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NBC, Comcast Sweeten Diversity Pot

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pledges Made for Ownership, Programming, Training

. . . Michael Jack Named GM at New York's WNBC

Comments on Israel End Helen Thomas' Career

Still Looking for Black Investigative Reporters

Obama Said to Underestimate Media on Oil Spill

Despite Media, Miss. Governor Says, "Come on Down"

Buffalo Columnist Tries Living on Minimum Wage

In Milwaukee, "Maybe We Need a Hmong Columnist?"

Pledges Made for Ownership, Programming, Training

Paula Madison "Looking to get in front of a June 7 House Judiciary Committee field hearing their proposed joint venture, Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal announced a series of new and/or expanded diversity commitments Monday morning," John Eggerton reported Monday for Broadcasting & Cable.

" 'Today Comcast and NBCU are announcing commitments that represent an unprecedented level of dedication to diversity,' said Paula Madison, executive VP, diversity, who is testifying at the hearing, which will be presided over by Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.)" Madison is a board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

"The commitments include:

"1) that Comcast will add at least three independent cable nets with 'substantial [minority] ownership interest' over the next three years;

"2) that they will establish four external advisory councils (together referred to as the Joint Council), one each for representatives of the African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander communities, and another for 'other diverse communities,' and

"3) that they will spend at least $7 million more on advertising in minority-owned media next year.

"The advisory councils will meet at least twice a year with Comcast execs, one of those meetings to include the chairman and CEO.

"In a public interest statement submitted to the FCC, Comcast had already pledged to add at least two new independent networks per year for the next three years, but now the pledge is that half of those will be minority-run or controlled channels.

"And there is much more. On the workforce diversity front, Comcast and NBCU have pledged to increase director-level representation of minorities, create minority focus groups to identify potential employees, create a boot-camp program for mid-level VP candidates with at least 80% of those diverse candidates, use search firms with a track record of identifying diverse candidates.

"NBC News will add three paid internships to the six it now gives to members of minority journalist organizations, and will commit to increase the diversity of executives in TV and film development, production and marketing.

"The companies also pledged to increase their spending with minority-controlled suppliers with a nationwide goal of having a percentage of those suppliers equal to the percentage of minority-owned businesses in the communities the companies serve.

"The Peacock will also put its money where its beak is. Comcast has relationships with a number of minority-owned financial institutions. NBCU will be a depositor 'where practicable.'

". . . On the programming front, Comcast said it is committed to improving its track record in bringing diverse programming to its subs [subscribers], not that it thinks its current track record is wanting. It has already launched a Black cinema On Demand VOD channel, plans this fall to launch an Asian version, and said Monday that within a year of the deal's closing will launch a Hispanic version.

"NBCU said it will double (to four) the number of networking events for diverse directors and writers with senior NBCU execs. In addition to continuing to fund diversity writer positions for the next three years on each of the scripted series on the NBC network and for its late-night programs, it will expand that program to a position on each scripted series on a NBCU cable net.

"The companies will also increase their contributions to diverse communities, pledging to up their philanthropy to minority-led or supporting institutions by 10% per year for the next three years.

"NBC's announcement came only hours before the panelists, including representatives from both companies, were slated to testify in the hearing, which was expected to focus on diversity issues."

In April, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists opposed the proposed merger, saying that "this massive media consolidation will lead to fewer journalism jobs, less coverage of the Latino community, less diversity of voices, and excessive control for one company over the country's media."

. . . Michael Jack Named GM at New York's WNBC

Michael Jack Michael Jack, president and general manager of NBC-owned WRC in Washington since 2002, on Monday was named president and general manager of WNBC, the NBC flagship operation in the nation's No. 1 market. He becomes the first African American to hold the position.

Jack, who turned 59 on Sunday, "will assume responsibility for WNBC. He will oversee all of the group’s New York-based local media assets, including the broadcast television station, the local website and digital channel. A replacement for Jack at WRC will be announced shortly," an announcement said.

"Under Jack’s direction, WRC has maintained its position as the market leader in DC in total viewers and key demos for all of its newscasts. He oversaw the station’s transition to a digital production center, increasing its local news production across multiple media platforms. Jack also placed a strong emphasis on employee engagement, spearheading numerous internal events, including an annual Employee Appreciation Day. WRC was also selected as the 'NBC Local Media Business of the Year' in 2008, an award established by the Local Media group to recognize and reward outstanding team performance.

"Previously, Jack served as President and General Manger of NBC4 in Columbus, OH from 1999 to 2002 and Vice President of Sales for KNBC in Los Angeles for three years. Additionally, he served as Vice President of Diversity for NBC Universal from 2002-2006. Prior to NBC, Jack spent 19 years at Capital Cities/ABC-TV where he served in a number of positions of increasing responsibility, culminating with his role as Sales Manager of Capital Cities’ National Sales office in Los Angeles."

Helen Thomas apologized for saying that Israel should "Get the hell out of Palestine." (Video)

Comments on Israel End Helen Thomas' Career

"To every president since John F. Kennedy, Helen Thomas, 89, a White House correspondent, was known for posing questions in the kind of tough and provocative manner that could make press secretaries gasp and her colleagues cringe. Ms. Thomas said she would retire, following an uproar over her recent remarks that Jews should 'get the hell out of Palestine' and 'go home to Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else,'” as the New York Times reported.

Among commentators of color, Thomas' remarks were criticized by both a Jew and a Muslim.

In a column for, human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of founder of, called it a "stupid, tone-deaf statement" that helps illustrate that "we seem to be acting more savagely and unenlightened toward our fellow human beings than ever before." He told Journal-isms, "She definitely crossed a line with the 'go home' remarks . . ."

Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) Tribune, who in 1995 founded the Alliance of Black Jews, said, "The remark was over-the-top and reminiscent of so many others — think Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek — where she contributed to her own destruction and dug herself in deeper as she went on. So there was no question that this was time to hang it up.

"More disturbing is the possibility that her remarks may reflect views she may have silently held during her long career. I hope not, and I don't think there's any evidence of it seeping into her work before this. But again, that's another reason to call it a career."

In the first half of the 20th century, some opposed Zionists' desire for a Jewish state, but Israel was created with international support in 1948. Washington said of Thomas, who is now a columnist, "It's one thing — and a political thing — to be against Zionism. It's quite another to tell a group of people to go back to the places where they were put into ovens. And 'being against Zionism' has to be put into the context of 2010, not 1967. Israel exists and long ago was determined to have a right to. The only question for reasonable people to discuss is how to bring about peace between two groups of people with rightful claims to their lands."

Thomas apologized on her website: "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."

The White House Correspondents Association was among those condemning Thomas' remarks. "The incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the W.H. briefing room," it said. "That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the W.H.C.A. board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue."

Still Looking for Black Investigative Reporters

In October 2008, after seeing an item about five recent hires at Washington's Center for Public Integrity, which does investigative journalism, a reader wrote:

"Why don't these outfits seem capable of hiring journos of color, specifically, BLACKS?

"It is infuriating."

Bill Buzenberg, the director, responded by agreeing that "we need more African American investigative reporters and editors . . " but said, "I don't hear much from investigative reporters of color."

On Thursday, the center announced it had hired "four new investigative journalists, a deputy editor, an international database specialist, a project manager, two fundraisers, and a new director of communications."

It seemed like a good time to ask Buzenberg for a progress report.

"Frankly, the Center has not made as much progress as we would both like to see," he replied.

"In that respect, you are right to ask for an update. But that said, we do have a relatively diverse staff, and we've been working hard to make sure diversity is part of who we are, including with some of these latest hires. The latest overall staff numbers here at the Center are 43% female and 23% minority. OK, but not good enough, and especially not good enough in African-American investigative reporter ranks.

"I brought in Detroit free lance reporter Melvin Claxton last year to report a major project on the gun lobby, which he continues to work on. It was a good start. We have been using a number free lancers and contractors, and I am still looking for more if their investigative projects fit with the Center. Please have any contacts you know send in their ideas for major investigative projects and their resumes."

Greenpeace displays a slide show of damage from Gulf Coast oil spill (Video)

Obama Said to Underestimate Media on Oil Spill

"Speaking to the people of the Gulf Coast a week ago last Wednesday from Grand Isle, President Obama assured them that his administration would keep focused on the massive oil spill and its consequences," David Carr wrote Monday in the New York Times.

“ 'I am here to tell you that you’re not alone. You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind,' he said, but could not resist a sideswipe at the press corps in front of him. 'The cameras at some point may leave; the media may get tired of the story; but we will not.'

"Oops. The press corps in the Gulf had been on the story for more than six weeks, often dealing with a tight-lipped disaster communications apparatus that seemed to be in the hands of BP rather than the government.

"NBC anchor Brian Williams pushed back, politely but firmly, in an interview last Thursday with Mediaite, the media news site.

" 'I got a kick out of President Obama saying that even when the cameras go away, we’ll still be there for you,' he said in a telephone interview with the Web site. 'That ain’t the way this is going to play out. If anything, the cameras being here have compelled outside interests — government, BP — to kick this into another gear. With all due respect, the president might have had his scenario off by 180 degrees.' . . . ”

Despite Media, Miss. Governor Says, "Come on Down"

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said on "Fox News Sunday" that the news media are hurting tourism in his state by failing to differentiate between sections of the Gulf Coast when describing the damage wreaked by the oil spill.

"Well, the truth is, Chris, we have had virtually no oil," Barbour, a Republican, told host Chris Wallace. "If you were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast any time in the last 48 days, you didn't see any oil at all. We've had a few tar balls, but we've had — we have tar balls every year as a natural product of the Gulf of Mexico. Two hundred and fifty thousand to 750,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf of Mexico through the floor every year, so tar balls are no big deal.

"In fact, I read that Pensacola or the Florida beaches, when they had tar balls yesterday, they didn't even close. They just sent people out to pick them up and throw them in the bag.

"The biggest — the biggest negative impact for us has been the news coverage. There has been no distinction between Grand Isle and Venice and the places in Louisiana that we feel so terrible for that have had oil washing up on them. But the average viewer to this show thinks that the whole coast from Florida to Texas is ankle-deep in oil.

"And of course, it's very, very bad for our tourist season. That's the real economic damage. Our first closure of fisheries in Mississippi waters came just earlier this week after about 45 days.

"So it may be hard for the viewer to understand, but the worst thing for us has been how our tourist season has been hurt by the misperception of what's going on down here. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is beautiful. As I tell people, the coast is clear, come on down."

Buffalo Columnist Tries Living on Minimum Wage

Rod Watson"As much as I’ve read about and written about poverty, I had no idea what it’s like to really be poor," columnist Rod Watson wrote May 27 in the Buffalo News.

"After taking this week’s Poverty Challenge sponsored by the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, I still don’t.

"But as a middle-class worker, I do know I won’t be so quick to judge low-income people when they make some choices that others can’t comprehend. The one thing the challenge drove home was the structural dimensions of poverty and the sheer hopelessness that can overwhelm those caught in its grip.

". . . The challenge invites people to try for two days to live on the budget of someone mired in poverty or, if that’s too daunting, someone living on the minimum wage. The alliance used government data on the costs of housing, health care, transportation and life’s other expenses and computed a budget. Taking the minimum-wage challenge, I had to live on that budget while bringing home $1,036 a month after taxes.

". . . Seeing things through that lens doesn’t excuse bad decision-making, but it does make it more understandable: What do you do when whatever you do is hopeless?

". . . As we drove through blighted areas on the Lower West Side, walled off by the Niagara Thruway, or East Side neighborhoods destroyed by the Kensington Expressway, the impact of policy decisions that deprived neighborhoods of investment and jobs became clear.

". . . Similarly, it will take deliberate policy decisions to reverse Buffalo’s blight and put people in a position so that they don’t have to throw up their hands and feel there’s no way out."

In Milwaukee, "Maybe We Need a Hmong Columnist?"

"This letter to the editor, published in today's Journal Sentinel from Ka Lo of Wausau about a recent crime story, seemed very familiar," Eugene Kane wrote last Tuesday on his Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog.

" 'I feel I have to say this after reading comments posted on the online article about the charging of alleged Hmong gang members,' wrote Lo.

" 'I am Hmong. I am also an American citizen born in the United States. I do not approve of any kind of violence. So I say if those charged are found guilty by the court, then they should go to jail. I am not speaking for all the Hmong people out there, but I'm sure that most, if not all, law-abiding peaceful Hmong feel the same way I do.

" 'Race should be a separate issue from this, and I am disappointed that a respectable organization such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would use race in the story's headline, because gangs span throughout all races. I am also disappointed that when I read the comments to this issue online, the comments were not about gang violence overall, but about race and "sending them back to Asia.' "

Kane returned to the subject in his Sunday column. Among those he quoted was Berni Xiong, a local Hmong public speaker and community leader. "Xiong didn't have an issue with the media describing them as a 'Hmong gang.' She felt it was important for parents to know what was going on with their children.

" This can be a wake-up call for the Hmong community,' she said."

Kane did not resolve the issue of how prominent the ethnicity of the accused should have been reported. But as an African American columnist, he had another reaction.

"In this case, I didn't really mind not having to deal with another onslaught of calls blaming all black people for crime in Milwaukee," Kane wrote. "The real problem is some people continue to blame aberrant behavior by a few on an entire group of people instead of recognizing the fact there are bad actors in every community.'

He titled his blog item on the issue, "Maybe we need a Hmong columnist?"

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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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