Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Latino Commentators Scarce on Sotomayor

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Thursday, May 28, 2009
Updated May 31

President Obama and Vice President Biden with federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. "Should somebody's ethnic background be a consideration in such a nomination?" broadcaster Terence Smith asked. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Hispanic Journalists Missing From Sunday Talk Shows

"Manny Medrano is a reporter for KTLA News in Los Angeles, and a former Supreme Court/Legal Affairs correspondent for ABC News in Washington, DC, where he provided legal analysis for all ABC News broadcasts and wrote a legal blog," Medrano's station bio begins.

Manny Medrano"Mr. Medrano has also worked for KNBC in Los Angeles, where he was a general assignment reporter, focusing on legal issues for NBC4's 'Channel 4 News.' There he provided legal analysis and commentary for the station's comprehensive coverage of the trials of O.J. Simpson, the Menendez Brothers, Reginald Denny and Rodney King, among others. His coverage of the Simpson case earned him an Emmy Award and Golden Mike Award.

"Prior to joining KNBC, Mr. Medrano was a trial lawyer at the law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Los Angeles, where he specialized in complex civil and white collar criminal litigation. He also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office, where he successfully prosecuted the 1985 kidnapping and murder case of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Mr. Medrano never lost a jury trial. He received the U.S. Department of Justice Award for his performance on the Camarena case."

Medrano sounds like the perfect choice to comment on and analyze the choice of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. But his name is missing from Sunday's list of the national talk show commentators.

In fact, there are no Latino journalists on that list.

It's not just this Sunday. In an analysis of the four Sunday broadcast shows this year through April 12, Media Matters for America found that black Americans had been on the Sunday shows 40 times.

"Media Matters also measured the number of Latino guests or panelists on 'Meet the Press,' 'This Week,' 'Face the Nation' and 'Fox News Sunday' this year for the same period," wrote David Bauder of the Associated Press, which commissioned the study.

"The count?


Hispanic journalists can be modest in evaluating their importance in shaping the story.

"I've been the point man for my station on our Sotomayor coverage. I've also been doing TV/radio hits for other media outlets on Sotomayor and how it may affect the makeup of the high court," Medrano told Journal-isms.

"Of course any and all journalists versed on legal issues should be covering this matter extensively. I believe being a Hispanic journalist is a plus, as that brings to the table a unique perspective that adds texture and nuance to an incredibly important news story."

Similarly, Maria Pe?±a, Washington correspondent for the Efe Spanish-language news services, said, "I have not been approached by a mainstream outlet on this issue, but I have discussed with other Spanish-language media colleagues during a weekly radio program.

"I think Latino journalists would definitively have a distinct perspective on the Sotomayor choice, because we're much more intimately aware of the issues affecting the Hispanic community and we've taken the pulse of its reaction to the nomination."

"The Diane Rehm Show," which originates at WAMU-FM in Washington and is broadcast over National Public Radio, provides some examples of the difference the Latino journalists might make.

On Tuesday's show, right after Sotomayor's nomination, a well-meaning guest host, Terence Smith, formerly of the PBS "NewsHour," asked, "Should somebody's ethnic background be a consideration in such a nomination, or is that simply part of the world we live in today?"

There was no one to say that ethnic background has always been a consideration, but it was simply unstated when the nominees were white.

On Friday's reporters' roundtable, Andrew Sullivan, senior editor at the Atlantic, made personal an exchange about this week's California Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on same-sex marriage. Being both white and gay, "I understand how privilege works and also how it doesn't," he said.

It's not that non-Latinos cannot articulate the concerns of those who value diversity. They can, and have. On the same Friday show, Ceci Connolly, a white Washington Post reporter, relayed conversations she had had with others in her newsroom. "Why is it that the white male is the base line from which everyone else is deviant?" she asked. "When John Roberts went through his conformation, I don't recall too much questioning about his comfortable life of privilege and how this was going to affect his life on the court," she said.

Still, Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, on Friday was able to name nine Latino journalists with Washington experience who could comment knowledgeably about the Sotomayor nomination.

Surely, we in the national audience should be able to hear at least some of their perspectives.

White House Stonewalls Query on Black Colleges

"It was, I thought, a fairly simple question — which threatened nothing more than the arrogance of the White House’s Praetorian Guard," DeWayne Wickham wrote this week for Gannett News Service.

"I wanted to know how many black higher education institutions have asked Barack Obama — the nation’s first black president — to be their commencement speaker this spring.

"So when the White House announced that Obama would give the commencement address at three schools this year, I wondered why none of them was black.

". . . My efforts to get the names of the black schools that invited the president to speak were rebuffed. 'We don’t give out that kind of information,' White House press aide Corey Ealons told me.

"Imagine that. The list of black schools that asked Obama to give a commencement address is a state secret. Press secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t bother to respond when I emailed him to ask if Ealons correctly stated the White House’s policy."

Carol E. Lee reported in Politico that Gibbs was asked about the issue by April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks.

A transcript of the May 18 briefing shows this exchange:

QUESTION: One, did the president receive any invitations from any HBCUs to be the commencement speaker?


GIBBS: I'd have to ask the scheduling office. I don't — I don't know what we — what we were invited to and what we didn't accept. I simply know what — what we have accepted and how I spent my Sunday.


QUESTION: . . . by Morehouse College for the same date as Notre Dame yesterday. And what goes into . . .

GIBBS: Well, then, why'd you ask me the first question? Why didn't you just ask me if Morehouse invited us the same day as Notre Dame.


QUESTION: I wanted to know . . .


GIBBS: . . . I'm playing the "Jeopardy" version of . . .


GIBBS: I'll take HBCUs for $200.


Honestly, I didn't know the answer for the first, so it's hard for me to underscore the second because, as I told you a second ago, I don't know what we were invited to and — I don't know what we were invited and didn't agree to.



Secret Service personnel remove Brenda Lee from near Air Force One after Lee attempted to give President Obama a letter at Los Angeles International Airport. (Credit: Nick Ut/Associated Press)

Woman Removed From Press Area Near Obama

Brenda Lee"A writer for a small Georgia newspaper who wanted to give President Barack Obama a letter was forcibly removed from a press area near Air Force One on Thursday shortly before he arrived at the airport," Christina Hoag wrote for the Associated Press, in a story that quickly made the rounds on the Internet.

"Airport security officers carried the woman away by the feet and arms as she protested her removal. She was then allowed to leave. She said the letter she had written was opposing gay marriage.

"She later identified herself as Brenda Lee, a writer for the Georgia Informer in Macon, and said she is a 'Roman Catholic priestess' who lives in Anaheim, Calif. She said she has White House press credentials."

Newspaper Execs Meet on Monetizing the Internet

"About two dozen newspaper industry executives huddled Thursday to explore how they might be able to boost profits from their online operations as revenue from their print editions collapses," Michael Liedtke wrote for the Associated Press.

"The meeting at a Chicago hotel is the latest indication that many newspapers intend to become more aggressive about protecting their Internet content and, in some cases, charging Web surfers to read the material.

"By changing the way they do business online, newspaper publishers are hoping they can stop the financial hemorrhaging that already has resulted in massive layoffs, huge losses and at least seven filings for bankruptcy protection since December.

"Thursday's meeting was called 'Models to Lawfully Monetize Content,' according to an agenda obtained by The Associated Press. James Warren, a former managing editor for the Chicago Tribune, reported about the meeting earlier on The Atlantic's Web site.

"The meeting was held 'to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of newsgathering that will serve the American public,' according to the Newspaper Association of America, the trade group that organized the gathering."

XXL Editor Joins Russell Simmons' Online Operation

Datwon ThomasDatwon Thomas has resigned as editor in chief at the hip-hop magazine XXL and joined hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons' Web site Global Grind as COO and editor in chief, Global Grind announced on Thursday.

XXL Executive Editor Vanessa Satten, who has spent more than 10 years at Harris Publications, which publishes XXL, has succeeded Thomas as editor in chief.

"You won't even notice the difference," publisher Dennis Page told Journal-isms on Friday. He said of Satten, "She's amazing, hard working. No one knows hip-hop more than she does."

In the Global Grind news release, the Web platform was described as "the leading destination for 'The World According To Hip Hop,' featuring up-to-the-minute news, exclusive blogs, and the broadest array of stories, videos and photos from a hip hop perspective on the web. Russell Simmons and Accel Partners (Facebook,, Realnetworks, Brightcove and many others) are lead investors in the venture."

Thomas began his career more than a decade ago as an intern at Vibe Magazine. "According to comScore, the Global Grind Network surpassed one million unique visitors in April," the release said.

At XXL, "Thomas’ most notable accomplishment was founding KING Magazine and serving as its Editorial Director." King, which recently folded with the downturn in advertising revenue, described itself as "the illest men's magazine ever."

XXL averaged a circulation of 222,354 for the six months ending in December, according to figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Lola Ogunnaike, Show-Biz Reporter, Leaves CNN

Lola OgunnaikeLola Ogunnaike, who joined CNN from the New York Times two years ago amid great expectations, put in her last day at the network on Friday. Her contract was not renewed, CNN spokeswoman Christine Pietz confirmed.

Ogunnaike was an entertainment correspondent who reported primarily for CNN's "American Morning."

CNN told TV Newser's Chris Ariens, who first reported the story, "Lola is a terrific reporter who brought 'American Morning' viewers their daily dose of all things pop culture and we wish her all the best in her new endeavors."

When she left the Times, Culture Editor Sam Sifton told Journal-isms, "Lola's one of the great interviewers I've ever worked with, which I think is going to help ease her transition to TV. She has a rare ability to set subjects — particularly star subjects — at ease, and she gets great quotes as a result. She's going to be a big star."

As CNN said at the time, "Ogunnaike has been covering entertainment news since 1999. Prior to joining CNN, Ogunnaike spearheaded The New York Times’ entertainment coverage, including profiles of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey and Sting for the paper’s 'Arts and Leisure' section. Before that, she was a features reporter at the New York Daily News, where she covered breaking news on celebrities and entertainment.

"Previously, Ogunnaike was a contributing writer for Vibe magazine, where she was responsible for monthly music features and cover stories. She has also had her work published in Rolling Stone, New York, Glamour, Details, Nylon, the New York Observer and V Magazine. On air, she has made regular guest appearances on 'American Morning' and Headline News’ 'Showbiz Tonight' as well as NBC’s 'Today Show,' MTV and VH1."

Ogunnaike could not be reached for comment.

Death Claims Historians Takaki, Van Sertima

Two historians whose work deepened journalists' understanding of people of color in the New World died this week.

Ronald Takaki, the author of 12 books, including "Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans" and "Iron Cages: Race and Culture in Nineteenth Century America," died in his Berkeley, Calif., home Tuesday at age 70, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.

Ivan Van Sertima, a former professor of the University of Rutgers whose 1976 book “They Came Before Columbus” put forth evidence of prehistoric African influences in Central and South America, died at 74, the Guyana Cultural Association New York Inc. /Guyana Folk Festival committee announced on Thursday.

The Advertiser story said, "Multiple news sources in California have reported that the Alameda Country coroner's office confirmed Takaki's death as a suicide. Takaki had suffered from multiple sclerosis for the past 15 years."

Michael Omi, a UC Berkeley ethnic studies professor, said in the Oakland Tribune, "He was really one who insisted on looking at how different racial and ethnic groups really shape the conditions for each other's existence. He really was interested in looking at cooperation and conflict between different groups."

"During his more than 40 years at UC Berkeley, Takaki established the nation's first ethnic studies Ph.D. program as well as UC Berkeley's American Cultures requirement for graduation, and advised President Clinton in 1997 on his major speech on race," the University of California at Berkeley said. "In his books . . . Takaki tracked the history of racist attitudes not just about Asian Americans, but about all minorities, using real people's stories to touch all readers, not just scholars." Takaki also taught the University of California's first black history course.

Van Sertima worked for several years in Great Britain as a journalist, delivering weekly broadcasts to the Caribbean and Africa, Oscar Ramjeet wrote in a commentary dated Saturday for Carib Net News.

On July 7, 1987, he appeared before a congressional committee to challenge  crediting Christopher Columbus with the discovery of America, Ramjeet wrote.

Multiracials Are Fastest-Growing Demographic Group

"Multiracial Americans have become the fastest growing demographic group, wielding an impact on minority growth that challenges traditional notions of race," Hope Yen wrote Thursday for the Associated Press.

"The number of multiracial people rose 3.4 percent last year to about 5.2 million, according to the latest census estimates. First given the option in 2000, Americans who check more than one box for race on census surveys have jumped by 33 percent and now make up 5 percent of the minority population — with millions more believed to be uncounted.

"Demographers attributed the recent population growth to more social acceptance and slowing immigration. They cited in particular the high public profiles of Tiger Woods and President Barack Obama, a self-described 'mutt,' who are having an effect on those who might self-identify as multiracial."

Monday is Deadline for Ida B. Wells Nominations

Nominations close Monday for the 2009 Ida B. Wells Award, presented annually to a media executive, manager or journalist who has made outstanding contributions toward making American newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the communities they serve.

Administered jointly by the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Conference of Editorial Writers, "the award seeks to give tangible and highly visible recognition to an individual or group of individuals who have provided distinguished leadership in increasing access and opportunities to people of color in journalism and improving coverage of underrepresented communities," the judges said.

"First bestowed in 1983, the award is named in honor of the pioneering 19th and early 20th century editor and publisher who was a champion of integration and whose crusade against lynching earned her acclaim on two continents. Professors at the Medill School of Journalism serve as curators of the award.

"Eligibility: Any news executive, manager or journalist who has made significant contributions to newsroom diversity and/or improved coverage of communities of color is eligible for the award.

"Nominations: Any person may nominate a candidate for the award by completing a nominating form and submitting it along with supporting statements to m-awards (at)

"Presentations: The award is presented alternately at the national conventions of the sponsoring bodies. The 2009 award will be presented at the 33rd annual convention and career fair of the National Association of Black Journalists, which will be held Aug. 5–9 in Tampa, Fla."

Past recipients of the award include Jay T. Harris, former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, Reginald Stuart, corporate recruiter for Knight Ridder, Steve Capus, president of NBC News, Donald Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, and Johnita P. Due, senior counsel and Diversity Council chair of CNN.

To download the nomination form, click here.

Short Takes

  • CNN commentator Roland Martin calls a "flat out lie" a Page Six item in the New York Post Monday Roland Martinon his tenure as substitute host for Campbell Brown's "No Bias, No Bull." The item said the show nose-dived in the ratings while Brown was on maternity leave the past month.¬† "Sources say he has complained the network doesn't promote him enough or book him high-profile guests," the Post said. Martin told Journal-isms on Sunday via e-mail, "FLAT OUT LIE. I never even uttered those words, never said any such thing to any network executive or any other staffer. I would be embarrassed as an editor or writer of a paper to put out such a lie." CNN spokeswoman Barbara Levin told Journal-isms, "Roland has done a great job filling for Campbell Brown at 8 pm by providing smart, engaging and lively discussion and debate each evening." However, a network spokeswoman, asked specifically about the ratings, said, "We won't have further comment on that." [Updated May 31.]
  • "Following last year‚Äôs successful 'Black In America' documentary series, CNN will turn its cameras on America‚Äôs Latino community with the two-part documentary series 'Latino In America' premiering in October," R. Thomas Umstead reported Monday for Multichannel News. "CNN, which will also revisit the African-American community in July with 'Black In America 2,' hopes to use the 'In America' franchise to draw more attention to the struggles and triumphs of diverse communities, according to Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions."
  • In Detroit, Rep. John Conyers Jr. is holding a hearing Monday on the issues surrounding the controversial Performance Rights Act that he co-sponsored and was passed by the House Judiciary Committee that he chairs, Susan Whithall reported¬†Thursday in the Detroit News. "Members of the group Music First, including singer Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame) will fly in, Dionne Warwick is a strong maybe and Duke Fakir of the Four Tops and council member/Motown star Martha Reeves will be there, along with other Detroit and Motown entertainers."
  • "Al Roker's stint on jury duty was short ‚Äî and Tweet," Corky Siemaszko wrote Friday in the New York Daily News. "The 'Today' weatherman got into hot water yesterday for snapping pictures of jurors waiting to be called in the 15th floor assembly room at Manhattan Supreme Court ‚Äî and posting them on his Twitter page. Roker's postings set the blogosphere atwitter and in no time his pictures of jurors ‚Äî their faces mostly blurred ‚Äî popped up on and other Web sites."
  • Garrett M. Graff, the Washingtonian executive editor whose June-issue list of the most 50 influential Washington journalists includes six African Americans, up from two four years ago, told Journal-isms, "I think you've Yunji de Niesseen in the last two years that many news organizations have placed a much greater emphasis on recruiting a diverse team of 'front row' journalists, that is the journalists they place front and center in their news operations. We base the list on interviews with journalists, sources, and observers; several people we spoke with this year commented on the diversity of news organizations covering Washington events brought about by the arrival of the Obamas ‚Äî there are new organizations and new faces across the board. Some of those new faces, like ABC's Yunji de Nies, who we had on our 'Rising Stars' list, are likely candidates for even more high-profile roles down the road. While it's certainly still dominated by white males, I think that the Washington press corps today is coming much closer to 'looking like America' than it ever has before."
  • "As hard as Arbitron says it is working to restore credibility to its struggling electronic ratings system, the ratings firm continues to find itself in misstep after misstep," Mike Boyle reported¬†Friday for Radio and Records. "In the latest portable people meter survey for the month of April, Arbitron missed several ethnic benchmarks in several markets. That's not a good sign for a company under Federal Communications Commission scrutiny and under attack by minority groups who claim the PPM undercounts minorities."
  • "This morning an all Spanish-speaking television station joined the Tulsa market," KOTV-TV in Tulsa, Okla., reported¬†on Thursday. The Spanish-only station is now on Cox cable channel 444.
  • "Black radio giant Radio One has trimmed pay by as much at 10 percent and reduced its corporate office hours at its Maryland headquarters in an effort to cut costs, said its founder," Rob Redding reported¬†Thursday on his Redding News Review. "We are closing every other Friday," Cathy Hughes told XM 169's Joe Madison during a radio interview the previous week.
  • Reporters Without Borders is condemning¬†the renewed harassment of pro-Hamas journalists by the West Bank security services, in particular the arrests of Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Oussid Amarena and Filasteen bureau chief Mustapha Sabri in the past 11 days. ‚ÄúJournalists are again paying the price of the political tension between the different Palestinian factions,‚Äù Reporters Without Borders said. ‚ÄúThe Palestinian Authority does not allow any view but its own to be voiced in the West Bank and does not hesitate to harass pro-Hamas journalists. The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is no better.‚Äù
  • "Hundreds of opponents of President Hugo Chavez marched in support of press freedom in Venezuela on Wednesday, two years after his government refused to renew the concession of an opposition-aligned television station," Rachel Jones reported for the Associated Press.

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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UC Berkeley professor Ronald Takaki

Every media outlet needs a blogger/columnist like Richard Prince. Many media outfits still ghetto-ize diversity issues and fail to weave those non-traditional news subjects into their daily news flow. Or some corporate minority journalists still shy away from such coverage, not wanting to make waves. In contrast, Richard offers diversity-related news and context on hundreds of topics that are an inseparable part of U.S. society and culture. Take a simple news item such as the recent death of UC Berkeley professor Ronald Takaki. Decades ago, as a fledgling writer growing up in South-Central L.A. and bussed to rich suburban schools, I saw no role models, no literature, to call my own. Until I learned that a Japanese American professor named Ron Takaki had taught ethnic studies with Angela Davis at UCLA. Didn't agree with all of their politics, but I saw my history and culture reflected in their work. Takaki and other minority writers/scholars shaped me in ways I could not have imagined. And journalists such as Richard Prince are shaping a young media generation that I hope will embrace the new diversity of people and perspectives in the coming years without apology, without kow-towing. Keep up the important work, Richard. There would be a vacuum without you.

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