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NAJA Leader Quits, Says Group on "Verge of Financial Ruin"

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Darla Leslie Cites Frustration With Native Journalists Board

Cain's Stumble Before Editorial Board Goes Viral

Obama: Debate Clips May Be Enough to Turn Off Latinos

Fla. Group Finds Deportations to Haiti Violate U.S. Policy

In Unusual Move, U.S. Grants Asylum to Pakistani Journalist

N.Y. Times to Examine Inequality Issues Raised by Occupy

Beloved TV Personality Works Part-Time at Home Depot

Report Sounds Alarm on State Cuts to Public Broadcasting

Praise, Pans for Penn State Scandal Coverage

Short Takes

Darla Leslie Cites Frustration With Native Journalists Board

Darla LeslieDarla Leslie, president of the Native American Journalists Association, resigned Saturday, saying in a message posted Monday on Facebook, "I believe NAJA is on the verge of financial ruin. My resignation is a reflection of the inability, in my opinion, of our Board of Directors to take immediate action to remedy this situation."  

Leslie said she took the action at NAJA's annual retreat in Norman, Okla. Board member Brent Merrill also resigned. A separate note from Jeff Harjo, NAJA's executive director, said that Vice President Rhonda LeValdo, whom Leslie defeated in LeValdo's bid for re-election in July, would assume presidency of the organization.

"The NAJA Board of Directors wishes to express its sincere gratitude to Darla Leslie and Brent Merrill for their service to NAJA," LeValdo said in the note from Harjo. "Their presence will be missed."

NAJA is the smallest of the major journalist of color associations, with 237 members at the time of its July convention in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It ended the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, with a unaudited loss of $15,530.36, then-treasurer Shirley Sneve said at the convention.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also wrestling with a financial crisis that resulted in plans to lay off most of its staff and other austerity measures. "Our priority is to stop the bleeding," NAHJ President Michele Salcedo told NAHJ members at that group's June convention.

In her short tenure as NAJA president, Leslie and a majority of the NAJA board voted against an invitation by Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., to the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association to join the coalition.

Rhonda LeValdo

Leslie, a reporter/photographer for the Yakama Nation Review in Toppenish, Wash., said she voted against the invitation on the Unity board "because of the failure of UNITY leaders to follow due process, to consider the policy implications and to present a plan for adding a new member organization." However, once NLGJA was admitted, Leslie said, "From this point on, it's time to progress, move forward and prosper."

Leslie posted this message on Monday:


"My fellow Native Journalist,

"On November 12, 2011, I officially resigned as the president of the Native American [Journalists] Association during our annual retreat in Norman Oklahoma.

"Accountability is my top priority. I made a presentation after conducting a full financial investigation as to why I believe NAJA is on the verge of financial ruin. My resignation is a reflection of the inability, in my opinion, of our Board of Directors to take immediate action to remedy this situation.

"I provided documentation from our hired financial audit firm which indicated an audit has not been completed since 2006; I had accountants attempt to reconcile three months of financial records; I brought in a witness who showed that an audit existed although it was said to have been incomplete. The audit was still on the in-house computer, but not properly sent off or made available as requested; I had email confirmation from the hired auditors explaining fines and [fees] suffered by not filing accordingly; I confirmed, by a past board member in 2008 a motion existed that 30 days was given to complete and audit and file or it would result in immediate termination; Completing the circle, I verified each move was indeed an legal action according to the established NAJA constitution and bylaws as well as the established laws by the state of Oklahoma, who supports at will employee termination.

"Understand, my resignation was a difficult one to make, as my love for this organization is wholeheartedly unquestionable. However, I can not continue on as a Board member or president when I neither have the confidence or support of other board members in upholding the trust and accountability to the membership that elected us. I will not [be] part of a board of [inaction], nor a President who will tolerate insubordination, indifference and casualness in maintaining the integrity of NAJA.

"Brent Merrill, thank you for professionally standing up for your trust responsibility as a NAJA board member and your support in also resigning. Your actions as a true leader will speak leader than words my friend.

"My findings are available for any member of our organization to review."

Merrill is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

[LeValdo told Journal-isms by email on Tuesday:

["All our board members are fully committed to raising funds that are needed for NAJA along with our Executive Director. While we didn't make our budget for last year, we know that it was because our usual funders have reduced the amounts given and many of our members could not make our conference due to the economy we are in. All our finances were completed with 990's submitted every year and we realize that an audit needs to be done.

["Again our board understands the position we are in, we are working together to remedy the situation. We also look forward to working with our alliance partners as we plan for UNITY 2012."]

[In an email on Wednesday, Leslie said she had documentation by NAJA auditors that shows that from 2007 to 2010; NAJA filed IRS Form 990s, "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax," instead of completing full audits. The audits are typically how 501 (c) non-profit organizations maintain accountability to their funders. The Form 990 for 2010 [PDF] was just completed in October, she said, "so more penalties will be suffered by this late action on filing."]

Grace Wyler of wrote, "Cain sat down with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board today for a series of video interviews — and the results are actually painful to watch." (Video)

Cain's Stumble Before Editorial Board Goes Viral

"Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, in the midst of a Midwestern campaign swing, stumbled badly Monday when attempting to answer a question about whether he agreed or disagreed with President Barack Obama's approach to handling the Libyan crisis," Don Walker and Craig Gilbert wrote Monday for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors before fundraising appearances in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Cain was discussing foreign policy in general when he was asked specifically about Obama's handling of Libya.

"Cain paused for some time, then wanted to clarify that Obama had supported the uprising. Clearly struggling to articulate a response, Cain paused again, saying 'got all of this stuff twirling around in my head.'

". . . Cain's answer, which began with a discussion of President George Bush's foreign policy before the Libya question came up, was recorded on video and posted as part of a series of unedited excerpts on the Journal Sentinel's online site, JSOnline. Each excerpt pertained to a different topic. The video quickly went viral and was linked to and embedded on a number of political websites around the country, as well as national newspapers and nightly cable and network news broadcasts.

"Cain also appeared to be unclear on the issue of collective bargaining as it involves federal employees."

Writing separately, editorial board member James Causey told readers, "GOP hopeful Herman Cain meet with the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board this morning and his inexperience showed."

Also, Alex Weprin of TVNewser reported Monday, "According to Fast Nationals from Nielsen, approximately 5.3 million people tuned in to watch the GOP debate on CBS Saturday night.

"The first broadcast network debate of this political season was far ahead of the CNBC debate last week, though it did not draw as many viewers as the Oct. 18 debate on CNN, the Sept. 22 debate on Fox news, or the Sept. 7 debate on MSNBC. Those debates had the advantage [of] being held on weekdays, when far more people are watching TV."

President Obama tells Latino journalists that he is still committed to immigration reform. “Part of what we want is to take this to the American people so I have a clearer mandate in the second term to get this done,” he said. “If you have a strong Latino turnout in the election — and [in] a lot of states that are very important to the presidential election as well as control of Congress — and because of a strong Latino turnout, a clear message is sent that we need to get comprehensive immigration reform done, the political dynamic may be different going into the second term.” (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Obama: Debate Clips May Be Enough to Turn Off Latinos

"President Obama says he is confident in his ability to win over Latino voters before next year’s elections, thanks to some added help from his Republican opponents," according to Jordan Fabian, writing for

"During a roundtable with Hispanic media in the White House’s Roosevelt Room Wednesday, Obama outlined his strategy for winning over a Latino electorate that remains supportive of him, but less enthusiastically so than in 2008. The president said he’ll contrast his record with those of the Republican candidates on hot-button issues ranging from immigration, to the economy and healthcare.

"Many political observers believe that drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans will require Obama to go negative, but the president said he won’t have to use too harsh a tone to accomplish that.

“ 'I don’t think it requires us to go negative in the sense of us running a bunch of ads that are false, or character assassinations,' Obama told Univision News. 'It will be based on facts … We may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim. We won’t even comment on them, we’ll just run those in a loop on Univision and Telemundo, and people can make up their own minds.' "

In addition to Fabian, journalists in the Roosevelt Room were Khalil Abdullah of New America Media, Antonieta Cadiz of ImpreMedia, Clara Padilla Andrews of the National Association of Hispanic Publications and Marcelo Raimon of ANSA News Service Latina.

Earlier Wednesday, "Obama dropped in on what the White House called its African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference. Delegates from across the country met with administration officials on items ranging from African-American employment to improving education," as David Jackson reported for USA Today.

U.S. immigration agents unshackle a deportee before turning him over to the Haitian judicial police. (Credit: Jacob Kushner/Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.)

Fla. Group Finds Deportations to Haiti Violate U.S. Policy

"The United States has deported more than 250 Haitians since January knowing that one in two will be jailed without charges in facilities so filthy they pose life-threatening health risks," Jacob Kushner reported Sunday for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Jacob Kushner"An investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that the Obama administration has not followed its own policy of seeking alternatives to deportation when there are serious medical and humanitarian concerns. One deportee who arrived in April suffered from asthma, hypertension, diabetes, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and head trauma, among other ailments. That same month, the U.S. government deported a mentally ill immigrant whose psychiatric medications were lost by Haitian authorities after his first day in jail."

In an accompanying piece, Trevor Aaronson, co-founder and associate director of the center, a nonprofit, digital and bilingual investigative journalism organization that celebrated its first anniversary in September, explained how the story developed:

"After the January 2010 earthquake, journalists from around the world rushed to Haiti. They told stories of death and destruction, survival and hope, and asked how Haiti, already suffering from overwhelming health, political and infrastructure problems, could recover from this devastating natural disaster.

"The question wasn’t answered. The reporters left.

"With a cholera outbreak in October 2010, Haiti was again a big story — but not for long. That has been the cycle of how Haiti and many countries like it are covered. Too often, important stories go untold or unnoticed.

"The story we’re publishing today is one example, and it’s being told only because a determined reporter was on the scene and asked questions.

"Jacob Kushner has spent more than a year in Haiti. He moved there in August 2010, seven months after the earthquake. So when the Obama administration resumed deportations to Haiti in January, a year after the devastating earthquake, Kushner asked the right question:

"Could a country with nearly 1,000 post-earthquake camps for displaced people and only one standing government ministry building handle these new arrivals?"

". . . We set about finding the financial support for Kushner’s reporting. The Nation Institute Investigative Fund provided a $4,000 research grant. The Investigative News Network, an association of nonprofit news organizations in the United States and Canada and of which FCIR is a member, then agreed to provide additional support to help distribute the story through its 60 member news organizations. INN gave members the option of running FCIR’s story or working with Kushner and FCIR to create localized versions.

"California Watch and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism chose localized stories, providing additional funding to develop stories unique to California and the Midwest. The Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting, which had been examining deportations from Quebec to Haiti, will use FCIR’s story as a springboard to release its own investigation, to be published in the coming weeks. As stories are published, FCIR will add links to them from our Haiti story."

He  said that "INN members ranging from national news organizations such as the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News to community news sites such as the [Tucson] Sentinel will also publish FCIR’s original report."

In Unusual Move, U.S. Grants Asylum to Pakistani Journalist

"Siraj Ahmed Malik, an ambitious young Pakistani journalist, was enjoying a stint last fall on a fellowship at the University of Arizona when he started getting chilling messages from home," Pamela Constable reported Monday for the Washington Post.

"One after another, his friends and colleagues were disappearing, he learned, and their bodies were turning up with bullet holes and burn marks. A doctor’s son from his home town was arrested and vanished. A fellow reporter was kidnapped, and his corpse was found near a river. A student leader was detained, and his bullet-riddled body dumped on a highway. A writer whose stories Malik had edited was shot and killed.

" 'These were kids I had played cricket with, people I had interviewed, younger reporters I had taught,' Malik, 28, said in an interview last week in Arlington County [Va.], where he now lives. The final straw came in early June, when one of his mentors, a poet and scholar, was gunned down in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, Malik’s native province.

"On Aug. 19, Malik applied for political asylum in the United States. In his petition, he said that his work as a journalist and ethnic activist in Baluchistan, where he had exposed military abuses, made him likely to be arrested, tortured, abducted and 'ultimately killed by the government' if he returned.

"Two weeks ago, his petition was granted. It was a highly unusual decision by U.S. immigration officials, given Pakistan’s status: a strategic partner in Washington’s war against Islamic terrorism; a longtime recipient of U.S. aid; and a democracy with an elected civilian government and vibrant national news media."

N.Y. Times to Examine Inequality Issues Raised by Occupy

Various desks at the New York Times are “proceeding on multiple fronts with stories that get at the heart of the issues that OWS [Occupy Wall Street] brings up  — income inequality, the lingering effects of the financial crisis and economic stagnation, the seemingly bottomless fall in home values," according to Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, Arthur S. Brisbane, the Times' public editor, wrote Sunday.

Brisbane asked, "How can The Times get a handle on the big issues, while at the same time keeping an eye on ground-level developments in the Occupy camps?" and offered suggestions from readers and journalists.

"The Times has mentioned several times on blogs that Adbusters, a Canadian magazine, first proposed Occupy Wall Street and even set the date. Yet this intriguing nugget of information remains to be developed. Who is Adbusters? How did the idea leap the chasm between conception and action?" Brisbane wrote.

Abramson "promised that The Times is now digging into the origins story and considering how to capture the demographics of the movement," Brisbane continued.

[The Times reported Tuesday, "Hundreds of police officers early Tuesday cleared the park in Lower Manhattan that had been the nexus of the Occupy Wall Street movement, arresting dozens of people there after warning that the nearly two-month-old camp would be 'cleared and restored' but that demonstrators who did not leave would face arrest."]

Beloved TV Personality Works Part-Time at Home Depot

Fred Cantú (Credit: John Kelso/Austin American-Statesman)"A sign of a tough economy? Fred Cantú, one of Austin's most beloved TV news personalities, is working part time at Home Depot because he needs the money," John Kelso wrote Friday for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.

"The good news is that he loves the job.

"You can find Austin's 'Uncle Fred' over in the hardware department at the store on Brodie Lane. He wears an orange apron with the message 'I Put Customers First' on the front. He makes keys, cuts chain and helps people find just the right doorknob, bolt or drill bit.

" 'People think about this as a step down, but I don't think of it that way,' said Fred, a perpetually cheerful guy. 'I think of it as part of the ride. Some people end at the top. It's just that some people think the roller coaster always goes up. And who knows, the roller coaster may go up again. And as long as I'm still on the ride, I'm happy.'

". . . Actually, Fred is still on TV, working as a freelancer on the early morning news show at KEYE. But that job probably ends after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, he works a grueling schedule. Between his two jobs, he's putting in 65 to 70 hours a week, some days with a double shift. On those days the alarm goes off at 12:30 a.m., he arrives at KEYE at 2, goes on the air at 5, goes home at 9 or so to sneak in a nap, then gets to Home Depot at 10 or 11, where he works till 7 at night.

" 'After a couple days of double shifts, working just one job a day feels like a vacation,' Fred said. 'But you do what you have to do.' "

Report Sounds Alarm on State Cuts to Public Broadcasting

"Since 2008, state support for public broadcasting has declined at an alarming rate. More than $85 million in state funding has been cut from public broadcasters’ budgets since 2008," according to "On the Chopping Block: State Budget Battles and the Future of Public Media," a report released Monday by the advocacy group Free Press and by

"However, that is only part of the story. If we use the 2008 appropriations as a baseline, we see that the cumulative loss in state funding over the past four years in these 24 states amounts to approximately $202 million. In other words, if the appropriations had remained level with those from 2008, more than $200 million in additional funding would have been allocated in these 24 states during this four-year period.

"In this year’s round of state budget negotiations alone, state governments have slashed nearly $30 million from public media budgets. Some states have even implemented aggressive phase-out plans that could mean the loss of tens of millions of additional dollars in the next few years."

In a news release, Josh Stearns of Free Press, who co-authored the report with Mike Soha, said, “Public broadcasters are being expected to weather enormous cuts that are way out of line with reductions in state budgets. In most cases state budgets are seeing single-digit percent decreases, while public broadcasters are facing dramatic double-digit cuts, if not total elimination of their funding. This suggests that many of these cuts are being made to score political points, not to balance budgets."

Praise, Pans for Penn State Scandal Coverage

"Sometimes it seems as if half the people I know in Washington are from Pennsylvania, so it’s no surprise that I got a lot of phone calls and e-mail this week about Joe Paterno, Penn State University and Happy Valley’s descent into sadness and scandal," Patrick B. Pexton, the Washington Post's ombudsman, wrote for Sunday's print edition.

"Most of the readers found The Post’s coverage — in print, less so online — lacking in volume and depth and too much reliant on columnists. I think they’re right."

In USA Today, Michael McCarthy was relieved by ESPN's coverage of Saturday's home game pitting Penn State against Nebraska.

"Going into today, I wondered if ESPN would make two big mistakes," McCarthy wrote.

"First, that it would act as an apologist for Paterno and worry more about the scandal's impact on the 84-year-old coach's 'legacy' than the young boys allegedly raped and molested by Paterno's former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

"Second, that ESPN would make Saturday's event about ESPN, a habit that infuriates many viewers.

"Well, ESPN didn't make either mistake. Saturday's coverage was all the stronger for it."

Meanwhile, "Sandusky admitted to showering and horsing around with young boys, but said he is not a pedophilein an exclusive interview with Bob Costas broadcast Monday night on NBC's Rock Center," Jessica Hopper reported on the MSNBC website.  

" 'I say that I am innocent of those charges,' Sandusky said in the phone interview. 

"When asked by Costas, 'Are you a pedophile,' Sandusky responded, 'No.' "

Short Takes

  • "Last night CNN aired Soledad O’Brien’s 'Black in America: The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley,' which follows eight black tech entrepreneurs trying to raise equity capital in Silicon Valley," Nick Leiber wrote Monday for Bloomberg Businessweek. ". . . Tomorrow Rutgers University will host a two-day summit that aims to collect ideas on encouraging investment in minority-owned businesses in struggling urban areas. Entrepreneurs, angel investors, and policymakers, including Newark mayor Cory Booker and members of The America21 Project will discuss the documentary. They’ll also listen as a selection of entrepreneurs present their businesses to a panel of venture capitalists and discuss how to develop an angel fund and a national network for minority entrepreneurs in urban areas."

  • Dallas broadcast journalist Rebecca Rebecca AguilarAguilar was among the winners Thursday at the first annual LATISM [Latinos in Social Media] Awards Gala, held during the LATISM Annual Conference in Chicago. Aguilar, an at-large board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, shared the award for "Best Latino(a) Social Network Leader" with Ana Flores of "I got it for starting my social networking group on Facebook and [LinkedIn] called 'Wise Latinas Linked,' " Aguilar told Journal-isms by email. "We now have more than 3300 Latinas connected from the U.S. and England, Canada, Spain, Australia, and Mexico." List of winners.

  • The exhibit "Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story" opened Oct. 29 at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art, continuing until April 7, 2012. "Harris’s photographs — made in his studio and for the Pittsburgh Courier, the leading black newspaper of the time — chronicle a vibrant black urban community during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. He captured the poetry of everyday common experience, as well as the extraordinary people who shaped the 20th century: entertainer Lena Horne, baseball star Jackie Robinson, and leaders such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.," the museum says.

  • "Cascade Patch Editor Janita Poe will begin producing 'PatchCast,' a daily evening roundup of top news stories in southwest Atlanta, on Monday," Cascade Patch announced on Sunday.

  • Bazi Kanani is joining ABC News joins us as a digital journalist Bazi Kananibased in Nairobi. "She comes to us from KUSA in Denver where she spent eight years as a general assignment reporter and as an anchor of the weekday 9 pm newscast," ABC announced last week. ". . . In case you’re wondering: Bazi is short for Baz’imana, a Tanzanian tribal name that means 'Ask God.' ”

  • "The Associated Press Sports Editors sponsored its Day of Diversity at Hampton for the fourth consecutive year on Wednesday. The event helped bring together journalism professionals from the East Coast with HU's journalism students," Malik Smith reported Thursday for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. "The theme for this year's conference centered around Michael Vick's career and coverage of him during his dogfighting case."

  • The Yale Daily News featured "A Native Place," about Native American students, in its Weekend edition. The peg? "The Class of 2015 boasts the largest number of Native Americans in Yale’s history: 40 current freshmen declare themselves to be primarily Native American. Before this freshman class arrived on campus, Yale College had only 23," according to a story by Christopher Peak.

  • In Zimbabwe, "Media organisations have condemned the recent police raid on The Standard newspaper's offices saying such actions were detrimental to the development and growth of press freedom in Zimbabwe," the Standard newspaper reported on Sunday. "Five plain clothes police details raided the newspaper's offices on Friday morning with a search warrant claiming that they were looking for stolen documents. . . . "

  • In Liberia, "Amid widespread public condemnations, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has provided justification for the overnight 'crack down' on media institutions by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP)," the Heritage newspaper in Monrovia reported Monday. ". . . In her address to the nation last Friday, President Johnson-Sirleaf said the raid on the three media institutions, was done to 'prevent incitement.' "

  • "A judge in Ethiopia's federal high court charged six journalists with terrorism on Thursday under the country's antiterrorism law, bringing the number of journalists charged under the statute since June to 10, CPJ research found," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday.

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Cain can't be that ignorant. I think he dumbed himself down on purpose to pull himself down to Perry's ranking at the order of the GOP.

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