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NABJ Cuts Back, Asks Members to Pony Up

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lerone Bennett Jr. Cuts Tie With Johnson Publishing

Kathy Times, shown hugging a supporter as she campaigned in Tampa to become president of the National Association of Black Journalists, found a financial emergency two months into the job. (Credit: Jarrad Henderson/NABJ student project)


Too Many Conventioneers Doubled Up at Hotel

The National Association of Black Journalists ran into higher expenses than projected at its summer convention and is reducing staff, imposing furloughs and asking members for one-time tax-deductible donations, new president Kathy Y. Times told members on Friday.

"We have lost 887 members since last year. That costs NABJ $78,525 in day-to-day operating dollars," she added. NABJ is the largest of the journalist-of-color associations and counts 2,820 members. Many more claim to be, even though their memberships have expired. The Tampa gathering drew 1,924 registrants.

"NABJ produced a successful 2009 Tampa convention despite the tough times. Our workshops and programs received high marks from you the membership. While we exceeded our sponsorship goals and attendance goals, we are not surprised that we did not meet our contracted room block at the convention. Understandably, many people either doubled up or tripled up in rooms, leaving many rooms empty. Nobody knew when the contract was signed in 2005 that we would be facing the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression."

She detailed steps the association took to cut costs, and then continued, "Even with the budget cuts the financial exposure of unfilled rooms hit us with substantial penalties of $121,000."

Times told Journal-isms the association has laid off its development manager/writer at its University of Maryland headquarters, leaving seven employees.

Unity: Journalists of Color reported last month that since the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Bros., a 158-year-old investment bank choked by credit problems and falling real estate values, the journalism industry lost jobs at almost three times the rate of those that disappeared overall each month.

"The news industry has shed 35,885 since Sept. 15, 2008, and 46,599 jobs since UNITY began tracking job losses on Jan. 1, 2008," it said.

The recession combined with the rise of the Internet as a medium to cost traditional media advertisers, consumers and jobs. 

The American Society of News Editors and the Magazine Publishers of America canceled their conventions altogether; other groups reported reduced attendance.

In July, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said it was facing a $300,000 budget shortfall and canceled its annual awards banquet, which was to be held during Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

NAHJ asked each members to raise at least $200 for that organization's "Count Me In" campaign. So far, the campaign, which is hoping for $300,000 by Dec. 15, has raised $72,000, Executive Director Ivan Roman told Journal-isms.  

The Asian American Journalists Association is expected to face a budget deficit of up to $275,000 for the year, officials said in August at its Boston convention.

It, too, cited a drop-off in membership dues, losses associated with a lower-than-expected turnout at the convention, sponsors who pulled or reduced their support and a buyout of a hotel contract with the Westin Boston Waterfront.

AAJA had originally booked the Westin as an overflow hotel for the convention. AAJA officials negotiated a buyout of the contract to avoid paying a $57,000 fee - and 'saved ourselves $27,000 from that,' Glenn Sugihara, accountant for the AAJA national office, told the student convention newspaper, AAJA Voices.

Times, anchor and investigative reporter at WDBD-TV in Jackson, Miss., was elected at the Tampa convention in August. She had been the association's vice president for broadcast.

She said the organization would launch a membership drive, to be led by Roxanne Jones of ESPN: the Magazine, whom she named membership chair.

On Oct. 15, NABJ and the Washington Association of Black Journalists are sponsoring a Washington reception for Byron Pitts, the CBS News correspondent whose new memoir, "Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges," describes how Pitts did not learn to read until he was 12 and stuttered until he was 20. The affair is designed to recruit members.


Native Mississippian Lerone Bennett Jr. holds a resolution from the Mississippi State Senate honoring him in 2007. He is flanked by State Sens. David Jordan, left, and John Horhn, with Rep. Omaria Scott and Sen. Willie Simmons, center, and Sen. Hillman Frazier and Rep. Willie Perkins in the rear. (credit: Mississippi State Senate.)

Lerone Bennett Jr. Cuts Tie With Johnson Publishing

Lerone Bennett Jr., the venerated writer and social historian who worked at Johnson Publishing Co. for 52 years, including as executive editor of Ebony magazine, has resigned as executive editor emeritus of Ebony.

He has been listed as such since 2005, when he retired from Ebony at age 78.

Bennett told Journal-isms that he did not want to discuss the matter, but his daughter, Joy Bennett, vanished abruptly from the publication in August, marking the first time in decades that neither father nor daughter was on the staff.

["I resigned as executive editor emeritus effective immediately because of the mishandling of the case and the lack of criteria and perspective and a sense of history in dealing with the case," he told Journal-isms on Oct. 12.]

Joy Bennett has not discussed her departure from the magazine.

Wendy E. Parks, a spokeswoman for the Johnson Publishing, publishers of Ebony and Jet, told Journal-isms, "We’ve reluctantly accepted Mr. Lerone Bennett Jr.’s request to have his name and honorary title of executive editor emeritus removed from the masthead of Ebony. Over the years, Mr. Bennett made many valued contributions to Ebony, both personally and professionally, and his wise counsel will always be appreciated."

She said Bennett made his request several weeks ago.

Johnson Publishing has undertaken several major personnel changes in recent months, adding to turmoil at a company already affected by changes in the magazine industry, a recessionary economy and the death of the company's founder, John H. Johnson, in 2005. His daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, is now CEO.

Bennett became an iconic figure during the John H. Johnson years. At Johnson's funeral, he said of the publishing pioneer, "considering the depth from which he came, and the height he climbed and the obstacles he overcame, he was the greatest of all American publishers, black or white." The crowd applauded with a standing ovation.

In announcing Bennett's appointment as executive editor emeritus in 2005, the company called him an "internationally renowned historian and critically acclaimed author" and noted that he had "a long, distinguished career with EBONY covering most of the major civil rights events including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington."

It noted that "Bennett has received numerous awards including the Distinguished W.E.B. DuBois Scholarship Award from the Association of Social and Behavioral Scientists, Inc., the 'Salute To Greatness Award' from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center For Non-Violent Social Change, Inc., the Literature Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists."

He is also author of the classic black history text, "Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America 1619-1962." Revised in 2000, the book was originally published by Johnson Publishing in 1962.  [Updated Oct. 12]

White House Criticized for Changing on Shield Law

"The Obama administration has told lawmakers that it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security, according to several people involved with the negotiations," Charlie Savage reported Wednesday in the New York Times.

"The administration this week sent to Congress sweeping revisions to a 'media shield' bill that would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify.

"The bill includes safeguards that would require prosecutors to exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter, and would balance investigators’ interests with 'the public interest in gathering news and maintaining the free flow of information.'

"But under the administration’s proposal, such procedures would not apply to leaks of a matter deemed to cause 'significant' harm to national security. Moreover, judges would be instructed to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

"The two Democratic senators who have been prime sponsors of the legislation, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that they were disappointed by the administration’s position.

"Mr. Specter called the proposed changes 'totally unacceptable,' saying they would gut meaningful judicial review. And in a statement, Mr. Schumer said: 'The White House’s opposition to the fundamental essence of this bill is an unexpected and significant setback. It will make it hard to pass this legislation.'”

NABJ Supports FCC's Diversity Officer Position

The National Association of Black Journalists has expressed support for the “chief diversity officer” position at the Federal Communications Commission, telling FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that it "adds substance to your promise to 'expand opportunities for women, minorities and small businesses to participate in the communications marketplace.'"

The Sept. 23 letter from NABJ President Kathy Times does not name the person holding the post, Mark Lloyd, who "has been unfairly attacked on cable TV and radio talk shows with false and misleading information about his role and responsibilities at the FCC," according to a different letter signed by 50 groups, including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

On the day Times' letter is dated, the Washington Times ran a story that began, "President Obama's diversity czar at the Federal Communications Commission has spoken publicly of getting white media executives to 'step down' in favor of minorities, prescribed policies to make liberal talk radio more successful, and described Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela 'an incredible revolution.'"

Genachowski said in response to conservative concerns, according to the Times story, "Mark Lloyd is not working on these issues. He's not working on Fairness Doctrine issues. He's not working on censorship issues. He's . . . working on opportunity issues, primarily now on broadband adoption, focusing on making sure that broadband is available to all Americans."

Times wrote to Genachowski, "During a 1995 White House visit, one of our NABJ members asked President Clinton about the effect that ending the FCC tax certificate policy had on African-American station ownership. The President said that regretfully, the effect of his action on the decline of black ownership had been 'breathtaking.' This action coupled with the past administration’s policy has concentrated media ownership to an extent where people of color are hard to find."

The minority tax certificate policy allowed broadcasters and cable companies to defer capital gains taxes if they sold properties to minorities. Tax certificates also were issued to investors who provided start-up capital to minority-controlled companies. The policies were repealed in 1995, after Republicans took control of Congress in an anti-affirmative action climate. Clinton signed the legislation.

Carter Says Remarks on Racism Misinterpreted

"Former President Jimmy Carter insisted Thursday that he did not say protests against President Barack Obama were driven by racism," as Andy Barr reported Friday for Politico.

"Carter touched off a firestorm three weeks ago when he said Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) 'You Lie!' outburst was 'based on racism' and that there 'is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.'

Carter appeared with CNN's Candy Crowley on the network's "American Morning.”

CROWLEY: "Mr. President, let me ask you, first, domestically, you made some remarks recently about how you felt about the protesters that were protesting against President Obama. You said overall you thought the protesters were upset that there was a black president, that there was racism involved. You said that many people —"

CARTER: "By the way, that's not what I said."

CROWLEY: "Okay."

CARTER: "I said those on the fringe element that had vituperative, personal attacks on President Obama, those were the ones that I included. But I recognize —"

CROWLEY: "I think your first remarks were that overall —"

CARTER: "No, it wasn't. If you read the remarks carefully, you'll see that that's not what I said. I said those that had a personal, vituperative attack on President Obama as a person, that was tinged with racism. But I recognize that people who disagree with him on health care or the environment, things like that, the vast majority of those are not tinged by racism."

CROWLEY: "So you think they were taken out of context? You didn't mean that most of those protesters out there were racist?"

CARTER: "I meant exactly what I said. What I actually said, if you look at the transcript, is just what I just repeated to you."

$7 Million Aims to Avoid "Second-Class" Digital Citizens

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing nearly $7 million in new grants that flow from ideas in a new report that warned Friday of an erosion of democracy with the creation of "second-class citizens" in the digital age, the foundation said.

"Citing estimates that more than one-third of the country has no broadband connection to the Internet, 'that's a hell of a lot of Americans who don't have access to the way we're communicating,' says Alberto Ibarg?ºen, president of the Knight Foundation, which commissioned the year-long study with the Aspen Institute. 'When an urban kid who wants a job at McDonald's or Wal-Mart has to apply online, if you don't have digital access, you can't apply,'" Howard Kurtz wrote in the Washington Post.

The new grants include:

  • $3.3 million to improve free, public Internet access in libraries in 12 communities, including Tallahassee, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.
  • $2.28 million in broadband access projects in underserved neighborhoods in three cities not identified in the announcement.
  • $1 million for National Public Radio to set up local online journalism projects in 12 cities.
  • $250,000 to support a new online news model at
  • $250,000 to the New America Foundation to establish a Knight fellows program to track and critique national media policy changes.
  • Funds that will allow the students at the Knight Digital Media Center at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to work on the Bay Area News Project, a new nonprofit journalism organization.
The report sets out 15 recommendations for reaching its goals. Among them are:
  • "Set ambitious new standards for universal broadband in the United States. Only by providing universal broadband access will America begin to realize a vision of digital inclusion, enabling all to participate effectively in their local community affairs.
  • "Increase support for public service media, but with more local, inclusive and interactive fare.
  • "Public broadcasting needs to move to the next level of local public service in a way that includes and interacts more deeply with local citizens.
  • "Require governments at all levels to operate openly, with easy access to public records. Openness and transparency promote better governance, curb corruption, and foster local control.
  • "Include digital and media literacy as critical elements at all education levels. These new literacies should be part of public education, and seen as necessary skills for effective citizenship.
  • "Fund libraries and other community institutions for adult digital and media training.
  • "Engage our youth in a kind of 'Geek Corps' to develop local digital capacity."
Aneesh Chopra. the federal chief technology officer, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said they will use the report to guide policy, they said at a Washington event announcing the report, according to Communications Daily.

"The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has discussed the report with its staff at a time that 'the stars are in alignment' for change, as at the time of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, said CPB Chairman Ernie Wilson. 'If we fail to seize these opportunities, it will be our fault, it will be my fault,'" Communications Daily reported.

. . . NPR Awarded $3 Million for Community Coverage

"NPR will launch a new journalism project to develop in-depth, local coverage on topics critical to communities and the nation, in a new effort funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the groups announced today," NPR announced on Friday.

"The new funding — $2 million from CPB and $1 million from Knight Foundation — provides a pilot group of NPR stations with the resources to expand original reporting, and to curate, distribute and share online content about high-interest, specialized subjects. It is the first time that CPB and Knight Foundation have jointly funded a project of this type.

"The two-year pilot will help a dozen stations establish themselves as definitive sources of news on a topic selected by each one as most relevant to its community, such as city politics, the changing economy, healthcare, immigration or education. These online reports will help fill the growing gap in local news offerings."

Meanwhile, "AOL has been busily launching or acquiring a slate of about 80 sites — from TMZ, to Engadget, to, most without any visible relation to the parent brand," Timothy Lavin wrote in a blog Thursday for the Atlantic.

"And Tim Armstrong — a former marketing executive at Disney's ABC/ESPN Internet ventures — has said that he sees AOL as the Disney of the future: ruling over a series of independently branded Web properties."

As noted in this space, AOL Sports has been hiring a number of newspaper journalists of color, and former newspaper columnists Mary C. Curtis and Donna Britt are now writing for AOL's Politics Daily.

"A Journalist in the Hands of Somali Pirates"

Somali pirates in Hobyo, north of Mogadishu. (Credit: CPJ/EPA) “'Hello. Welcome. You seem new here, what can we do for you?' says one of the more than 10 men chewing khat," Kassim Mohamed, freelance journalist based in East Africa, wrote Thursday for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"I introduce myself and as seconds turned to minutes, the men become comfortable with me. These men, it turns out, are pirates. And they begin to tell me their side of the story.

“'We started this trade because some countries are destroying our livelihood by dumping toxic materials into our sea,' says a man named Mohamed who is sipping coffee. 'We are also up against the illegal fishing that takes place here.'

"To the far right is a man about 70 years old with a bushy beard that is slowly taking over his round face. I am told he is the ringleader. 'We are only waiting for the monsoon period to end and this time we will strike hard,' says Guled Mohamed.

"On this Friday, the team is busy organizing the food to take to hostages held in different locations. Men clad in local Somali regalia crisscross the verandah. The team offers to take me to a group of Asian hostages secured at an island miles away. I agree to go.

"Along the route, a confrontation ensues between the pirates onboard while deep in the Gulf of Aden. A section is opposed to the idea of a journalist recording and visiting the highly guarded territory. Two of them turn, pointing their AK-47 rifles at me. At this point I am speechless that the men who only a few minutes ago were friends are baying for my blood."

Mohamed, who has written for U.S.-based Current TV, continues the tale, which includes his eventual release, and ends with a warning:

"For those who perceive the current calm in piracy off the Gulf of Aden as an end of sea piracy, Somali pirates are asking you to think again. The men, who earned themselves the nickname 'The Robin Hoods of the Sea,' say they are still in action and are strategizing."

Pirates off the Horn of Africa have receded from the American consciousness since the April 12 rescue of U.S. sea captain Richard Phillips, who was believed to have been the first U.S. citizen taken by pirates since 1804. Snipers killed three of the pirates.

Short Takes

  • "Those groans you heard following Chicago's failure to land the 2016 Summer Olympics Games after the games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro weren't all coming from Mayor Richard M. Daley's office," Jeremy Mullman wrote Friday for Advertising Age. "The bankrupt Tribune Co., for instance, would have likely seen some benefit across all of its TV, radio, print and digital properties in the city, even though it won't be broadcasting the games."
  • George MilesIn Pittsburgh, "George Miles, WQED Multimedia president and chief executive officer, announced at the company's annual board meeting last night that he plans to retire next year," Rob Owen reported Thursday for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Mr. Miles, who joined WQED as its CEO in 1994 at a time when the public broadcaster was coming off a period of debt and financial turmoil, will step down at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year next September."
  • Four journalists have won the 2009 Knowledge@Wharton Awards for Business Journalism, sponsored by the South Asian Journalists Association, the Wharton School and the Knowledge@Wharton online business journal, SAJA announced on Wednesday. They are Sonia Narang, a member of SAJA and a journalist with NBC News in New York; Sanjay Bhatt, a member of the Asian American Journalists Association and an enterprise reporter for the Seattle Times; Olivera Perkins, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a business reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Jonnelle Marte, a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a reporting assistant for the Wall Street Journal.
  • "A Florida appeals court upheld Florida‚Äôs open meetings law today and ordered the National Collegiate Athletic Association to hand over documents related to secret disciplinary proceedings against Florida State University," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported on Thursday. "Twenty-six media outlets filed suit against the NCAA and FSU."
  • AARP announced it will launch a weekly Spanish-language radio show, "Su Segunda Juventud," on Sunday. Gabriela Zabal??a-Goddard, editor of AARP Segunda Juventud, will host the half-hour health, finance and lifestyle-oriented show, reported.
  • "The Annenberg School for Communication honored diversity and history Wednesday night with Voices for Justice: 200 years of Latino Newspapers, which celebrated the influential history and future of Spanish-speaking media," Corianda Dimes reported for the campus newspaper the Daily Trojan. Professor F?©lix Guiti?©rrez, who specializes in diversity and media, moderated the event,
  • "Darla Miles, who joined Dallas-based WFAA8 in December 2006, is Darla Milesleaving to join WABC-TV in New York," television writer Ed Bark wrote Wednesday on his blog. "WFAA8 management confirmed her departure Wednesday. Miles has been a Fort Worth-based general assignment reporter for WFAA8, and also occasionally filled in as a weekend anchor. She arrived in North Texas from WTVD-TV in Raleigh, NC, where she spent three years."
  • "Talking about the future of news too often translates to talking about the past," Jose Antonio Vargas wrote Thursday on the Huffington Post. "That's exactly how I felt when a friend, a fellow 20-something journalist, tweeted the news release of a 10-part public television series called 'The Future of News,' produced by the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and scheduled to air next year. 'You've got to be kidding,' the friend wrote in a subsequent instant message. 'This is the future of news?" All the guests were over 40.
  • David Letterman's survival depends on two things: "whether there are worse revelations to come, and if he can negotiate them as smoothly as he handled this moment," media writer Eric Deggans wrote Friday on his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog. In a joking manner, Letterman¬† confessed on his show Thursday that he has had sex with women working on his show, possibly cheating on his wife. Robert Halderman, a producer for CBS television, pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to extort $2 million from Letterman in exchange for not revealing the affairs.
  • Pro Publica, the public-interest Web site, is looking for two additional investigative reporters. "Applicants will be considered from any specialized or generalist investigative reporting background, but we are especially interested in applicants focused on energy and environment, education or immigration. Both of the reporters to be hired will be based in ProPublica‚Äôs New York office."
  • Hampton University this week held a National Summit on Marriage, Parenting and Families, "which brought in great talkers and thinkers from around the country," David Squires wrote Thursday for the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. CNN commentator Roland Martin and his wife, the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin, were keynote speakers for a Tuesday luncheon.
  • Jack T. Franklin"There wasn't much going on in Philadelphia that affected African-Americans over the past 50 years that Jack T. Franklin didn't record with his camera," John F. Morrison wrote Sept. 23 in the Philadelphia Daily News. "The African American Museum has more than 500,000 of his negatives, and that, it is believed, is merely the tip of the iceberg of Jack's amazing career. Jack Theodore Franklin died Sunday at age 87."
  • "The Council of Europe is next week hosting the 3rd International Journalism and News Conference in Strasbourg, France, to discuss diversity in the media industry across Europe," according to Asians in Media magazine. "Over 150 participants will take part in workshops, debates and meetings ‚Äî to look at how the media can play a key role in combating discrimination and fostering intercultural dialogue across European member states."
  • "Unemployment under President Barack Obama is at a 26-year-high. The last time the economy had 9.7 percent or higher unemployment was under President Ronald Reagan. But despite similar periods of rising unemployment, Obama and Reagan received almost exactly opposite treatment from the network news media," according to a study from the Business & Media Institute, which is dedicated to "advancing the culture of free enterprise in America."
  • Criminal charges and the closure of several radio stations over alleged incitement to violence in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, have sparked a debate about the limits of free speech in Uganda, according to an unbylined analysis Friday from Integrated Regional Information Networks, part of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Uganda Broadcasting Council silenced four Luganda-language radio stations during three days of riots in September that left 27 dead. The riots were sparked by the government's refusal to allow the king of Buganda, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, from travelling to a district within his kingdom. Buganda is a part of Uganda that predates the modern-day nation. The relationship between the two jurisdictions has been strained.

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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Carter's Comments

The former president is absolutely right that his comments about the racist nature of some criticism of President Obama. He never said all or even most of it was racist. He said the over-the-top criticism was. By and large, journalists failed to interpret his remarks with precision and hold accountable so-called commentators who misinterpreted and exaggerated them.

Mark Lloyd

Scoop, The accusations that Mark Lloyd described Hugo Chavez's rise to power as an incredible revolution are false. I've seen the tape that Glen Beck showed with great fanfare to prove his point. But he obviously didn't hear what I heard. Beck is saying that Lloyd was applauding the democratic revolution by Chavez. But, in listening to Lloyd, I heard him say there was a democratic revolution launched by property owners -- with help from the U-S -- AGAINST Chavez. And Chavez ignored media reports about it. He finally woke up and began to take the media more seriously when the revolution nearly succeeded.

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