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Keith Woods Picked to Lead NPR to Diversity

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Poynter Dean Says He's Confident Network Can Change

NABJ Director Quit After Vote of No Confidence

Gwen Ifill to Jon Stewart: "What Have You Heard?"

Tiger Woods' Absence Could Cripple Golf Ratings

Telemundo Announces "Comprehensive News Strategy"

Global Pieces on Climate Change Compete for Awards

Columnists Differ Over Extent of Racism in Cuba

Newsroom's Only Black Reporter: He Made It Work

Short Takes


The Poynter Institute's Keith Woods said of his new job at National Public Radio, "I can't tell you how juiced I am about this." (Credit: Jim Stem/Poynter Institute)  

Poynter Dean Says He's Confident Network Can Change

Keith Woods, one of the foremost trainers and educators in journalism diversity and the No. 2 administrator at the Poynter Institute, the school for professional journalists, was named Monday to be vice president of diversity in news and operations at National Public Radio, a new position.

Although the NPR culture has been cited for more than 20 years as an impediment to diversity there, Woods, 51, told Journal-isms he believes he can succeed because "the leadership of NPR has changed and there is a critical mass of leadership both new and longstanding that wants to see NPR succeed at this.

"And I'm adding myself to that mix," said Woods, Poynter's dean of faculty and a veteran journalist who spent 16 years at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "I can't tell you how juiced I am about this." 

NPR's diversity efforts faced more scrutiny this fall after Greg Peppers, a 22-year NPR veteran who supervised NPR's newscast unit, was fired on Oct. 16 and escorted out of its Washington headquarters. He was one of only two black men in NPR newsroom management.

The firing came the same day that Walt Swanston turned in her resignation as NPR's director of diversity management, citing health reasons.

Writing about the developments, the NPR ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, noted that "the only on-air African American male is Juan Williams, who is not a staff employee. . . . NPR needs to do better in diversifying its staff, especially in management," Shepard said.

The National Association of Black Journalists sent a letter to CEO Vivian Schiller asking, "What is NPR doing to recruit and groom African Americans for positions in management? Of the 68 members on your corporate team and behind-the-scenes staff, only eight are people of color."

Schiller responded that "we are examining our overall diversity status critically" and released NPR's own set of figures about the staff makeup.

Woods participated in a Dec. 1 meeting between NABJ leaders and NPR executives. He said he had been invited by Swanston to help NPR's diversity efforts early in the summer and later signed on as a consultant. "I was a pinch hitter for Walt," he said. "It would be fair to say I had a different view of how they should proceed. That was one of the reasons Vivian called me" after learning that Swanston was leaving.

Woods said he'd had "a fairly direct role in imagining" how diversity could be improved at NPR. "I have the benefit of vision and purpose that comes from standing on the shoulders of all of those people who have tried to do that," he said. "What gives me comfort and confidence has to do with what I know about myself and what I have seen happen when individuals and organizations work in a more thoughtful and strategic way."

"Keith's career has been distinguished by a common thread: to make journalists better reporters and the nation better informed as a result," Schiller said in a statement. "We are extremely fortunate to have found a leader who offers a combination of strong journalistic credentials, diversity expertise and a passion for teaching. Keith will be a critical resource not only for the NPR newsroom but for our colleagues at NPR stations nationwide." Woods will report directly to Schiller.

Charles Robinson, an NABJ board member, told colleagues on the NABJ e-mail list, "This is just the first step. NABJ presses the buttons when no one else will. Sometimes we push in ways that bear fruit. Congrats to Keith."

Poynter President Karen B. Dunlap announced "that Stephen Buckley, Publisher of, will take a 10-week leave from the St. Petersburg Times online service and act as Poynter's interim Dean. She said Buckley will confer with faculty and lend his expertise to Poynter's evolving work on the delivery of news and information on mobile devices, the Poynter Institute said.

"Woods' wife, longtime WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor Denise White, will remain in Tampa with his family while the new VP commutes between Washington D.C. and Florida," Eric Deggans noted on his St. Petersburg Times blog.

NABJ Director Quit After Vote of No Confidence

Karen Wynn Freeman (c) Jason Miccolo JohnsonThe resignation of Karen Wynn Freeman as executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists followed what amounted to a vote of no confidence and, the treasurer reported in October, a loss of $333,000 between 2004 and 2008.

However, members of NABJ's board of directors told Journal-isms privately that Wynn Freeman's inability to sufficiently weather the nation's economic downturn was only part of the reason it is seeking new leadership. Some spoke of the need for revamping the way NABJ, the nation's largest association of journalists of color, does business.

"We needed to move in another direction, and Karen was not the person to take us in that direction," one said. As with other journalism organizations, NABJ has seen its funding from media companies dry up and needs new revenue sources and fresh ideas, one common sentiment went.

The disclosure of accounting-related problems led to a further loss of confidence, these board members said. That led to a vote at the NABJ's quarterly board meeting in Baltimore the weekend of Oct. 16 to present Wynn Freeman with a list of concerns.

Because of NABJ's imposition of term limits, no board members who hired Wynn Freeman in 2006 remain in office.

The immediate past president, Barbara Ciara, was on that 2006 board. "Before she came aboard," she said of Wynn Freeman's arrival in the NABJ's headquarters at the University of Maryland, "the systems weren't even talking to each other. As far as I'm concerned, that is her greatest contribution," said Ciara, who is now president of Unity: Journalists of Color. She added, "The executive director works at the direction of the board."

That last sentiment was strongly echoed by Roland S. Martin, the board's secretary, who told Journal-isms on Tuesday that too much of the criticism was directed at the executive director and not enough toward the board itself and the membership.

"Our problems have nothing to do with an executive director. Our issues have to do with vision and leadership," he said. "Are you going to have a board that is going to meet its obligations when it comes to making money?

"I've also argued that a corporate board model is necessary. We may have to radically change how we select our board. Look at the National Urban League. The reason they go after corporate individuals is because of what they're able to bring to the table. But they do not want to be bothered with the petty business that comes up in our elections. We may have to look at a board that is half-elected and half-appointed."

He added, "Our membership is going to have to get off its collective asses and stop complaining and ask themselves what are they prepared to do. When you do the roll call of those who vote and those who attend the business meetings, that speaks right there to where you stand."   

NABJ President Kathy Times confirmed for NABJ members Freeman's resignation Monday in a column posted on the NABJ Web site.

"NABJ is opening its search for a new full-time Executive Director. The search committee is being led by Condace Pressley, former NABJ President and Assistant Program Director of News/talk 750 WSB (Atlanta)," Times announced.

"The new director will be pivotal in working with the Board of Directors as NABJ works through these difficult times with renewed emphasis on fundraising, entrepreneurial journalism, and professional development."

Treasurer Gregory Lee said at the October meeting that the association lost $295,000 in 2005 and $673,000 in 2006, and in 2007, when it staged its convention in Las Vegas, took in $3.1 million but spent $3.2 million. Overall, the association lost $333,000 from 2004 to 2008 and had to dip into its reserves. When not enough people took rooms at this summer's convention in Tampa, Fla., — at hotels booked years in advance— the association was billed a total of $150,000 from three hotels, he said.

"NABJ wishes Karen well and now we have to focus on a new era of NABJ and that starts with selecting a new executive director and moving into our new office on the campus of the University of Maryland in January," Lee told Journal-isms on Monday. [Updated Dec. 15.]

Gwen Ifill to Jon Stewart: "What Have You Heard?"

With George Stephanopoulos vacating the host's chair on ABC's "This Week" in favor of "Good Morning America," host Jon Stewart asked PBS' Gwen Ifill on "The Daily Show" Thursday whether she was interested in the job. Ifill playfully asked, "What have you heard?" then told Stewart she had two good jobs at PBS, but Stewart concluded the segment by referring to "This Week With Gwen Ifill." (Video)

Tiger Woods' Absence Could Cripple Golf Ratings

"With Tiger Woods announcing he's putting his golf career on hold, networks face a potentially crippling blow to the sport's ratings," James Hibberd wrote Monday for the Hollywood Reporter.

"Last weekend, Woods skipped the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he founded. NBC's telecast drew a modest 1.2 million viewers, down 54% compared with last year, when Woods competed in the event.

"'Without Woods, televised tournaments are like a major motion picture without a star's name above the title — rarely do people go to see the flick,' said Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at Katz TV Group. 'Now only die-hard golf fans will watch the tournaments.'

"Golf's best player posted a statement Friday on his Web site admitting to 'infidelity,' apologizing to his fans and saying he was taking a break from the sport."

Telemundo Announces "Comprehensive News Strategy"

Jose Diaz-Balart"Telemundo, the NBC Universal-owned Spanish language network, announced a major news initiative Dec. 14 that included the creation of a national public affairs program, increased investment in local newscasts at Telemundo stations and a new multimedia strategy, Marisa Guthrie reported for Broadcasting & Cable.

"Additionally, Jose Diaz-Balart will replace Pedro Sevcec on Noticiero Telemundo, the network's nightly newscast. Sevcec's contract has not been renewed. Diaz-Balart, who has hosted various programs at Telemundo, will also helm the network's upcoming Sunday public affairs program, which is targeted to bow in the first quarter next year. Prior to joining Telemundo, Diaz-Balart was a co-anchor of CBS This Morning.

"On the local news front, Telemundo's station group will create content centers intended to improve news coverage and provide multimedia news content to local stations."

The Internews organization reviewed reports from around the world on climate change. (Video)

Global Pieces on Climate Change Compete for Awards

Internews, "a nonprofit organization that empowers local media around the world to provide quality news and information for their communities," was to present the Internews Earth Journalism Awards on Monday to "recognize the vital role journalists play in informing the world about the impact of climate change and the issues at the heart" of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP15.

"The 15 winning entries include a Kenyan group that spreads environmental information to their peers in the Nairobi slums through hip hop, a multimedia report from Brazil documenting how local customs and responsible agriculture clash in the Amazonian rain forest, a compelling account of a small Pakistani community adapting to climate change, as well as other engaging pieces from a wide range of countries."

Voting for a 16th honor, the Global Public Award, was selected by the public through an online voting platform combining Facebook, Twitter and the Internews Earth Journalism Awards Web site. More than 6,000 votes were cast.

Columnists Differ Over Extent of Racism in Cuba

How racist is Cuba?

Myriam Marquez and DeWayne WickhamMyriam Marquez, the Havana-born editorial page editor of the Miami Herald, wrote this on Dec. 5:

"Racism rules in Cuba, discrimination is a way of life. Whites have it tough, but blacks have it tougher still. Civil rights? Human rights?

"I know, this is not new to us, to the exiles or the more recent arrivals or our American friends and neighbors who have to put up with our 'whining,' as I'm sometimes admonished. But something's changing. Big time.

"The historic 'Statement of Conscience by African Americans' released last week condemns 'the Cuban regime's stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country's budding civil rights movement.' . . .

"I saw the racial profiling first hand when I was in Cuba in 2002 on a reporting trip that took me from Havana to Santiago and points in between. . . ."

DeWayne Wickham, an African American who writes a column for USA Today and Gannett News Service, agrees — to a point.

Wickham, who has visited Cuba 13 times since 1999 to measure the impact of Afro Cubans, told Journal-isms, "If she's saying racism still exists in Cuba, I agree," speaking of Marquez. "Like this country, Cuba has discovered that it is easier to change its laws than to change people's minds.

"Yes, there is racism in Cuba. I've seen it in the hiring practices of hotels and restaurants that deal with tourists. I've seen the racial profiling of police. And I've seen its footprint in the disparate impact of poverty in that island nation.

"But if Ms. [Marquez] means to suggest that Cuban racism is markedly different from the racism that blacks continue to encounter in this country — and more specifically, in Miami — then I disagree.

"It is just as difficult to find blacks working in the better jobs of trendy hotels and restaurants in Miami as it is in Havana. Both countries need to do a better job to overcome such racism.

"Frankly, I think the racism of people in this country who oppose ending the current restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba is more insidious. These restrictions have a disproportionate impact on Cubans of African descent.

"Here's why: Under the current embargo rules only Cuban Americans can travel to Cuba at will. They can go as often as they want and take as much money as they want to family members on the island.

"Since the vast majority Cubans in this country are white, they are able to visit their white relatives in Cuba and to give them as much financial assistance as they can muster.

"In essence, this policy punishes Cubans of African descent for not leaving Cuba in great numbers. It makes it difficult for black church groups, fraternal organizations, NGOs and individuals from this country to visit Cuba's poor black communities. It also makes it illegal for people in this country to give Afro Cubans, who are not their relatives, ANY financial assistance.

"In essence, this policy punishes Afro Cubans for not leaving Cuba in large numbers.

"Cuban has a long history of rigid racism that is rooted in the 1898-1902 American occupation, and was perpetuated by a succession of Cuban governments.

"When Fidel Castro came to power he outlawed the institutional discrimination that benefited many of the people who fled Cuba during the early years of his government.

"Today there is much that is wrong with Cuba. But to suggest that its racial problems are substantially different from what we continue to experience in this country would be wrong."

Newsroom's Only Black Reporter, He Made It Work

Gil GriffinAn item last week about the last black reporter to leave the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle brought back this memory from Gil Griffin, a freelance editor, writer and journalism educator based in Orlando, Fla.:

Griffin, 42, wrote to the e-mail list of the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists:

"I was the only black reporter in my two years at The Albuquerque Tribune in the mid-'90s. I had a very enjoyable experience there, though. I approached the gig as if I were a foreign correspondent, as I'd only visited New Mexico a couple of times before.

"In fact, one thing I was very proud of was insisting on doing some big feature story for Black History Month one year and I found it by researching the Buffalo Soldiers, who had a very strong role in 19th Century New Mexico — and a group of brothers who formed the Buffalo Soldiers Society, complete with historical reenactments.

"Yes, there was one incident in which a well-meaning white editor made a patronizing comment and the requisite number of surprised interviewees who talked to me on the phone then saw me in person — even one who said 'you don't SOUND black on the phone,' but the whole experience was great for the growth process and I wouldn't trade it."

Short Takes

  • A head full of Afro picks proves controversial"I don‚Äôt even know where to begin in deconstructing this bizarre image. The black woman as the exotic, wild creature with crazy hair¬†is not, perhaps, the wisest choice of images," Roxane Gay wrote Monday on her blog, titling the entry "This is Why Black People Always Seem Angry." She was referring to the cover of a Publishers Weekly issue on books by black writers, which shows a woman with a head full of Afro picks. Nordette, writing in Blog Her, noted that the "Twitterverse" has picked up on the subject using the hashtag #afropw. [Update: Publishers Weekly responded to the complaints on Tuesday.]
  • Helena Andrews, a journalist who has written for Politico and the Root, was the subject of a Style section spread in the Washington Post last week. "The film rights for her memoir, 'Bitch Is the New Black,' a satirical look at successful young black women living in Washington, were purchased before the book was finished," DeNeen L. Brown wrote on Thursday.
  • "FCC chief diversity officer Mark Lloyd says that he has received hate mail and death threats¬†after what he calls an 'incredible right-wing smear campaign,' John Eggerton wrote Monday for Broadcasting & Cable. "According to a copy of his speech to the Media Access Project at a conference Monday on the future of journalism, Lloyd said his mission at the FCC was not to restore the fairness doctrine or to banish conservative talkers from the airwaves."
  • "The flames that destroyed The Lancer Steak House last Sunday took more than a business from the community. They consumed a legacy of Cleveland's finest memories," Dick Peery wrote Sunday for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He recalled that as a journalist he found the Lancer invaluable. When Carl Stokes announced that he would not run for a third term as mayor of Cleveland, Peery was told to get reaction and headed straight for the restaurant. "I took a stool at the middle of the bar and sat there the entire afternoon taking notes. Virtually everyone I would have thought to ask for an opinion came by. . . . When I turned in the story, several editors told me no other reporter would have known how to get such a comprehensive wrap-up."
  • Tamron HallDavid Shuster and Tamron Hall, who anchor 3-5 p.m. ET on MSNBC, will be supplanted by "The Dylan Ratigan Show" starting Jan. 11, MSNBC announced on Monday. Shuster and Hall "will remain anchors with MSNBC dayside."¬† Asked about Hall, MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines told Journal-isms, "We'll have an exact schedule soon. . . . but she will continue to remain one of our main daytime anchors."
  • Second only to phone calls, Facebook is the second most popular communication tool, followed by text messaging and e-mail, according to a report from Prompt Communications in Cambridge, Mass., the Boston Business Journal reported on Monday.
  • "Former KHNL-TV anchors Diane Ako and Paul Drewes staged what may have been a first for Honolulu last night: a funeral for a newsroom," Erika Engle reported Sunday for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. "The friends, who lost their jobs to the shared services agreement between KHNL, sister-station KFVE-TV and formerly cross-town KGMB-TV, got to talking about some sort of gathering. She half-joked that it should be a funeral."
  • Miguel Perez"When the godson became an American journalist, the godfather couldn‚Äôt have been prouder. Communism had taken journalism out of the family, but not for long. They had overcome the censorship. The godfather had begun to write articles again, as a freelance writer for various Spanish-language weeklies in Miami, and the godson worked as a reporter for The Miami Herald, the New York Daily News and The Bergen Record and eventually became a nationally syndicated columnist. Once again, there were two journalists in the family." Creators Syndicate columnist Miguel Perez was writing last week about his godfather, Benito Alonso y Artigas, who died in Miami at age 83.
  • Akeya Dickson, an editorial assistant at the Washington Post who was ridiculed as ignorant of hip-hop after a copy editor changed her reference to Public Enemy's "911" to "9/11," said, ‚ÄúWhat made all of this ridiculous to me on a larger scale is that I am a black woman from the south side of Chicago who attended Howard University. Both myself and my father were raised on and within the hip-hop culture,' " ombudsman Andy Alexander relayed in the Post. "The error was made by veteran Post copy editor Maria Henriques. 'As with any correction, I‚Äôm very sorry about it,' she said," Alexander wrote. Craig Silverman, who writes the "Regret the Error" column, called the Post's policy of not assigning blame in its corrections "outdated" and unfairly penalizing Dickson.
  • Mark Fitzgerald, editor at large for Editor & Publisher, took issue with former E&P writer Kelvin Childs and others who last week cited Jim Romenesko's media column as a cause¬†for E&P's impending demise. "E&P was wounded ‚Äî though exactly whether it was a mortal wound is a matter of debate ‚Äî by a newspaper industry that continues to contract its production footprint," Fitzgerald wrote. "Fair enough," Childs told Journal-isms. "One could say the demise of Editor & Publisher is like 'The Murder On the Orient Express' ‚Äî a death that happened with many hands on the murder weapon."
  • Dale R. Wright, an associate editor of Ebony and Jet magazines and a reporter for the old New York World Telegram and Sun, died Sunday in the Bronx, N.Y., at age 86, his family said. He died of chronic kidney disease and cardiopulmonary arrest. The family said Wright won numerous awards and was active in several journalism organizations. "Dale's watershed account of the misery of migrant farm workers' plight and his first hand experience as a ‚Äòstoop worker‚Äô created a furor when they appeared in the New York World Telegram and Sun." The series was expanded into a book, "They Harvest Despair: The Migrant Farm Worker." For 20 years, Wright owned and operated Dale Wright Associates, a business specifically designed to serve the public relations needs of emerging and established New York area black businesses, the family's obituary added.

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.

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