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NAACP Wants to Focus on Newsrooms

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Updated February 26

Poll Shows 61% Blame Editor for N.Y. Post Cartoon

The Rev. Al Sharpton gives MSNBC's Keith Olbermann his question for the New York Post: 'What are you putting in place as a process to make sure that these
sensitivities are respected in the future?'The NAACP plans to focus on diversity in newspaper newsrooms after the fallout from the chimpanzee cartoon in the New York Post subsides, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, a former journalist, said on Wednesday.

"It's a reminder that when we get through with Fox and the New York Post, we need to focus on the newsrooms in the country, just like we focused on the movie studios," Jealous said in a conference call with reporters.

"We have begun very slowly, conversations with various foundations to put a plan together," he said. "This has brought it all to the forefront in a way that's very quick and accelerated."

In December, an NAACP report pointed to "an ongoing trend where African Americans and other minorities continue to be under-represented in nearly every aspect of television and film businesses, while largely being denied access to significant positions of power in Hollywood."

The NAACP has been issuing such reports at least since 1999.

Diversity efforts in newsrooms have stalled and many have given the issue lower priority as economic and survival issues consume the time of editors and publishers.

Meanwhile, a poll by Flemington, N.J.-based HCD Research poll of 313 self- reported Democrats, Republicans and independents showed that a majority of voters in all three groups believed the Post's cartoon had racist undertones.

Asked, "Who do you think should be responsible for dealing with the repercussions and backlash that erupted after the publishing of this political cartoon?" 61 percent said, "the editor who approved it," 55 percent said "the New York Post" and 45 percent said the cartoonist. Respondents could name more than one responsible entity.

Sixty-one percent of those questioned felt the cartoon was directed toward Obama.

The cartoon, drawn for the Post's Page Six gossip section by Sean Delonas, shows two policemen, one with a smoking gun, looking at a dead chimpanzee. One says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Though the president did not write the stimulus bill, the chimpanzee was widely taken to represent him. The Post denied the cartoon referred to Obama and issued a halfhearted apology.

On Tuesday, media baron Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Post, "personally" issued a second apology, issuing a statement that called the cartoon "a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted," he said.

Some observers wrote that should end the matter. But for activists such as Jealous, the Urban League's Marc Morial, the Rev. Al Sharpton and some New York City Council members, the incident provided an opportunity to examine the factors that led to the cartoon's appearance in the paper.

"You're saying that it was a mistake and that we are going to not do it again, but we're not going to tell you how, and we're not going to tell you who," Sharpton said on MSNBC's "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann, speaking of Murdoch.

"So, what are we talking about here? I think that it was the leadership thing to do to say the buck stops here. But since it stops there, since you stepped up to the plate, I want to see if you're going to hit the ball. Tell us what this means.

"What are you putting in place as a process to make sure that these sensitivities are respected in the future, since you now said that you would do that? And what are you going to [do to] deal with the facts that led up to this? And I think he opened the door but he didn't walk through."

An NAACP spokeswoman told reporters that on Thursday in about 50 cities, NAACP state branches, local chapters and others would be pressing Fox affiliates for more diversity in the newsrooms at Fox News and the New York Post, sister news organizations under Murdoch's umbrella.

The Post does not participate in the American Society of Newspaper Editors annual diversity survey, but employees have told Journal-isms that no one in the chain of command to approve the chimpanzee cartoon is of color and that there had not been an African American editor on the local news desk since 2001, when the late Lisa G. Baird, who had cancer at the time, was fired.

"It's not just about whether this one cartoonist is intentionally racist or unintentionally racist," Jealous said, but whether "the cartoonist, the section editor and the editor in chief are capable of producing a newspaper that comports with just the basic standards of civility. And when I say basic, I mean so basic as to ensure that a cartoon that can be very easily construed a) as racist and . . . encouraging the assassination of the president of the United States, doesn't see the light of day."

Jealous said NAACP representatives were in Washington on Wednesday meeting with the Federal Communications Commission over a waiver that allows Murdoch to own both a television station and a newspaper in the same market. That allows too much influence for the same point of view, the activists said.

"There are statutory requirements for waivers, including diversity of opinion. If they are not in accord with that, then FCC should not be giving them waivers to dominate media markets like New York and Boston and other places," Sharpton told Olbermann.

W.A. Tatum, N.Y. Amsterdam News Chairman, Dies at 76

Wilbert A. Tatum, the colorful publisher emeritus and board chairman of the New York Amsterdam News, died Wednesday night in Croatia after showing flu-like symptoms for the past couple of days, Gary A. Ramsay, president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, said Thursday. He was 76 and was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on vacation with his wife, Susan. 

Wilbert Tatum "He died after multiple organ shutdown around 1 a.m. local time, said Elinor Tatum," Jennifer 8. Lee wrote on the New York Times Web site. "Ms. Tatum said her father was a diabetic and had been in a wheelchair." 

Tatum and several Harlem business associates bought New York's largest black newspaper in 1983, and Tatum eventually acquired a controlling interest. In 1997, Elinor Tatum, became publisher and editor in chief. Though the weekly's audited circulation was only 12,379 in March 2007, it had greater influence in part because of its chairman's personality.

Writing in 1993 for the New York Times, Jonathan P. Hicks said of Tatum, "In the 22 years Mr. Tatum has led The Amsterdam News, he has been cheered and vilified by readers for editorial positions: his defense of Tawana Brawley; his printing the name of the Central Park jogger who was raped; his stinging weekly diatribes against Mayor Edward I. Koch. . .

"A man who speaks in a clipped, declamatory, almost theatrical manner - he will even suggest the punctuation for his own quotes to an interviewer - Mr. Tatum is a bundle of complexities.

"Few among his staff at The Amsterdam News would speak about him for attribution. But privately, they describe a man who expresses passionate views on fairness for minorities, yet who is so stubborn and occasionally petty that he alienates even those who agree with him."

But in 1999, when Elinor Tatum accepted an award from the organization of black-community publishers, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, she said of her father, "It's tough being the publisher of a Black newspaper in New York. Whenever any racial issues arise, every single sentence is analyzed and critiqued by traditional media, skeptics and racists. At times even rival Black newspapers take up the gauntlet to present a challenge," she said, according to an account in her newspaper.

"But my father has been steadfast in the face of adversity and I am very proud of all he has accomplished in the name of publishing."

Hicks wrote that Tatum was a North Carolina native who lost his Southern accent by speaking in high school oratory contests. He began in journalism working for three small newspapers founded by his father to provide information to black farmers.

"Tatum had to leave America to follow his dream due to the lack of substantive career opportunities for African Americans at the time," according to a biography prepared when he was awarded an honorary degree in 2005 at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

"He spent an extended period of time in Europe where he worked as a reporter and columnist for Stockholm's TIDNIGEN in Sweden, and AKUELT in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returned to America and in 1971, Mr. Tatum purchased the NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS with his partners. In 1972 they went on to purchase New York City radio stations WLIB and WBLS: the flagship stations of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's consortium of stations in California, Michigan, Texas, Indiana and New York. Mr. Tatum and his partners also own corporate stock for the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem."

In 1996, a jury in New York State Supreme Court sided with an angry shareholder in a long-running battle for control of the paper and found that Tatum had "wrongfully diverted" $1.05 million in corporate money.

Though he had been accused of being anti-Semitic, his wife, the former Susan Kohn, was a Jewish refugee from the old Czechoslovakia.

He last appeared in the Amsterdam News in the Jan. 29-Feb. 4 issue, after talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said he wished President Obama would fail. "It is not our wish that Limbaugh has any bad luck. It is, rather, that we wish he would have a stroke of bad luck that would kill him deader than hell," Tatum wrote.

"We do not wish him death, not in the traditional sense. We wish him death in the sense that that part of his mouth that persuades people against their own best interest would be thwarted and banished from the earth. While some would think this cruel, we rather think it is a just way in which to do things after one has been so patient in meting out sentences to such reprobates.

". . . We have got to get down to business in America."

Tatum was the New York Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award winner last year for print journalism. [Added Feb. 26.]

Reporter's Story Gets Teen Presidential Attention

Ty'Sheoma Bethea, left, sat next to first lady Michelle Obama during the president's speech to Congress. Credit:"I met Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the teenage girl invited by President Barack Obama to sit beside the First Lady during his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, quite by accident a couple of weeks ago," Howard Witt, Houston-based correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, wrote on Tuesday.

"I was visiting the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C., a decrepit facility where the roof leaks and winter classroom temperatures hover in the 50s, to learn about how one impoverished school district was hoping for some financial help from the stimulus bill then being debated in Congress.

"I knocked on the door of a rusting mobile-classroom trailer where an 8th-grade social studies class was under way, and the teacher graciously allowed me to interrupt his lesson. When I asked the students whether they knew anything about Congress and the fiercely contested stimulus bill, Ty'Sheoma was one of the few students to raise her hand."

Howard Witt"Witt doesn't claim to be responsible for seating teenager Ty'Sheoma Bethea next to the First Lady at President Barack Obama's speech to Congress Tuesday night — but facts are facts," wrote Wednesday in Editor & Publisher.

"Whether it was the attention the Tribune story gave the letter, or someone in the White House who realized Obama might be interested in it, the letter ended up in front of the president, who invited the girl to Washington.

"In his speech Tuesday, Obama read this excerpt from the letter: "'We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.'

"The audience of congressmen, Supreme Court justices and others erupted in a standing ovation for the girl."

At Anchor Luncheon, Obama Provided the Color

The lack of ethnic diversity among the principal network anchors was evident Tuesday when President Obama had a few lunch guests over to the White House for a preview of the evening speech he delivered to a joint session of Congress, as Jeff Zeleny reported for the New York Times.

"But who are considered the top anchors?" Zeleny wrote. "With the proliferation of news programs and cable channels, it may no longer be as easy to determine who should be around the table for a presidential lunch that takes on the air of a caste system.

"Here are the invitees, which include the principal anchor and a Sunday show host:

"NBC News: Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor, NBC Nightly News; David Gregory, moderator, Meet the Press.

"ABC News: Charles Gibson, anchor, World News; George Stephanopoulos, chief Washington correspondent.

"CBS News: Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor, CBS Evening News; Bob Schieffer, anchor, Face the Nation.

"PBS: Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor, NewsHour.

"FOX NEWS: Bret Baier: anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier; Chris Wallace, host, Fox News Sunday.

"CNN: Wolf Blitzer, anchor, The Situation Room; John King, anchor, State of the Union."

Reporter Fired Over Prank Video of Eric Holder

Baltimore's "WBAL-TV fired a producer-reporter today for altering a video in such a way as to put false and potentially inflammatory words into the mouth of Fox News anchor John Gibson," David Zurawik wrote on Tuesday for the Baltimore Sun.

"The video that was doctored by John Sanders, who covered technology issues and produced promotional videos for Baltimore's NBC affiliate, became a viral sensation last week after the Huffington Post presented it as authentic.

"Driving the video's popularity is the nature of the words that Sanders inserted and their potential racial and political implications. Sanders took the voice track of another Fox anchor who had been talking on-air about a runaway monkey and using the words 'bright blue scrotum' to describe a distinguishing characteristic of the animal, and edited them into a video of Gibson talking about Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the first African-American to hold the Cabinet post. Sanders said he thought the edited video 'would sound funny.'"

Roland Martin to Sub for Campbell Brown on CNN

Roland Martin"In early April, Campbell Brown will take maternity leave for about 8 weeks and Roland Martin will fill in for her during that time," CNN announced on Wednesday.

"Roland is a solid journalist and a terrific communicator. He’s been a regular part of the 'No Bias, No Bull' family and our audience knows him well. He has also served as a contributor/analyst for CNN, and in fact, he’s been transparent about whom he has supported for president, whether it was George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush or Barack Obama. We look forward to Roland’s smart, energetic and spirited reporting. After Campbell returns to her show, Roland will then anchor a CNN weekend program that is currently in development."

. . . and Network Revives "Black in America"

Meanwhile, CNN announced plans to continue last year's "Black in America" series with a three-parter that will focus on successful innovators who are working to make improvements within African American communities.


"'Black in America: Today’s Pioneers' and 'Black in America: Tomorrow’s Leaders' will debut in July 2009. In addition, a special co-production with Essence magazine, featuring leaders and community organizers, will be filmed in New Orleans at the Essence Music Festival in July and broadcast on CNN in August."

CNN is rebroadcasting two nights of last year's series, reported by anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien. "Black in America: The Black Woman & Family" was to air on Wednesday and "Black in America: The Black Man" Thursday at 8 p.m. 

XXL's Elliott Wilson Launching Hip-Hop Web Site

"The former editor of XXL magazine is getting back in the rap magazine game — this time, online," Dylan Stableford reported Tuesday for Folio.

"Elliott Wilson is preparing to launch RapRadar, a Web site he hopes will eventually be a Huffington Post-like destination for hip-hop music fans and, perhaps, a print magazine. First, though, he says, he wants to develop a voice that has been lacking among Web sites that cover rap—that is, something akin to Perez Hilton.

"The New York-based site is slated to go live March 9.

"When it does, RapRadar will enter a highly-competitive category — with established Web sites including, and upstarts like NahRight covering the space alongside MTV, Billboard, the Source and even, which Wilson launched during his XXL tenure.

"'There are a lot of sites out there that do news, and a lot do gossip,' Wilson told FOLIO:. 'But not a lot of them can put it into the proper context, where it’s journalism versus pure gossip. I want to raise the bar journalistically. The public is hungry for both.'”

Wilson, whose wife, Danyel Smith, is the editorial director of Vibe, was fired from XXL in January 2008 after nine years as editor in chief.

Maria Hinojosa to Be Honored for PBS "NOW" Series

Maria HinojosaMaria Hinojosa, veteran journalist and reporter and correspondent for "Now" on PBS, has won a National Gracie Award in the "outstanding reporter/correspondent" category from American Women in Radio and Television, the group announced.

The winners of AWRT's local awards to be recognized at an industry luncheon on June 4 in New York, following a black-tie gala the previous night at the New York Marriott Marquis.

In addition to Hinojosa, who has been active in and honored by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, winners included National Public Radio's "Muslim Polygamy in America," as outstanding series; "Dr. Maya Angelou Show" on Harpo Radio, "outstanding talk show," and NBC News' "Child Soldiers, D.R. Congo," "outstanding documentary — short format."

The Gracies, named for comedienne Gracie Allen (1895-1964), who teamed with her husband, George Burns, as Burns and Allen, recognize exemplary programming created for women, by women and about women in all facets of electronic media, as well as individuals who have made contributions to the industry, the group says.

Stations Weigh Whether Viewers Relate to Gay Anchors

"Why are there so few visible gay anchors? I think this is, in part, because most general managers would rather hire a straight man as their main anchor," Paul Mueller of WLNE-TV in Providence, R.I., told the Soup Cans Web site on Tuesday.

"Sure, the gay and lesbian community has come a long way in the last few decades but as one of the main faces of the station, I think management tends to avoid gay men and lesbians as they cater to their audiences.

"Of course, there are a handful of gay anchors I know. Some are out, others are not. . . . There are plenty of gay reporters out there but, of course, they are in very different roles. They are not the main faces of the station.

"I think as news anchors, we face so many challenges each and every day, regardless of whether we are gay, straight, or somewhere in between. Can Joe and Mary Bluejean relate to an openly gay anchor? Of course, to answer that question would be to make a sweeping generalization. Some could. Other's couldn't. It's so important that the audience connects with the anchor team and it's up to each and every individual and their willingness to watch a gay news anchor."

Journalists Still Imprisoned Under Ra??l Castro

Ricardo Gonz?°lez Alfonso"Reporters Without Borders notes with regret that the Cuban government has stubbornly refused to release 23 arbitrarily detained journalists, including its correspondent Ricardo Gonz?°lez Alfonso, in the 12 months since Ra??l Castro was confirmed as President of the Council of State on 24 February 2008, 19 months after taking over provisionally from his ailing elder brother Fidel," the press-freedom organization said on Tuesday.

"There have been a few signs of a political opening-up in the past year but, in all, Cuba continues to hold around 200 political prisoners. The press freedom organisation calls for the continuation of diplomatic efforts that could help change this situation and, in particular, the lifting of the US embargo of Cuba that has been in place since 1962."

Gonzalez, who founded the island's first independent magazine, was named the group's "Journalist of the Year" in December.

Deadline Is March 9 for Opinion-Writing Workshop

Mary A. Mitchell, editorial board member and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, will be the keynote speaker for the 14th annual Minority Writers Seminar to be held April 30-May 3 at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville, the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation has announced.

The program's purpose is to give experienced journalists of color "an opportunity to explore the nuts-and-bolts of opinion writing and encourage them to consider making a career move."

Enrollment is limited to 15 and includes those who have been writing opinion less than two years. Lodging and food at the seminar are covered and participants will be reimbursed up to $200 for their transportation to and from Nashville. More details and an application are at The application deadline is March 9.

Douglas C. Lyons, senior editorial writer at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the seminar director.

Short Takes

  • Chuck Olmstead, a reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky., is hospitalized in serious condition, Angie Fenton reported Tuesday for the Courier-Journal. "Chuck is a Boston native, but he might as well be a native Louisvillian, he's been with WHAS11 since 1975 and has covered every major story since then," the station says on its Web site, where it provides a video¬†update. Earlier stories gave a cause for Olmstead's illness, but later ones said the family asked that that information not be disclosed.
  • Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, executive editor since 2005 of impreMedia‚Äôs El Diario La Prensa newspaper in New York, was named¬†Tuesday to the newly created position of corporate executive editor, ImpreMedia announced on Tuesday. Vourvoulias-Bush will be responsible for making sure the company's news is presented across all news platforms, including video and mobile, he told Journal-isms. "Prior to joining El Diario La Prensa, Mr. Vourvoulias-Bush was the Managing Editor of ARTnews; Deputy Editor of Time Magazine‚Äôs Latin America Edition and Director of Time Americas," a release noted.
  • For 10 years, a group of Washington-based journalists of color have been meeting monthly for dinner, and on Tuesday about 40 of them celebrated the anniversary as they watched President Obama's speech to Congress. "It was like being in a living history book," Denise Bridges of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk wrote on Richard Prince's Facebook page. "Gatherings like this, as with the roundtable dinners, help us take stock of who were are and what we have done over the decades in this town and in this profession. Represented are hundreds and hundreds of years of journalistic experience at every level, and a pool of talent and knowledge that rivals any group of journalists one could assemble in Washington," wrote Warren Leary, who retired last summer as science writer for the New York Times. Paul Delaney, Walt Swanston, Prince and Betty Anne Williams organized the event.
  • "The Poynter Institute has announced a new tuition scholarship program that is funded through proceeds from a new book of front pages about Barack Obama's election and inauguration," Joe Strupp reported¬†in Editor & Publisher. "The program will make available a limited number of tuition subsidies worth up to $500 for participants of select 2009 on-site seminars, a release stated."
  • "The head of Yahoo Inc's news and information division has jumped ship to Hearst Corp, as speculation mounts that the Internet company is on the brink of a major management reorganization," Reuters reported on Monday. "Hearst said on Monday that Neeraj Khemlani will join the newspaper and magazine publisher in March as vice president and special assistant to the chief executive for digital media."
  • "BET Networks has tapped Essie Chambers as its senior vice president of original programming," Vlada Gelman reported for TV Week. "Ms. Chambers, who comes to BET Networks from Nickelodeon, will oversee development of new reality and scripted series, in addition to the company‚Äôs current shows. She will be based in Los Angeles."
  • "The U.S. news media have been particularly uninterested in a dramatic story playing out in the French Caribbean," veteran journalist Joel Dreyfuss wrote colleagues in the National Association of Black Journalists on Wednesday. "The populations of Guadeloupe and Marinique, have been on a general strike for more than a month that has closed schools, crippled the economy and erased the tourism industry. The standoff has had racial overtones, sporadic violence and potentially, a huge impact on France's economic and political relationship with its overseas departments." He directed readers to his blog.
  • In Senegal, "A Dakar appeal court yesterday upheld the three-year jail sentence passed on El Malick Seck, the editor of the Dakar-based daily 24 Heures Chrono, on 12 September for a vaguely-sourced report claiming the president and his son Karim were involved in money laundering in C?¥te d‚ÄôIvoire. Arrested on 28 August, Seck was convicted of 'disseminating false news,'‚Äù Reporters Without Borders said¬†on Tuesday.

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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