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NABJ Blasts CNN's Choice of Spitzer

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cable News Networks Lack Prime-Time Anchors of Color

Hispanic Journalists Ask U.S. to Block Arizona Law

NAHJ Board Members Insist Group Is Not in the Red

Caution Urged on Reporting Obama Poll Numbers

Ken Bunting Surfaces as Director of New FOI Coalition

Press Group Wants Better Protection at World Cup

Boston Globe Supplement Confirms Diversity Setback

Bob Johnson Announces Plan for Factories in Haiti

Short Takes

Cable Networks Lack Prime-Time Anchors of Color

Hired as CNN prime-time team: Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer (Credit:  Lorenzo Bevilaqua/CNN)Two days after CNN hired disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to co-host a new prime-time program, the National Association of Black Journalists Friday blasted the cable news networks for their failure to place African American hosts in such prime-time slots [PDF].

"The company missed another opportunity to place a person of color in prime time," NABJ said in a statement. "It just seems that cable news can never find diverse candidates who are good enough to meet their standards. We want to know your standards.

"Are you telling us that CNN could find no one better than an ex-politician who quit being New York governor after consorting with prostitutes to grace America's living rooms each night?

"CNN does have Tony Harris anchoring in the morning, and [Fredricka] Whitfield, T.J. Holmes, and Don Lemon on the weekends. But that's not prime time. The same can be said about MSNBC which last week named veteran Lawrence O'Donnell as the anchor of its new 10 p.m. show."

CNN announced Wednesday that Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, a white conservative columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, "will co-host a spirited, nightly roundtable discussion program on CNN/U.S.," filling the 8 p.m. Eastern slot to be vacated by Campbell Brown.

Marc Watts, agent for CNN contributor Roland Martin, who had substituted for Brown, had hoped to place Martin in Brown's slot. Martin is secretary of NABJ.

The CNN announcement prompted a story Thursday by Rachel Sklar in the online magazine the Daily Beast, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Cable."

"CNN just announced two new hosts for the 8 p.m. prime time hour recently vacated by Campbell Brown: Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker," Sklar began.

"Last week, MSNBC announced that the new host for its 10 p.m. prime time show would be network staple Lawrence O'Donnell. What do these three people have in common (and thankfully for O'Donnell and Parker, it's not being caught with your socks down with a prostitute)? Pretty obvious: They're white.

"They're white like Chris Matthews is white, like Bill O'Reilly is white and Keith Olbermann is white, like Wolf Blitzer is white and Megyn Kelly is white and John King is white and Ed Schultz, Greta Van Susteren, Jake Tapper, Joe Scarborough, Bob Schieffer, David Gregory, Chris Wallace, Rachel Maddow, and Dylan Ratigan are white, not unlike the lion's share of their guests."

The Daily Beast piece is not without its own irony: The Daily Beast has so far refused to disclose the diversity of its own staff, which appears to be almost as white as the prime-time lineups the piece criticizes. Daily Beast spokesman Andrew Kirk dodged the question again when Journal-isms asked about the site's diversity on Friday.

Journal-isms asked the three cable news networks for their responses to Sklar's article. Fox News Channel did not answer. MSNBC's Alana Russo said, "We don't have any comment on Rachel's piece."

CNN said through a spokeswoman:

"CNN has incorporated diversity into all aspects of its coverage, including on-air talent and those behind the scenes. From our correspondents at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and at the Pentagon; to CNN Newsroom to our Sunday morning programming with Candy Crowley and Fareed Zakaria, CNN's programming reflects our commitment to diversity. Like all our shows, the new 8 pm program will have a rotating panel of diverse guests.

"In addition, the network's commitment is demonstrated by this year's investment in a fully resourced production team, CNN's IN AMERICA unit, that is building upon our long-term record of success in covering communities of color and diversity in terms of culture and perspectives."

NABJ gave CNN its "Best Practices" award during its 2007 convention in Las Vegas. This year the award is going to MSNBC's siblings, NBC News and NBC's local TV stations.

David Bauder of the Associated Press quoted CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein on Thursday:

"Klein said CNN had considered scores of different personalities for the time slot but Spitzer and Parker stood out as iconoclasts. CNN arranged a meeting between the two about three weeks ago and was impressed by 'an organic chemistry' between them, he said."

In an interview published Wednesday with Dylan Stableford of, Klein said of Spitzer:

"I think any baggage any viewers have about him will be washed away when they see the show. It's going to be intelligent conversation between two adults, both of whom are free of vested interests, beholden to no one. They are renowned for it."

In its statement, NABJ quoted CBS anchor Russ Mitchell speaking in Ebony magazine. "Mitchell told Ebony 'I've been to journalism conferences over and over again, and heard some executive say "I'd like to hire more African-Americans, but I just can't find any qualified ones out there." That was b.s. then, and that's b.s. now.' NABJ couldn't agree more."

Ricardo Pimentel, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, listens to members during a business meeting at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver on Thursday. (Credit: Kristopher Fortin/Latino Reporter)

Hispanic Journalists Ask U.S. to Block Arizona Law

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists Friday called on the U.S. Justice Department to take legal action to block the new Arizona immigration law that NAHJ contends invites racial profiling of immigrants and Latinos because of its standard of "reasonable suspicion."

"We speak out today as journalists in both this call for action by the Justice Department and our call for comprehensive coverage. We believe that our members, Latino journalists, are as prone to be subjected to the requirements of SB 1070 as are immigrants or other Latinos," the organization, meeting in Denver at its annual convention, said.

"It is difficult enough for journalists to do their jobs, often in already intimidating situations, without being asked to produce 'papers' proving citizenship or legal residency."

ABC's Jake Tapper reported Tuesday, "Administration officials tell ABC News that they expect Attorney General Eric Holder to file a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for its immigration law soon, likely even next week." Tapper said the grounds would be, "One, that it is the constitutional obligation of the federal government to set immigration policy, not the states. . . . And two, that this law will be applied, they fear, in a discriminatory fashion, although they'll have to prove that on its face since the law has not actually been enacted yet."

The NAHJ statement continued, "We have another fear. Because of the passions provoked by this debate, it might be tempting for news organizations to shy from allowing Latino journalists from taking the lead or participating in such coverage. However, Latino journalists, who work under the same rules of ethics and standards as do other journalists, often offer an understanding and expertise that might otherwise go lacking. In any case, a reputable news organization would not remove someone with an expertise in legal or health matters from reporting on those issues because 'they are too close to the issue.' ”

The organization also called for "comprehensive, nuanced coverage that helps readers, viewers and listeners make the most sense of what is undeniably a complex issue," and offered its expertise.

It restated its position that "Using terms like 'illegal alien', 'illegals' as a noun, and 'anchor babies' is dehumanizing and by their bias and loaded nature, eliminate any semblance of fairness when covering the debate."

Immigration was among the topics at the convention's opening town hall meeting that brought together about a hundred community members and journalists Wednesday at the Colorado Convention Center, Yesenia Robles reported Thursday for the Denver Post.

" 'Seeing a broad range of people here speaks to the challenge: How do we cover a community as complex as this one?" said Denver Post columnist Tina Griego, moderator for the panel discussion. . . .

"Panelists included former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, lawyer Amber Tafoya, former state Sen. Polly Baca and assistant professor Celeste Gonzalez de Bustamantes of the University of Arizona."

NAHJ Board Members Insist Group Is Not in the Red

"NAHJ's members ‚ tempers flaring and emotions running high ‚ packed the general meeting this week, demanding answers to concerns about the organization's financial woes and dwindling membership," Ernesto Lopez wrote Friday for the Latino Reporter, the student project at the Denver convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

"Board members tried to allay their fears, insisting the organization is not in the red, despite raiding the scholarship and reserve funds to make ends meet.

"They acknowledged that if $125,000 is not raised by year' end, NAHJ will be in the red. They are looking for members to dig into their pockets — even in this recession in which many have lost or are in fear of losing their jobs — in order to sustain NAHJ’s future. They also promised to move the organization forward to adapt to the changing media environment which sees fewer corporate dollars coming into the coffers."

NAHJ announced it "will join 13 other journalists groups in sharing $875,819 in grants from the Challenge Fund for Journalism GLEFI (CFJ), a consortium of the Ford, McCormick and Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundations. NAHJ will receive a $25,000 challenge grant which also will be matched by individual supporters of the organization."

Ivan Roman, NAHJ executive director, told Journal-isms Wednesday that total registration for the conference was about 700, "a slight drop from the 800 people who attended last year’s event in San Juan, Puerto Rico," Lopez reported earlier.

Registration for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 1 in San Diego, is "close to our budgeted projection" of 1,060, NABJ President Kathy Times told Journal-isms. Last year's gathering in Tampa, Fla., drew 1,924 registrants, then-Executive Director Karen Wynn Freeman said at the time.

Polls don't tell the same story: President Obama greets residents in Grand Isle, La., worried about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, on June 4. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Caution Urged on Reporting Obama Poll Numbers

"Last week, Campaign Desk flagged a New York Times item that reported a surprising finding: for all the criticism about the government’s response to the Gulf oil spill, Barack Obama’s public approval ratings had remained basically steady," Greg Marx wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"But times have changed. On Wednesday evening, a joint NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was released, finding that fewer respondents approved of Obama’s performance (45 percent) than disapproved (48 percent).

" . . . the NBC/WSJ poll, conducted by Bill McInturff and Peter Hart, is a good one. But there are other good polls out there too, and they don’t necessarily tell the same story. On Thursday, Pew released its latest numbers. The headline? 'Obama’s Ratings Little Affected by Recent Turmoil.'

". . . The point is not that Pew is right and the NBC poll is wrong, but that both data sets are legitimate — so journalists should include both, and be circumspect about sweeping conclusions. Any given poll contains uncertainty, so 'until we see several of them moving in the same direction, it’s pretty hard to be sure that you’re picking up true change,' said Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin and co-founder of the polling aggregation site

"Media institutions have an obvious incentive to play up the polls they pay for. But 'a story written entirely from the point of view of either of those two polls would be misleading to readers,' Franklin said. A more accurate story would present the fuller range of data — which remains, at the moment, ambiguous."

Ken Bunting Surfaces as Director of New FOI Coalition

Ken BuntingKen Bunting, who was associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when it folded its print edition in March 2009, has been named executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition of open-government groups and advocates, the Columbia, Mo.-based group announced last week.

Bunting was associate publisher after serving seven years as the Post-Intelligencer's executive editor, the only African American top editor at Hearst Corp. newspapers.

In his new position, "Bunting will oversee all daily operations of the NFOIC, including fundraising, coalition building, and managing the Knight Freedom of Information Fund, a new initiative created by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support FOI litigation," the announcement said.

He "will administer funds for the Knight FOI Fund and oversee pass-through grants to state freedom of information groups, work daily to strengthen the work of its member coalitions, coordinate an annual conference, publicize the efforts of the NFOIC and its affiliates, and collaborate with a board of directors to chart the future of the organization." Bunting officially assumes the job on July 1.

Press Group Wants Better Protection at World Cup

The International Federation of Journalists on Friday called on the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) to ensure the safety of the journalists accredited to cover the World Cup tournament in South Africa.

"According to press reports, on June 21st, 2010, at the end of the training session, the Cameroonian player Alexandre Song threatened Jean Robert Fouda, Journalist of the Rep?®res newspaper and the online newspaper, accusing him of propagating false reports in exchange of money. According to witnesses, the player told the journalist that 'I swear you on the tomb of my children that you will pay dear for what you said.'

"IFJ deplores another incident which occurred on June 22nd when, following the elimination of his team, Algerian Rafik Sa?Øfi slapped a female journalist, Asma Halimi of the Algerian newspaper Comp?©tition. She has announced her intention to press charges for the assault and indicated that she had recently published an article about the player, adding that 'perhaps, he was not satisfied.'

"A few days before the beginning of the world cup, nearly eight foreign journalists and media workers (Portugal, Spain and China) were attacked, sometimes by armed men, and robbed in their hotels."

Meanwhile, "ESPN on Wednesday morning drew the largest audience for a soccer telecast in its history, as 6.16 million viewers tuned in to watch the United States top Algeria 1-0 in a crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup match," Anthony Crupi reported Thursday for MediaWeek.

"Through Wednesday, June 23, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 are averaging 2.66 million World Cup viewers, up 49 percent from 1.79 million viewers four years ago.

"ESPN said the Group C clincher now stands as the most-viewed broadband sporting event ever, drawing 1.1 million unique viewers to The average time spent viewing the match was 43 minutes."

As reported on Wednesday, Univision, which is broadcasting the games in Spanish, said that "Univision Interactive Media continues to set record traffic every day since the start of the World Cup across the board – site wide on, on, during live video streaming, and across mobile offerings."

Boston Globe Supplement Confirms Diversity Setback

 'Diversity Boston' is to be distributed Sunday."Workforce diversity along racial and ethnic lines likely took a big hit during the recession that began in 2007, economists and human resources professionals said," Ann Carrns wrote for the Boston Globe in the Globe's semiannual magazine, Diversity Boston.

" 'The labor force is less diverse, simply because of the sharper job losses among African-Americans and Latinos,’ said Christian Weller, a professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Diversity Boston went online at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Friday and the print edition will be available in the Sunday Globe, Shirley Leung, the supplement's editor, told Journal-isms.

As Alex Alvarez wrote for MediaBistro, Diversity Boston features a cover story on how Boston-based companies are fostering workplace diversity by supporting programs that attract or retain workers of different ethnicities, ages, religions, sexual orientations and physical abilities, as well as military personnel."

Leung, the Globe's assistant managing editor for business, oversaw a redesign of the magazine and told Alvarez, "We as a region don't talk enough about diversity, and that's why I jumped at the opportunity to work on a magazine dedicated to exploring diversity, whether in the workplace or where we live."

In addition to featuring the print edition's content, the online edition includes video and other multimedia extras.

Bob Johnson Announces Plan for Factories in Haiti

"The founder of the U.S. cable TV company Black Entertainment Television has announced a project for factories that will build construction materials in Haiti," the Associated Press reported Wednesday from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

"A press release from Robert L. Johnson says the two factories will build earthquake- and hurricane-resistant panels for housing in Haiti's quake-battered capital and the city of Cap-Haitien.

"Johnson announced the project Wednesday during a visit to Port-au-Prince, where he met with Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

"The factories will be developed through a company jointly owned by Johnson's RLJ Companies and South Carolina-based Global Building Solutions. The partnership has built a resort in the West African nation of Liberia."

Short Takes

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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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