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An Incoming Editor Touts Diversity

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Marcus Brauchli, incoming Washington Post executive editor, speaks Tuesday to the Post newsroom after 24 years at the Wall Street Journal. He will succeed Leonard Downie Jr., watching in the background. 'Diversity of background brings diversity of ideas brings diversity of coverage,' he said in an interview. (The Washington Post)  

Tough Times Not Seen as Barrier to Broadening Pool

Amid alarms that economic troubles are putting newsroom diversity on the back burner, Marcus Brauchli, the incoming executive editor of the Washington Post, maintained Wednesday that diversity of all kinds should be a core value in a news organization, that there is no contradiction between seeking diversity and struggling with tough times, and that racial diversity need not be subjugated when seeking diversity of age, gender, economic class and other characteristics.

"Diversity of background brings diversity of ideas brings diversity of coverage," Brauchli told Journal-isms. That, in turn, can "improve the vision of the news."

Brauchli, 47, was named to the Post's top newsroom job on Monday, the first from outside the corporation since shortly after new publisher Katharine Weymouth's great-grandfather Eugene Meyer bought the paper at a bankruptcy sale in 1933, as Howard Kurtz noted in the Post after the announcement.

Brauchli became managing editor of the Wall Street Journal in May 2007 and remained there until April, when new owner Rupert Murdoch forced him out. Brauchli's views on diversity are important because while both news organizations are nationally influential, the Post is viewed by some as a leader in implementing the concept and, according to Journal staffers, the Journal is not.

"Frankly, I don't know how he feels about diversity," Wall Street Journal Washington reporter Gary Fields, who is black, told Journal-isms. "I don't think it's a big secret that diversity doesn't seem to be the priority or talking point it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but generally, as an outsider, I've always seen the Post as being one of the most diverse papers out there in terms of its staff. That perception, at least, remains true even at a time when minorities have been leaving the bigger news organizations, so he has a better foundation there to work from than probably most other places."

Brauchli rejected the notion that diversity was not considered important at the Journal. "It's a huge priority," he said. "We have tried very hard at the Journal. The Journal has always placed a priority on having a diverse newsroom. It was not an easy thing to do. There are not nearly enough people of diverse backgrounds interested" in the news business, he said, adding that "we all have an obligation to help bring people in.

"People of certain backgrounds tend to bring in people of the same or similar backgrounds," he added, and the newsroom compositions "tend to be self-perpetuating."

Even so, Brauchli acknowledged, "We have not been as effective and successful as we would like to have been."

Brauchli spoke from New York, where he was about to attend a pre-Unity mixer of the Asian American Journalists Association's New York chapter. He said he had attended a Unity convention with his chief newsroom recruiter, Cathy Panagoulias, now a deputy managing editor, but would not be at this month's gathering in Chicago because he is "between business cards." Brauchli does not start at the Post until Sept. 8, and he said he could not discuss diversity at the Post specifically until he arrived there.

However, Weymouth, his boss, told Journal-isms, "No doubt it will be an important priority for him."

The Post reported 25.1 percent journalists of color in the 2008 survey of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, with the largest portion - 13.5 percent - African American. The Journal reported 20.4 percent, with the largest portion - 9.1 percent - Asian American.

Former Journal colleagues described Brauchli as open-minded and with a strong desire to prove himself at the Post after the clash with Murdoch, whose successful bid for the Journal preoccupied the newsroom the entire time Brauchli held the job. As one whose career has mostly seen him abroad as a foreign correspondent, the colleagues also said, Brauchli is sophisticated enough to know the world is not composed of white males.

He had been national editor, but the paper gives its subeditors such autonomy that it was difficult to make an impact on diversity, according to these colleagues, and he wasn't managing editor long enough to do so, they contended. Brauchli disagrees, but they said the culture did not place a strong enough priority on diversity when it involved African Americans.

Still, Constance Mitchell-Ford, a black journalist who is the Journal's real estate and property bureau chief, said, "I like Marcus a lot. He learns fast and is used to adjusting to different environments. He tried to get the other editors to think outside the box."

Raju Narisetti, a former Journal editor who is now editor in India of the Mint, published in partnership with the Journal, told Journal-isms that, "While Marcus was in the top news role at The Wall Street Journal for too short a period to have a visible, long-term impact on diversity, his track record with women, non-whites, non-Americans is quite solid from the time he has been in a position to hire and juggle roles at WSJ as National Editor.

"Managing Editors of Asian and European journals," he continued, referring to overseas editions of the paper, "both decisions where Marcus played the decisive role, are female/black respectively as are several bureau chiefs, some of whom took on those roles during the time Marcus played a key role in such decisions along with Paul Steiger and Dan Hertzberg.

"Because of his diverse experiences, including significant foreign stints, Marcus brings not just your conventional skin-color and ethnic diversity issues to bear but also a much more global approach to diversity," Narisetti, who is of South Asian background, said by e-mail.

"As someone who has worked closely with Marcus for nearly a decade, I can pretty categorically say his role at the Washington Post will also see the newsroom there - both print and online - become a lot more diverse in its appearance but, more importantly, in its thinking and its ability to serve a diverse Washington-based readership (via Washington Post), a smaller but important non-Washington yet US readership (again via Washington Post and its online version) as well as a global readership that turns to the Washington Post (via washingtonpost.com) for an understanding of American policy and politics as well the American view of geopolitics around the world."

Udayan Gupta, a South Asian who wrote for Black Enterprise magazine before starting a 12-year stint at the Journal in 1985, told Journal-isms that the business press in general does not place a priority on diversity. "The real issues are about jobs, about economic development, about homelessness," he said. "It's not about Lou Dobbs beating up on people of color for taking jobs away," he said, referring to the CNN anchor. "They just don't have the manpower and they just don't arrange for the manpower" to cover "diversity across the global divide," he said.

The business press should be looking at how the subprime mortgage crisis affected black businesses, he said, and giving more coverage to the work of Denise L. Nappier, the Connecticut state treasurer and the nation's only African American woman in that role. She is changing the state's investment strategy to invest more heavily in emerging markets, such as China, India, Malaysia and Brazil, as well as further investment in developed foreign markets, the Hartford Courant recently reported.

Nappier oversees the $26 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.

"It's always been an issue at the Journal how you treat minorities," Gupta said. "The few people who were there have never really fought for it. In many other situations, you have pressure from advertisers or readers."

Brauchli said it was he and Panagoulias who were fighting for diversity, and that it was part of his management philosophy. "I don't see a contradiction between finding economic efficiency in newsrooms and reducing costs and trying to be diverse," he said. "If you're hiring, you can bring in people of different backgrounds. We hired whom we hired from the available talent pool that we had. We always made it a top priority and put a lot of (effort) into doing it well. It's hard work."
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Jesse Jackson Remarks Light Up Slow News Day

Blogs and cable news networks were abuzz Wednesday evening with word that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had uttered an unmentionable phrase about Sen. Barack Obama for which Jackson issued a swift apology.

"Reverend Jackson, why did you say these things? Because it's so crude, we can't even repeat it on the air right now, what you said on this open mike," CNN's Wolf Blitzer said on "The Situation Room."

"What was going through your mind?"

It reached its apex on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News Channel, where host Bill O'Reilly played a tape of the whispered remarks, captured by the microphone nonetheless.

On Fox News Channel, Bill O'Reilly replayed Jesse Jackson's remarks.

"FOX released excerpts of the video, including one where Jackson whispers that Obama is 'talking down to black people.' It is also reported that Jackson at one point talks about Obama having part of his male anatomy 'cut off' - something that FOX's Bill O'Reilly . . . was featuring on 'The O'Reilly Factor' this evening," as John McCormick and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune blog, "The Swamp."

"Jackson would not directly say whether he thought FOX should air the unscripted moment, but he did not blame the media for reporting the incident. 'That's a decision you guys have to make,' he said. 'It's my responsibility. It's not yours.'"

Fox reported that Jackson thought he was having a private conversation before a FOX News interview Sunday.

"Jackson was speaking to a guest at the time about Obama's speeches in black churches and his support for faith-based charities. Jackson added before going live, 'I want to cut his nuts off.'

"His microphone picked up the remarks."

"Jackson said in a written statement he was trying to emphasize that Obama's moral message should 'not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy.'

"Jackson said the conversation 'does not reflect any disparagement on my part for the historic event in which we are involved or my pride in Senator Barack Obama, who is leading it, whom I have supported by crisscrossing this nation in every level of media and audience from the beginning in absolute terms.'

O'Reilly told viewers, "We're not out to get Jesse Jackson. We're not out to make him look bad," otherwise, Fox would not have edited the remarks. But he asked guests Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune columnist, and radio commentator Warren Ballentine whether Jackson might not be jealous of Obama and that he would lose stature if Obama were elected.

Page assured O'Reilly that if Obama won the White House, Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton would not fade away.

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Chicago Tribune to Cut 80 Newsroom Positions

"The Chicago Tribune began informing staff Tuesday it will eliminate around 80 of its current 578 newsroom positions by the end of August and reduce the number of pages it publishes by 13 percent to 14 percent each week," Phil Rosenthal reported Tuesday in the Tribune.

"Because some newsroom jobs have been left unfilled in recent months, the actual number of staffers to exit the paper is expected to be between 55 and 58.

"'Like many newspapers, we're feeling financial pressures,' Hanke Gratteau, the Chicago Tribune's managing editor for news, said.

"These reductions are the paper's fourth since late 2005, when its newsroom had around 670 positions. They have been expected since Randy Michaels, chief operating officer of Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co., said last month in a conference call with lenders that all the company's papers would be cutting staff and the number of pages by mid-September in response to steep declines in publishing revenue so far this year."

CNN's Johnita Due to Receive Ida B. Wells Award

Johnita Due, honored for her diversity work at CNN. (CNN)
Johnita P. Due, senior counsel and Diversity Council chair at CNN, has been named the 2008 recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award, given to a media executive who has demonstrated a commitment to newsroom diversity and improving coverage of communities of color, the two awarding groups announced on Wednesday.

"In selecting Ms. Due, the Wells jury cited her passionate and impactful leadership of CNN's Diversity Council, a team of network colleagues dedicated to ensuring that CNN's news coverage and overall staffing reflect the rich racial and ethnic composition of the nation," the National Conference of Editorial Writers and the National Association of Black Journalists said.

"Under Ms. Due's charge, the Council has embarked upon many initiatives designed to make the corporate culture at CNN more inclusive and to expand the network's coverage of minority communities. Those efforts have ranged from convening a summit for senior management devoted to including more diverse guests and perspectives on air to crafting presentations and leading diversity video screenings and discussions with staff that underscore the business case for diversity and to highlight how to be more inclusive in everyday coverage.

"CNN's commitment to diversity of perspectives is notable in its political coverage. The network has also taken a leading role in the production of noteworthy reports on underserved populations such as its 'Uncovering America' series, which provided illuminating and provocative coverage of African-American, Asian American, Hispanic and GLBT communities," they said, referring to gay, lesbian, black and transgender people, "and the groundbreaking 'Black in America' documentary series."

Due is to receive the award, named for the legendary editor and anti-lynching crusader, on Sept. 19 at the NCEW convention in Little Rock, Ark. Due is a younger sister of Tananarive Due, a novelist and onetime Miami Herald reporter who in 2003 co-authored an autobiography with their mother, Patricia Stephens Due, "Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights."

As the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune reported in reviewing the book, "In 1960, as a student at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Patricia Stephens Due was among a group of black students who were arrested and spent 49 days in jail for participating in a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter, beginning four decades of activism in the civil rights movement."
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TV Said to Be Following Assimilationist Model

"Take a closer look at network television - not something I'd advise on an empty stomach, given the quality - and you begin to see a world that more closely resembles the one we live in," Ed Siegel wrote Wednesday in the Boston Globe.

Relating the trend to the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Siegel wrote, "There's another story, here, beyond numbers. If you look at these shows as a totality, the racial subtext is assimilationist rather than separatist, which is also the subtext of Obama's campaign. The African-Americans who get ahead professionally on these shows - be they dramas or reality shows - don't pronounce 'that' as 'dat,' often are more conventionally dressed than their counterparts, and generally have little or nothing to do with hip-hop culture. One would think their iPods are as integrated as Obama's - Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones, along with Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder. In fact, on at least two shows - "The Mole" and "CSI: NY" - white characters are more likely to reflect hip-hop culture than the black characters.

". . . So is America ready for a biracial president? Obviously, some doors are still closed to African-Americans. A black contestant on 'Nashville Star' was dismissed by a judge, John Rich, with a curt 'You're not a country singer, brother.'

"But there are more doors opening than closing on network television for black Americans, particularly those who look and sound like Obama. That has enormous implications for America, no matter who the next president is."
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Film on "Vanishing Black Radio" Debuts

"No, it isn't just your imagination. Black radio really is vanishing," Donna Lamb wrote Monday in the New York-based Black Star News.

"The new film 'Disappearing Voices - The Decline of Black Radio' explains why. Written and narrated by veteran radio personality Bob Law and directed by independent filmmaker U-Savior, this documentary is an historical overview of a uniquely American media format that rose in the late 1940's and 50's, reached its peak in the 1960's and 70's, and has gradually spiraled downward ever since."

The film had a standing-room-only screening in Manhattan and is scheduled for various film festivals, including the 6th Annual Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival and the Black International Cinema in Germany. Two of the principals were on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" on Monday.
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Maynard Institute Hosting 30th Anniversary Breakfast

Dorothy Gilliam, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, will lead a conversation about the future of diversity in the news business at the Unity convention in Chicago as the Institute celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The event takes place on July 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 East North Water St., Sheraton Ballrooms 1 & 2.

Maynard alumni are encouraged to "take advantage of this opportunity to reunite with old classmates, former faculty colleagues and the Maynard staff," the Institute said. "If possible, please bring memorabilia from the program in which you participated. Together we will reflect upon the years of hard work and achievement of which you have been a part."

Visit www.mije.org/breakfast to reserve a place.
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Short Takes

  • TV One is premiering a series of four one-hour documentary specials "filmed in co-operation with the FBI and designed to examine - and help solve - civil rights murders from the 1940s and '50s, while aging, long-silent witnesses - as well as the perpetrators of these vicious crimes - may still be alive," the network announced. The series, "Murder in Black in White," debuts Oct. 5 and is produced for TV One by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, whose 2005 documentary on Emmett Till helped persuade the federal government to reopen the 1955 murder case. The series is hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
  • Barack Obama "running for President is a huge deal for TV One, as it is for the African-American community," the cable network's president, Johnathan Rodgers, told members of the Television Critics Association on Tuesday, the New York Daily News reported. "It's not normally part of what we would do, but we will be covering the Democratic convention all the time. It's going to be a ceremonial, historical, irreverent and celebratory look at the process and look at Sen. Obama and what this means to the African-American community."
  • "Fanchon Stinger, a recently suspended anchorwoman for Fox 2 Detroit, was paid by Synagro Technologies Inc. in connection with a multimillion-dollar city sludge contract that is under investigation by the FBI," Synagro spokeswoman Darci McConnell confirmed Wednesday, Paul Egan and Leonard N. Fleming reported Wednesday for the Detroit News. "Last September, less than two months before the Synagro deal was approved in a 5-4 vote by the Detroit City Council, Stinger formed the media consulting and public speaking company Stinger Strategies LLC, records show. Synagro paid Stinger Strategies an undisclosed sum to place media advertisements in connection with the city sludge contract, McConnell said. The station is conducting an internal investigation, according to a spokeswoman.
  • Donna Byrd and Omar Wasow will work together at theRoot.com.
  • Omar Wasow, co-founder of BlackPlanet.com, the largest social networking site for African Americans, has joined the Washington Post Co.'s theRoot.com online magazine as the site's product strategist, theRoot.com announced on Monday. He joins recently named publisher Donna Byrd, former CEO of BlackAmericaWeb.com. Radio One, Inc. announced in April it had acquired the social networking company Community Connect Inc., which owns and operates BlackPlanet.com, MiGente.com, and AsianAve.com.
  • "U.S. journalist Zoriah Miller says he was censored by the U.S. military in the Iraqi city of Fallujah after photographing Marines who died in a suicide bombing," the Inter-Press Service reported on July 3 from San Francisco. "Miller was embedded with Marines on a patrol one block from the attack when it occurred." His embedded status was revoked. "The bottom line is that the thing they cited as the reason for my dismissal was 'information the enemy could use against you'," he said. "They realized, probably from keeping track of my blog, that I was not showing identifiable features of a soldier . . . and they couldn't find a reason to kick me out. Because it was a high-ranking person who got killed, they were all fired up."
  • "NBA star Dwyane Wade will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team experience - in video and text - as part of the Associated Press' multiplatform coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the AP announced. "'The AP gives me a great opportunity to share my Olympic experience with fans on various platforms,' Wade said. 'I plan to enjoy the Olympics and I hope everyone enjoys reading and watching video about my journey.'"
  • Lisa Ling, a special correspondent for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the National Geographic Channel, will contribute a series of reports for ABC News' "Nightline," ABC announced on Wednesday. In her first report, Ling "explores the astronomical growth of retirement age people in America and the equally rapid growth of luxury retirement communities that have been cropping up in recent years to meet the growing demand," the network said.

  • "Over its 75 years, writers from the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder have racked up a number of awards for their coverage of a diversity of issues," James Sanna reported July 3 for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. "The awards decorate the main entrance to their modest offices in Minneapolis's Powderhorn neighborhood. The newspaper picks up the ball that other, 'mainstream' media outlets have dropped, using solid journalism and helping to mobilize Minnesota's African-American communities around issues and events that would otherwise go unnoticed until too late."
  • Freelancer Patrick Riley, who chairs the Arts and Entertainment Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists, won $25,000 on the CBS-TV game show "Million Dollar Password" on Sunday.
  • "Hardly a day goes by when one traditional media outfit or another, bemoaning how audience and revenue are slipping away, sends employees a sad memo about the urgent need to reduce costs, reduce staff, reduce expectations if not ambitions," Phil Rosenthal wrote Sunday in the Chicago Tribune. "And then there's radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, never more contrarian to his peers in TV, radio and print than last week when he agreed to a deal he said was worth more than $400 million to remain with Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Networks for another eight years. This is an American dream. Obstacles that probably should have derailed him by now - the occasional ill-chosen statement and subsequent controversies, the drug addiction and run-in with the law, the hearing loss - instead have only added to his legend."

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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