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NABJ, NAHJ Concerned About CNN Diversity

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Latest Network President's Hires All Are White

Paper Wins Access to Withers' Work as FBI Informant

Call Renewed for "Rooney Rule" for Sports Sections

The Onion Sorry for Obscene Reference to 9-Year-Old

Show Spends 5 Months at School Plagued by Shootings

Obama Said to Change Global Image of African Americans

A Sunday Talk Show That Has No Problem With Diversity

A White Model as "African Queen"

Short Takes

Cristina Cruz, left, laces up a pair of boxing gloves for CNN's Soledad O'Brien

Latest Network President's Hires All Are White

CNN President Jeff Zucker met Monday in Atlanta with leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists in the wake of Zucker's failure to include journalists of color among his first few appointments and the elimination of his "Starting Point" morning show hosted by Soledad O'Brien.

NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said he wanted to talk with the NABJ board of directors before commenting.

[On Tuesday, Lee issued a statement saying NABJ had a standing quarterly meeting with CNN that predates the current leadership team. ". . .This particular meeting was an opportunity for NABJ to speak with Mr. Zucker and to learn more about his vision for the network. We had a productive discussion on how CNN can partner with NABJ to achieve our common objective of promoting a diverse newsroom, in particular within the management ranks, where our industry overall is lacking in diversity. . . . "]

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also took note of Zucker's first moves. NAHJ President Hugo Balta said in a message posted on the NAHJ website, ". . . With Soledad’s departure, there is now only one Latina anchor at CNN, Zoraida Sambolin, who co-hosts 'Early Start' from 5-7 a.m. There are no other Latino anchors on CNN’s daytime programming or in its prime-time schedules. NAHJ urges CNN to take judicious positive steps in diversifying its lineup and filling this void with the hiring of Latino talent for its English-language network. . . ."

Balta wrote that ". . . Soledad has always been a champion of diversity, behind the scenes and in front of the camera," and that ". . . her generosity makes it possible for NAHJ to award up to $5,000 annually to student members pursuing careers in TV broadcast journalism."

O'Brien, daughter of a white Australian father and a black Cuban mother, announced jointly with CNN last week that she would form a production company and continue to supply documentaries to CNN on a nonexclusive basis. She also plans to make them for other television channels and for the Web.

Gail Shister reported Monday for TVNewser that O'Brien said she had already received four pitches for documentaries and other long-form programming.

" 'I’ll consider all pitches,' says O’Brien, 46, who will continue as anchor of 'Starting Point' until May or June. 'Excited' is an overused word, but I'm excited to take this step,' " Shister wrote.

"O’Brien's Starfish Media Group, to launch in June, will produce three documentaries for CNN in 2014, including another of her ‘Black in America’ series. She is free to create content for other networks, platforms and partners.

"She is also free to appear on the air elsewhere, but 'odds of that in the near future are low,' she says. 'They’re probably high in the far future.' ”

In reporting on Zucker's planned meeting with NABJ, Betsy Rothstein wrote Monday for FishbowlDC, "Speculation continues…to swirl about the network’s future with journalist and NABJ member Roland Martin. He recently answered a question from a fan on Twitter who would like to see him go to MSNBC. Martin's contract with CNN deal expires April 8.

"Some at the network believe times have been iffy for black journalists at CNN. TJ Holmes left his anchor slot in late 2011 over concerns of future advancement. Morning anchor Tony Harris did not have his contract renewed by CNN in early 2011 and surfaced at Al-Jazeera.

"With O’Brien’s departure, Suzanne Malveaux will be the only black weekday anchor. On the weekends there are [Fredricka] Whitfield, Don Lemon, and Victor Blackwell. [Isha Sesay anchors part of "Anderson Cooper 360," and Lisa Sylvester does news updates for "The Situation Room," according to the network's list of anchors and reporters.]

". . . So far, of the major personnel moves made by Zucker — the hiring of Jake Tapper, Chris Cuomo, Rachel Nichols — none are black," Rothstein wrote. In addition, Mark Whitaker, executive vice president and managing editor, left at the end of January to give Zucker a chance to build "his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff."

Meanwhile, MSNBC has been gaining black viewers. In 2012, for the Monday through Sunday 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot, MSNBC had more black viewers than CNN and Fox News Channel combined, Tommy Christopher reported last month for Mediaite.

In Zucker's introductory conference call in November with the nation's media reporters, none of the questions concerned diversity.

Journal-isms posed this question to Zucker afterward through CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson:

"How long does he think it will be before there is a weekday, prime-time anchor of color: African American, Hispanic, Asian American or Native American?"

The answer: "I hope you understand that it would be premature to engage on any programming or talent decisions at this time. I'm sure you gathered that from the call today."

Attempts to glean any progress on diversity since then have been unsuccessful. Zucker is not giving interviews, a CNN spokeswoman said.

Paper Wins Access to Withers' Work as FBI Informant

"A legal settlement finalized Monday is expected to unveil dozens of photographs and records documenting the late Ernest Withers' secret work as an FBI informant in Memphis during the civil rights era," Marc Perrusquia reported Monday for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

Ernest Withers, 1975. (Credit: Special Collections/University of Memphis Librari"The agreement between the FBI and The Commercial Appeal allows the newspaper to access portions of 70 investigative files in which Withers participated as an informant.

"Those 70 cases, ranging from the FBI's investigation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while in Memphis in 1968 as well as examinations of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP and the black power and peace movements here, represent a fraction of the celebrated photographer's work for the FBI between 1958 and 1972.

". . . The settlement also requires the FBI to pay $186,000 in attorney fees and legal costs the newspaper accumulated since filing suit in 2010. In turn, the newspaper agreed to drop its lawsuit, which it did Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Washington.

"The settlement, believed to be the first of its kind involving a civil rights era informant, is expected to provide a rare look inside the FBI's domestic intelligence machine that kept a close eye on Black America in search of Communist and militant influences. . . . "

Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, was widely honored in life as one of the foremost photographic chroniclers of the civil rights movement. When Perrusquia first reported Withers' secret work in 2010, readers and associates said they were shocked.

Among Withers' honors was a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists in 2000.

Call Renewed for "Rooney Rule" for Sports Sections

"Of all the racial and gender report cards produced by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, the most discouraging was the first Associated Press Sports Editors report card in 2006. Unfortunately, that sentiment is still applicable today," Richard E. Lapchick, director of The Institute, wrote Monday for the Sports Business Journal.

"It is discouraging because the percentages of people of color and women in the top-level positions in sports media remain dismally low. The hiring practices of ESPN appear to be the only factor that is bringing up the percentages.

"In the report that's due to be released this week, the grade for racial hiring practices for APSE newspapers and websites last year remained a C+, the same as in 2010. The F grade issued for gender hiring practices remained constant as well. The combined grade for 2012 was a D+.

". . . . My primary recommendation to the APSE remains that it adopt a rule, similar to the Rooney Rule in the NFL, that would call for a diverse pool of candidates for each opening of these key positions. I would call it the Ralph Wiley Rule after the late writer. That may be the push that is imperative."

The Onion Sorry for Obscene Reference to 9-Year-Old

"The satirical publication The Onion apologized on Monday for a post published Sunday night on its Twitter account that made an obscene reference to Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old actress nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' " Dave Itzkoff wrote Monday for the New York Times.

Quvenzhané Wallis at the Oscars (Credit: Yahoo Movies' Photostream)

" 'On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars,' Steve Hannah, chief executive of The Onion wrote in a post on Facebook. 'It was crude and offensive — not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting."

Several writers noted the rarity of such an admission from the publication.

Before the apology, Prachi Gupta wrote Monday for Salon, ". . .At best, the tweet reads like a degrading attack on a child; at worst, it’s a racially-tinged degrading attack on a child, by virtue of the fact it dredges up memories of those offensive tweets directed at Rue from 'The Hunger Games,' another young, black, female child actress in her breakout role. Also, it turns out that no one really thinks calling a child a c-word is funny. . . . "

In attempting to explain what went wrong, former Onion staffer Baratunde Thurston wrote that the Onion "largely satirizes media and the general public. Everyone fawning over a clearly lovely and innocent little girl presents an opportunity to go the opposite direction with something contrasting and clearly false. It was also a take on tabloid media extremism... but it was an extremely high-risk move and missed that target by WIDE margin. Limited upside. HORRIBLE downside."

Meanwhile, "The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday blasted an Oscars sketch in which potty-mouthed film star bear Ted joked about Jews in Hollywood, calling it 'offensive and not remotely funny,' " Agence France-Presse reported.

"The anti-Semitism watchdog said the sketch, at the 85th Academy Awards hosted by 'Family Guy' and 'Ted' creator Seth MacFarlane on Sunday night, was 'sad and disheartening.'

" 'While we have come to expect inappropriate "Jews control Hollywood" jokes from Seth MacFarlane, what he did at the Oscars was offensive and not remotely funny,' said ADL national director in the US Abraham Foxman. . . ."

Other than the ADL protest, the bear's remarks in a routine with Mark Wahlberg drew little comment, though a statement that implied that CNN was controlled by Jews (then-CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein was Jewish) cost Rick Sanchez his CNN anchor spot in 2010.

Public radio's 'This Amerian Life' visited Harper High School in Chicago, which lost 29 current and recent students to gun violenc

Show Spends 5 Months at School Plagued by Shootings

"For a two-part series on 'This American Life,' I spent five months beginning in August with two social workers at Harper High School in Englewood, an impoverished neighborhood on Chicago's South Side,' Alex Kotlowitz wrote Sunday for the New York Times Sunday Review. "The previous school year, Harper had lost eight current and former students to gun violence — and 21 others were shot and wounded.

"On the first day of school, when I met the social workers, Crystal Winfield Smith and Anita Stewart, they were dragging, unsure whether they could make it through another school year. Just two months earlier, in June, a 16-year-old sophomore, Shakaki Asphy, whom they had been very close to, was gunned down while standing on the porch of an abandoned building talking with a friend. That friend, Thomas, had already witnessed a number of other shootings, including one at age 10 when, at a party, the birthday girl, who was also 10, was hit by a stray bullet.

". . . Harper's school psychologist, Elizabeth Stranzl, told me of one 16-year-old boy whose friend was gunned down in front of him, in the morning on the way to school. The boy, who had been doing well at school, began to drift. When walking through the neighborhood he’d have hallucinations, imagining that he was seeing his dead friend, imagining ways that he might have protected him. He became disconnected from friends and from school. His affect became flattened. 'You could see the transformation,' Ms. Stranzl said. 'He was present, but he wasn't. He just felt defeated.' She worried he was getting more active in the streets. . . ."

The two-part series, which concluded over the weekend, makes for gripping radio. It is available at

Emily Condon, a spokeswoman for the show, which originates at WBEZ-FM in Chicago, said by telephone that while none of the three reporters is a journalist of color, one of the producers, Robyn Semien, is African American. Diversity "is always something we're always concerned about," she said, and "This American Life" tries to reflect diversity in the subjects it chooses. The staff is small, and there is little turnover, Condon said.

Keith B. Richburg says President Obama "has really changed the perception of African Americans." (Credit: C-SPAN) (Video)

Obama Said to Change Global Image of African Americans

The election of Barack Obama "has really changed the perception of African Americans, of black people around the world, . . ." Keith B. Richburg, who has reported for the Washington Post from the United States, Asia, Africa and Europe, said Sunday on C-SPAN.

"People in Africa are looking at the U.S. in a different way," [video] Richburg said on "Q&A." "I think the election of Obama was a fantastic thing, not just for Africa, but it is all over the world. I am amazed when I go to Indonesia and I am checking in at the airport and the immigration officer looks at my passport and looks at me and says, Obama, Number One," said Richburg, an African American who most recently was the Post correspondent in Beijing. "Taxi drivers in Beijing will look over and say, 'I like Obama.' He has really changed the perception of African Americans, of black people around the world, for some."

Richburg, 54, left the Post in January after 34 years because "it was time to move on," he told interviewer Brian Lamb, adding that there were more books he wanted to write. He is now a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

Richburg, who also spent two years as Post foreign editor, devoted most of the interview to his time in China. But he defended his 1997 book, "Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa," published after a tour that included coverage of the Rwanda genocide and the crisis in Somalia in which U.S. troops were dragged through the streets. In the book, he declared, "I am terrified of Africa. I don't want to be from this place. In my darkest heart here on this pitch black African night, I am quietly celebrating the passage of my ancestor who made it out."

It prompted a full page of letters when it was first published as a Washington Post magazine piece in 1995, and later was discussed in public forums.

"I do not hate Africa or the Africans," Richburg said on C-SPAN. "I hate the corruption. I hate the brutality, the inhumanity, the kids who point guns in my face, the 'big men' who scare away billions in the Swiss bank accounts. I hate the propensity of Africa to roll over and wallow and endure this suffering without taking it to the streets and doing more to demand their own rights. I hate the people who tossed firebombs to the opposition. I hate the way people can walk by suffering. . . ."

Almost all of the feedback to "Out of America" was positive, Richburg said, with some coming up to him after book signings and saying they secretly agreed with him. He wrote a new preface after Obama's election.

From left, William C. Rhoden (@wcrhoden); Jemele Hill (@JemeleHill); John Saunders (@JohnReporters); Br

A Sunday Talk Show That Has No Problem With Diversity

"For all the hot air wasted on Sunday morning talk shows, one thing you don't see is true diversity," says Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University's first chief digital officer, faculty member at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and co-founder of the South Asian Journalists Association. "It's usually the same parade of predictable politicians and overexposed pundits, with only (very) occasional women and minority guests," Sreenivasan wrote Sunday in a message to Journal-isms.

Sree Sreenivasan

"But my favorite Sunday morning talk show doesn't have that problem. It's (surprise!) ESPN's 'Sports Reporters' and it's diverse not just because it covers sports, a topic dominated by minority athletes.

"The host, John Saunders, is a terrific TV personality who happens to be black.  But ESPN isn't content to just have one minority on the show. Usually one of the three guests is also black; sometimes even two. And then, something magical like today happens. All three guests are black and one of them is a woman. And they had the usual engaging, entertaining show.

"Those of us who complain loudly every time we see an all-white-male or all-white panel on TV (or at a conference) should also take the time to celebrate when a network and/or executive producer (or conference organizer) makes the effort to showcase diverse speakers of all kinds. So I'm making a fuss over something most people wouldn't even notice or bother to remark about."

A White Model as "African Queen"

"Here we go again," Laura Beck wrote Monday for Jezebel. "Here's 16-year-old white model Ondria Hardin; she's doused in a very deep bronze in an editorial for Numéro magazine called 'African Queen'. Ugh. Foudre makes the excellent point/sums it up with, 'why hire a black model when you could just paint a white one!' . . . "

Numéro, a French magazine, says it "offers an avant-garde view of the worlds of fashion, art, and luxury."

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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