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NAHJ Approves Gay Caucus

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

"Big, Long, Crazy Discussion" Never Materializes

Barely a month after the National Association of Black Journalists established a Lesbian and Gay Task Force, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists voted Saturday to approve a GLBT—for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered—Caucus. Unlike with NABJ, where a protracted discussion ended with a 13-5 vote, only one of 15 NAHJ board members dissented: Roberto Pazos, an alternate board member from the New York area who was filling in.

[Added Feb. 23: Pazos did not respond to a request for comment, but other board members said he questioned whether the association should have caucuses.]

"I was bracing for a big, long crazy discussion" that never materialized, Cindy Rodriguez, a Denver Post columnist who serves as an at-large board member, told Journal-isms. She said the GLBT Caucus will be charged primarily with:

  • "Creating a GLBT Media Monitoring Task Force that would report media bias of GLBT Latinos to our Issues Committee along with recommendations on action NAHJ should take.


  • "Reaching out to other NAHJ members or potential members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered via a list serve that would act as a forum for GLBT members to connect and a place for all NAHJ members to discuss GLBT issues so we can better cover this community. It will also suggest panels for our national and regional conferences and serve as a resource for our entire membership."

Rodriguez co-sponsored the measure with Elizabeth Zavala, secretary of the association. "I'm heterosexual, but I feel strongly about gay rights," Rodriguez said. "When I campaigned [for office] during Unity, I put that on my fliers."

Once NABJ made its decision last month, "that just spurred me on," she continued. The association sent out an e-mail alert to its members on the idea. Of 109 responses, she said 92 were in favor of such a caucus, including 25 who said they wanted to do whatever it took to establish it. Seventeen were against the idea, with about half of that group wondering whether it was wise to have a "splinter group" in the association, Rodriguez said.

NABJ members have said that they approved a "task force" rather than a "caucus," because the NABJ constitution has no provisions for caucuses. However, Rodriguez said she sees a "task force" as something that will eventually disband, but a "caucus" as something permanent.

Gay and lesbian members told Rodriguez they could not fully relate to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association because it is overwhelmingly white and predominantly male, she said, adding that providing an NAHJ caucus could attract and help keep members. "We need to offer something so we enhance what we offer for our members."

Pamela Strother, executive director of NLGJA, told Journal-isms that in a survey of that group's membership, 226 identified as people of color; 982 as Caucasian and 122 did not identify. By gender, 987 were men and 337 were women. "This includes transgender members who have let us know how they identify," she added.

Rodriguez said that the monitoring function of the NAHJ caucus would include watching for homophobic remarks made in Spanish-language broadcast media—"not an area that anyone is really monitoring," and one where the culture views gay men as weak and as acceptable objects of derision.

Eric Hegedus, president of NLGJA, told Journal-isms: "I'm very pleased the task force was approved, especially so soon after NABJ decided to form a similar group within their organization.

"Clearly there is a growing awareness of the importance of LGBT issues when covering communities of color. NAHJ has taken a welcoming step to make sure that gay and lesbian Latino journalists are on board to expand monitoring coverage, as well as to better address newsroom issues that may arise."

Jerry McCormick, co-chair of the NABJ Lesbian and Gay Task Force, said, "I'm really proud that NABJ took the first step. In order to have diverse newsrooms, you have to include gays and lesbians. With NABJ being the leader of journalists of color organizations, it's great that others follow what we do."

In other NAHJ business, executive director Ivan Roman told Journal-isms that figures from the association's "Parity Project" to increase Latino representation showed that 60 Latinos had been hired at the 11 outlets that were part of the project at the end of 2004. Other journalists of color were hired, but those figures were not available.

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After 40 Years, Malcolm X Documents Still Classified

Some news outlets noted that today was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, and on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!" historian Manning Marable, who has spent a decade working on a new biography of Malcolm, said:

"The real murderers of Malcolm X have not been caught or punished. I think that now is the moment for us to rededicate ourselves to learning the truth about what happened on Feb. 21. The place to begin is to make all evidence public, and we have to begin with the federal government, and the FBI."

Host Amy Goodman said on the show that, "Marable's research has raised new questions about 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X,' which was written with Alex Haley. Marable has also examined unredacted FBI files, which provides new insight into the role of FBI and the New York Police Department in the assassination."

Other researchers have long argued (third column) that only one gunmen was caught of five they say committed the crime. Two others, who were convicted, members of the Nation of Islam, have protested their innocence. The critics have called for a reopening of the case.

Marable continued, "There were over 40,000 pages of FBI documents, of which only about half are currently available to scholars and researchers. I think that this 40th anniversary of the assassination is a good opportunity for us to say that now is the time to declassify all FBI material on Malcolm X. There really is a need for us to challenge the U.S. government for its refusal to open up its own archives. . . . All of that material should be made available to all researchers and all scholars and to the family of Malcolm X."

Some of the reasons for disbelieving the official version of events come from accounts of the killing in the day's newspapers, as the Web site notes.



  • Madison J. Gray, Associated Press: Malcolm X's family preserves legacy 40 years after assassination


  • Gregory Kane: America Needs a Truth Commission on COINTELPRO, the FBI's Great Shame


  • Corey Kilgannon, New York Times: Remembering Malcolm X in the Place Where He Fell




  • News release: Daughters of Malcolm X To Commemorate 40th Anniversary of Their Father's Assassination


  • Bill Straub, Scripps Howard News Service: By any means, 'X' stood for freedom

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Series on Arranged Marriages Wins Diversity Award

Babita Persaud of Florida's St. Petersburg Times has won the Freedom Forum/American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for outstanding writing on diversity, for stories about arranged marriages in modern America.

"The main characters include a mid-20s daughter ready for matrimony and parents hoping she will yield to rituals cast thousands of years ago in their native India," ASNE said on Friday. It quoted the judges as saying that, "The intimate view of two cultures within one family is a wonderful blend of comprehensive reporting and seamless storytelling. Writer Babita Persaud crafts a story packed with knowing and caring detail. She deftly follows the increasingly difficult struggle to preserve ancient tradition. Readers get a dramatically told story of culture and change, family and love."

The three-part series began Dec. 19.

In the deadline writing awards, Rama Lakshmi, a Washington Post stringer based in India, shared the $10,000 first prize with Michael Dobbs, John Lancaster, Peter Goodman and Alan Sipress for reporting on the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean.

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Malcolm Gladwell Tops N.Y. Times Nonfiction List

Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, Sunday topped the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction for the second week in a row. His previous book, "The Tipping Point," is still selling in paperback, making him the most successful journalist of color on the book charts since James McBride spent more than two years there for "The Color of Water" in the late 1990s. "Blink" also tops next week's list.

Gladwell was born in England and raised in Canada by his white English dad and black Jamaican mother.

As he says on his Web site, "Blink" is "a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions."

In a story on Gladwell in the January issue of the business magazine Fast Company, Danielle Sacks wrote that, "No one in recent memory has slipped into the role of business thought leader as gracefully or influentially as Gladwell.

"Soon after his first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Little, Brown, 2000), fell into America's palms, Gladwell made the leap from generalist staff writer at The New Yorker to marketing god. Since then, Gladwell has oscillated between pen and mike, balancing lengthy New Yorker articles with roughly 25 speaking gigs a year, his current going rate some $40,000 per appearance. . . . The Tipping Point spent 28 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and more than two years on Business Week's, and today there are almost 800,000 copies of Gladwell's trend-mapping bible in print."

An experience with his hair got Gladwell thinking about the topic.

He said on the "Charlie Rose" television show: "I used to have very short hair. And at a certain point, I realized I no longer needed to follow direction of my mother and I could branch out on my own. So I grew this big, wild, woolly Afro, much wilder than it is now. And you know, my life changed. And I realized this happens to African Americans all the time. You know, they attract attention because of their ethnicity, but all of a sudden cops started to give me speeding tickets, and it culminated in walking down 14th Street and these cops drive up—drive up on the sidewalk, jump out, surround me, and start grilling me about the fact that I seem to resemble a rapist they're looking for in the neighborhood.

"And I explained to them that the rapist is a good deal younger and bigger and not nearly as good-looking. And finally, you know, we talked through it. But it just made me realize, you know, an extraordinary amount of work is going on in that first instant. And I think of myself as being exactly the same. The world does not. And that was just the moment where I thought, you know what, this is really interesting. It s kind of weird. And it s a commonplace thing that I don t think we ve examined, and so I wanted to examine it."

Gladwell worked at the Washington Post from 1987 to 1996. McBride had been at the Post, the Boston Globe and People magazine before "The Color of Water." That book was about having a white, Jewish mother who answered with the book's title phrase when the children asked her what color she was: the color of God, the "color of water."

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A Cosby "Town Hall" Debate Going On Without Him

In a 4,600-word examination of Bill Cosby's "tough love" series of "town hall" meetings and how they have been derailed by allegations of sexual misconduct, the Washington Post's Kevin Merida wove in Sunday how black columnists have facilitated the debate.

"Sam Fulwood III, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was at home when he got a distressing call from Cosby spokesman Joel Brokaw at 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 19. Cosby was canceling his Cleveland appearance the following night," Merida wrote. "Brokaw 'sounded really shaken,' observed Fulwood, who was slated to moderate what had been billed as 'A Cleveland Conversation With Bill Cosby.'"

In Detroit, such an event had been moderated by Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley. In Milwaukee, by Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane.

"Cleveland, the nation's poorest large city, decided to go on without Cosby," Merida continued. "Tomorrow night, a scaled-down 'youth summit meeting' will be held at a high school, where organizers say some 1,200 to 1,500 people are expected."

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Journalist Helped Publicize Hushed-Up Tulsa Riot

"Historians call the firestorm that convulsed Tulsa from the evening of May 31 into the afternoon of June 1 the single worst event in the history of American race relations," Andrew Meier wrote Friday in the Financial Times, headquarterd in London but also distributed in the States.

"The 1921 Tulsa race riot owes its name to an older American tradition, to the days when white mobs, with the consent of local authorities, dared to rid themselves of their black neighbours. The endeavour was an opportunity 'to run the Negro out of Tulsa'."

Meier's story acknowledges the role of a black journalist in exposing the hushed-up riot, both as a journalist and later as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Don Ross was assistant managing editor of the Post Tribune in Gary, Ind., from 1972 to 1977 and vice president and general manager of the Oklahoma Eagle from 1977 to 1978.

In 1971, Meier writes, Ed Wheeler, a white local history buff and radio personality, uncovered details of the tragedy that the Chamber of Commerce, which had commissioned him to write an anniversary piece about it, refused to run.

"He turned to Don Ross, a young black journalist and civil rights veteran trying to keep afloat a fledgling local magazine devoted to black issues, Impact. Ross, a Tulsa native, had only learned of the riot in high school. Later he would discover that his grandfather had lost his business in the violence. The Impact issue with Wheeler's 'Profile of a Race Riot' sold out, even after three printings. Wheeler received death threats. 'Not from the Klan,' he said, 'But from the guys who did it themselves. In 1971, more than a few were still alive.'"

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Woods, 102, Loved Parties, Took Column Seriously

"It may strike some as bad form to talk about a 102-year-old woman as a fast-living party girl," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane wrote Sunday about Mattiebelle Woods, the Milwaukee Courier society columnist who died Thursday night, "but since I knew Woods and considered myself a friend of sorts, I'll be true to her memory.

". . . Woods didn't just go to parties; she inevitably brightened the occasion for everyone. She could dance the Electric Slide all night long—I still can't do the Electric Slide—and regale companions with tales of meeting Duke Ellington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"She seldom missed an opportunity to use the privilege of age to say things that made women blush and men squirm. Then she'd wonder what all the fuss was about—she had seen so much life, there was nothing left to shock her.

". . . When I started reading her column after arriving in Milwaukee more than 20 years ago, I admit I had a somewhat condescending attitude about her coverage of the city's black nightlife."

But, Kane continued, "She told me about her philosophy of journalism and why she spent so much time listing the names of the people she saw at social events:

"Most black people never got their names in the newspaper, she said, unless it was related to crime or tragic loss. They seldom saw their names connected to something positive.

"Woods wanted to counter that kind of coverage from the mainstream—or 'white'—media. So she did it one name at a time."

'100 miles per hour for 102 years' (Obituary by Amy Rabideau Silvers, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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Who Is Following Up on Welfare Reform?

"There was a dramatic 60 percent national decline in the number of people receiving federally-funded, welfare . . . between August 1996, when President Clinton signed the welfare reform bill into law, and December of 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The number dropped from 12.2 million people to 4.8 million," Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, wrote Friday on the Nieman Watchdog Web site.

"In the late 1990s, when the rate of decrease in the welfare rolls was most rapid, poverty also decreased as more former recipients moved into employment. But over the last few years, as the rate of decrease has slowed considerably—and with many states now showing small increases in welfare again—fewer recipients are moving into the workforce."

Berg says reporters should be asking:

Have deficiencies in welfare reform increased poverty, hunger and food insecurity in America? What is the current employment, economic, and food security status of families that left welfare in the 1990s? How about the status of families that left the welfare rolls during the weaker economy of the last few years?

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Some Say Elvis Mitchell Should Stay as Critic

National Public Radio apparently has not decided whether Elvis Mitchell, the former New York Times film critic who has accepted a job with Columbia Pictures, should continue as entertainment critic on "Weekend Edition Saturday."

But Jake Brooks, writing in the New York Observer, found some who say that keeping Mitchell would not constitute a conflict of interest:

"Let's not forget that Mr. Mitchell has been here before," Brooks wrote. "Over a decade ago, Mr. Mitchell did a brief tour of duty at Paramount Pictures as a director of development. Either unwilling or ignorant of the potential conflict of interest, Mr. Mitchell continued to do film reviews for NPR after being hired at Paramount. His stint as a studio executive lasted six months.

"Thankfully for Mr. Mitchell, the dynamic at Columbia is a bit different. He has been assigned the welcome task—apparently Mr. Mitchell gets antsy if he isn't traveling (which explains a lot)—of trolling film festivals for potential acquisitions and evaluating the Columbia library for potential remakes.

"Currently, neither a spokesman for NPR, where Mr. Mitchell continues to do reviews on Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, nor Ruth Seymour, the program director at KCRW, the Santa Monica-based radio station where he hosts a half-hour-long interview show called The Treatment, know if he plans to stay on. But they are counting on it.

"'I hope so,' said Ms. Seymour, speaking over the phone from her office. 'The people who been with us a long time—these people are like family.' And since his program doesn't involve film reviews and his interview subjects are outside the film industry, she doesn't see a potential conflict of interest. Either way, she asserts that Mr. Mitchell will never pander. 'He has a purity of vision,' said Ms. Seymour. 'He's not going to say something that he doesn't believe.'

"David Edelstein, the film critic for Slate, seconds Ms. Seymour.

"'In the case of Elvis, I think it is important to say that no one has ever, to my knowledge, questioned his integrity as a critic,' said Mr. Edelstein. 'He was not your typical suck-up who was trying to use a position of some power to get into the industry.'"

Mitchell last appeared on "Weekend Edition Saturday" on Feb. 5. His Columbia job was announced Feb. 14.

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Payola Probe Leads to Gospel Radio Firing

"The program director of gospel radio station WGRB-AM (1390) was fired Thursday after her bosses uncovered evidence of a payola scheme," Robert Feder reported Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Sandra Robinson, who doubled as program director and afternoon talk show host at 'Gospel Radio 1390' was dismissed after six years at the Clear Channel Radio station.

"'Payola is absolutely prohibited, and we have strict enforcement policies to prevent it,' said John Gehron, regional vice president of Clear Channel Radio. 'We take these matters very seriously and have terminated the employee in question.'

"Payola refers to accepting money or other bribes in exchange for playing a record on the radio without disclosing the arrangement. The practice was outlawed in the early 1960s after the radio industry was rocked by scandal involving record companies and record promoters."

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Site Shows Photos from Marley Tribute in Ethiopia

The month-long tribute taking place in Ethiopia for Bob Marley, the late reggae star who would have turned 60 on Feb. 6, is not getting the news coverage some think it deserves, though stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Time magazine, Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A Web site has been created to showcase photos from the event, including some performance shots of the Concert Choir at Tallahassee's Florida A&M University.

Organizers said 250,000 people came to Ethiopia for the opening events.

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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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