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NABJ Rejects Free Tickets From Morocco

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Board Decides Ethical Issues Are Not Worth It

Screenwriter Ridley Defends Brutality in "12 Years a Slave"

CNN Drops Midday Show Co-Anchored by Suzanne Malveaux

Texas Stations Won't Spell Out "Martin Luther Coon" Gaffe
 
Blogosphere: Did Vanity Fair Lighten Nyong'o's Skin?

Short Takes

Royal Air Maroc, national airline carrier of Morocco, is based in Casablanca and

Board Decides Ethical Issues Are Not Worth It

The board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists decided Friday to turn down $25,000 in free travel from the state airline of Morocco after the trade association of black-newspaper publishers was criticized for accepting an expense-paid visit to the North African country last week.

NABJ had struck a deal with Morocco for $35,000 in sponsorships for the black journalists' Hall of Fame Induction gala, held at the Newseum in Washington on Thursday. Of that, $10,000 was to be in cash and $25,000 in travel vouchers good for any of 26 cities where Royal Air Maroc flies.

However, that agreement took place before the expense-paid trip by the National Newspaper Publishers Association came to light. Leading mainstream news organizations forbid employees from accepting free travel from news sources or governments, but NNPA does not subscribe to those rules.

Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, at right

Most NABJ members work in the mainstream news media. "The way I kind of see NABJ, we would be the role models . . . the policy enforcers for black people in this business," Lee Ivory, who spent 24 years at USA Today, including as publisher of its sports weekly, told fellow board members. "We should be beyond reproach."

Keith Reed, the organization's treasurer and senior editor at ESPN, questioned whether NABJ should make such decisions for its members, many of whom work for organizations that have their own ethics policies. "We are the governors of NABJ. We are not the ethical stewards of the members of the organization," Reed said.

Herbert Lowe, a former NABJ president who now teaches at Marquette University, told the group, "If you have to spend that much time on whether this is an ethical question, it is an ethical question. Ten thousand dollars is not worth the negative publicity."

Lowe said that the most significant story for black journalists in recent days was the promotion of Rob King to head news operations at ESPN, but it was subordinated in Journal-isms to news that the U.N. envoy from Western Sahara, a colony of Morocco, accused the country of using its expenses-paid trip for the black press as a political weapon against those in Western Sahara.

Some board members cautioned against such foreign entanglements, especially without doing "due diligence." "We are American citizens," Cindy George, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle and NABJ parliamentarian, said. "We live here. We have dealings with American companies. If this were North Korea, if this were China, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The NNPA trip raised some concerns about human rights issues."

Corey Dade, a contributing editor for The Root and the association's secretary, said there was a "distinction between an organization supporting our aims and our support going to personally enrich our members."

NABJ President Bob Butler, who brought the issue to the board, said he saw ethical hypocrisy by some mainstream organizations that allow staffers to test drive automobiles and use new technological gadgets free of charge. Others said journalists of color were under more scrutiny on such issues.

Maurice Foster, the NABJ executive director, said he negotiated with a Morocco representative after Butler asked him to see whether NABJ could restore funding for the Ethel Payne Fellowships, under which journalists researched projects in Africa and reported on them.

Members discussed ways to accept the Morocco tickets under the guise of fellowships, but decided that those would be subterfuges.

In the end, Butler said that the organization would accept an offer of a discount on the travel — he said it would be 5 percent or 10 percent — but that "we just want to tell them we just can't take the tickets." The board members agreed by consensus.

The National Bar Association, another black organization, is scheduled to leave Saturday for Morocco, as about 130 members, paying their own way, stage their annual midwinter meeting.

In other business, Foster told the board, meeting at its headquarters at the University of Maryland in College Park, that the association had 3,117 members in December, of whom 1,317 were full members, 611 associate members such as faculty members or public relations professionals, 1,061 were in the student category and 62 were high-school members. A few were in other categories. NABJ is the nation's largest organization of journalists of color.

Foster also said the summer convention near Orlando, Fla., netted $940,000.

Screenwriter Ridley Defends Brutality in "12 Years a Slave"

John Ridley (credit: Lee Ivory)

John Ridley, the screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave," the graphically violent true story of a black man tricked into slavery, rejected criticism Thursday that his screenplay is "torture porn," saying it was faithful to the 1853 memoir on which it is based.

Ridley spoke with Journal-isms after co-hosting the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame Induction gala Thursday at the Newseum in Washington.

"The source material is there," Ridley said, adding that those who question the depictions must not have read the book.

["It was never an intention to be exploitive but rather a need to remind people that it wasn’t just whippings and lynchings," Ridley said to Kathryn Shattuck Thursday in the New York Times. "I hope that in the coming years, our film is regarded as realistic. Lives were torn up in different ways. Anyone with a heart would have a difficult time not caring."]

Armond White, editor and movie critic of CityArts, was expelled from the New York Film Critics Circle this week after heckling "12 Years" director Steve McQueen at the Circle's annual awards dinner. In his review, White had called the movie "torture porn."

A PBS adaptation of Solomon Northup's book, produced for the "American Playhouse" series in 1984 by the late Gordon Parks, included none of the visualized brutality of the movie version.

However, the film has become far more successful than the television version, receiving nine Academy Award nominations this week and a Golden Globe Award for best drama. Ridley is an Oscar nominee for best adapted screenplay, for which he was applauded by the NABJ audience while he served as co-host.

"The prize goes to Solomon Northup," Ridley told the crowd. "It's his story, his words, it's his life. He ended up reporting on something most people did not."

NABJ's annual fund-raiser drew 398 people and grossed $152,041, Executive Director Maurice Foster told Journal-isms on Friday. Tickets were $100 for NABJ members and $150 for nonmembers. "Premiere VIP" seats were $250.

The organization inducted eight journalists into its Hall of Fame and awarded Sheila R. Solomon, an editor, writer and newsroom recruiter for four decades, its Ida B. Wells Award, bestowed jointly with the Medill School at Northwestern University.

The audience included enough NABJ members to resemble an NABJ convention, along with several African ambassadors and such notables as CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, lawyer and rainmaker Vernon Jordan, California Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, and Mignon Clyburn, an FCC commissioner.

Waters told Journal-isms that she was present because she and Jordan were among those invited to be honorary co-chairs. She said she appreciated the awarded journalists' declarations of dedication to truth and integrity, though she acknowledged "this love-hate relationship between politicians and journalists.

"We really do appreciate journalists who write the facts and write the real stories" rather than what they perceive to be the facts, Waters said.

Bernard Shaw, the retired CNN anchor, told young journalists that "standards and ethics must matter" and that "if you shrink from controversy, you withdraw from life. To fear controversy is to embrace mediocrity." He thanked such deceased black journalists as Bob and Nancy Maynard, cofounders of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Moses Newson, who risked his life covering some of the most notable events of the civil rights movement, said that United States professed to be a melting pot and that "how long the United States will be accepted by the world" as a leader will depend on how much it fulfills that promise. He explained later that he meant "how it treats its minorities."

Solomon said, "We can't let the media industry off the hook when it comes to diversity."

Jay T. Harris, former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, said he was glad to have been so honored because "I didn't want to be remembered for quitting a job." Harris left the paper in 2001 to protest planned layoffs.

Harris also took the unusual step of heaping praise on his former wife, journalist Christine Harris, who he said was "responsible for so much of what I have done."

Also honored were inductees Herb Boyd, author, documentarian and reporter for the New York Amsterdam News; Maureen Bunyan, anchor at WJLA-TV in Washington and an NABJ founder; and, posthumously, Ernest Dunbar, Look magazine writer; Zelda Mavin Jackson, the first African American female cartoonist; and Lee Thornton, broadcast journalist who later taught at Howard University and the University of Maryland. More videos here.

Separately, Butler gave a surpise award to Foster, whose contract expired on Nov. 15, praising his accomplishments since his hiring in 2010.

CNN Drops Midday Show Co-Anchored by Suzanne Malveaux

Suzanne Malveaux

"CNN is changing up its daytime schedule, replacing the NoonET 'Around the World' co-anchored by Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes with 'Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield,' " Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser.

"Banfield's move from 11am to Noon makes room for a new show co-anchored by John Berman and Michaela Pereira at 11amET. Berman and Pereira will continue their roles on 'Early Start' and 'New Day.'

"The international news-focused Noon hour took shape in the summer of 2012 as 'International Newsroom.' At the time, Malveaux had anchored two hours of CNN's early afternoon hours from Atlanta. She will return to Washington as CNN's national correspondent. Her return to D.C. allows her to better care for her mother, who suffers from ALS. . . ."

Texas Stations Won't Spell Out "Martin Luther Coon" Gaffe

"A San Antonio weatherman apologized Thursday for using a 'racially insensitive' term while referencing Martin Luther King Jr. Day during KABB FOX 29's morning broadcast," Kolten Parker and Jeanne Jakle reported for the San Antonio Express-News.

"Meteorologist Mike Hernandez referred to the upcoming holiday meant to celebrate the life of the civil rights leader as 'Martin Luther "coon" Day.'

"The word has historically been used as a racist term to refer to African Americans.

"The station issued an apology via their Facebook page and Hernandez later said he was sorry for what he claims was a mispronunciation.

"Hernandez apologized to those who were offended by the mistake and told the San Antonio Express-News that he is mortified anyone would think he intended to use a the racial slur on the air.

"It was 'absolutely' a slip of the tongue, he said. 'I would never ever, ever say anything like that intentionally. It just came out.' . . ."

Michael Malone of Broadcasting & Cable noted Friday, "KENS led its coverage of it with Hernandez's apology but, like the other stations, left out what exactly Hernandez said that made it a 'storm,' in WOAI radio's words, in the first place. . . ."

Blogosphere: Did Vanity Fair Lighten Nyong'o's Skin?

Her real skin tone?"Was the 30-year-old Kenyan’s skin deliberately lightened? Or was it a matter of too-bright, washed out lighting? That’s the debate raging on Twitter and the Web after Vanity Fair on Wednesday shared a sneak peak of a shot of 12 Years a Slave co-star Lupita Nyong’o featured in the February issue 'Vanities' section," Richard Horgan reported Friday for FishbowlNY.

"At press time, two-thirds of respondents to a Huffington Post Black Voices poll feel that yes, the magazine did this deliberately. There does not currently appear to be any official statement of response from the Condé Nast publication.

"The matter is making headlines not just here but also in Nyong'o's native Kenya and the UK. . . . ."

A Vanity Fair spokeswoman did not respond to an inquiry from Journal-isms.

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