reporting, editing and presenting.  We just have to be more flexible.

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