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NBC News to Pay Its College Interns

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Move, Planned for Spring, Expected to Boost Diversity

George Curry, Editor Step Down at Heart & Soul

"Lincoln" Movie Praised, Gave Abe Too Much Credit

Monochromatic List of "Breakout" Political Writers


Local TV Pay Not Keeping Up With Inflation

Hollywood Cover Should Be Beyond the Pale

Female War Reporters Have Advantage With Muslims

More Blacks, Latinos Spend Holiday With Co-Workers

Short Takes

NBC News' summer internship class in 2010.

Move, Planned for Spring, Expected to Boost Diversity

NBC News is planning to pay its interns starting in the spring of 2013, according to a well-placed source at the network, addressing a long-held contention that requiring interns to work only for the experience or for college credit amounts to favoring students with well-to-do parents.

The number of internships and the salary level have yet to be determined, the source said.

The arguments for and against unpaid internships have been made for years.

In 2006, NBC News was embarrassed when Brian Williams, "Nightly News" anchor and managing editor, posted a photo of the unpaid "Nightly News" interns that showed that none were of color. Williams wrote afterward on his blog, "In previous years, our interns have better reflected American society" and added that ". . . I have spoken to Steve Capus, the President of NBC News, and going forward, racial diversity will now also be a factor in our unpaid summer internship program, because our newsrooms have to better reflect our society."

"The economics of unpaid internships are obvious," Derek Thompson, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote in April. "Employers are desperate for cheap work, and 'free' is pretty cheap. Workers are desperate for, well, anything, and students and recent grads are willing to negotiate their wages down to zero. But the ethics aren't so clear-cut. If unpaid internships are the key to better jobs and bigger salaries, should we be concerned about the millions of lower-class students who can't afford to work for free?"

In 2005, Reginald Stuart, then a recruiter for the now-defunct Knight Ridder newspaper chain, and now corporate recruiter for the McClatchy Co., accepted the Ida B. Wells award for promoting diversity from the National Association of Black Journalists with a plea for audience members to advocate for paid internships.

"Are you insisting at every turn that interns be paid for the work they do?" Stuart asked. "At the Howard University Jobs Fair yesterday, I was reminded how ingrained this no-pay notion is, especially in the heads of young recruiters who need to be on the front lines fighting it. I asked a young recruiter if his company was paying its interns. 'Oh no,' he said. 'They don't do that.' If he's working for them, shouldn't he be saying 'we?'

"In one breath, I was ashamed of him and for him. He reminded me of the character in the movie 'Crash' who seemed powerless to determine anything in his company, even how a line of script in a sitcom should be read. Trust me. Paying interns is an easy one."

Although NBC News in general has not paid its interns, ABC News and CNN do, and CBS News and Fox News have arrangements for the college to offer course credit.

"ABC News offers a number of paid and unpaid internships every semester," then-ABC spokeswoman Natalie Raabe told Journal-isms in 2006. "The paid internship program was instituted in 2000 for students of color who demonstrate a solid interest in journalism and network news."

[LaShanti Jenkins, ABC News intern coordinator, added by email on Tuesday: "Typically there are 50-65 interns per term (including NY, LA, and DC).  All news interns are paid $8.50/hour and we transitioned to an all-paid program in Spring 2008."]

ABC's internship material states, "We offer an attractive hourly salary. Interns are not eligible for company medical benefits, holiday pay or sick pay." The internships are in New York; Burbank, Calif.; and Glendale, Calif. Candidates must be available a minimum of 16 hours a week.

CNN's website says, "Students @ Work Internships are paid at minimum-wage and structured to last approximately 12 weeks. Program dates are January 28 - April 19. Course Credit is available."

NBCUniversal news internships take place in New York; New Jersey; Universal City, Calif.; and Burbank, Calif.; and Connecticut, and include the cable networks CNBC and MSNBC.

"In addition to an up to date knowledge of the news, a successful intern exhibits extraordinary attention to detail, and can function as part of a dynamic environment driven by both pace and accuracy. Journalism and political science majors are preferred, but not required," NBC says.

An exception to the no-pay internships at NBC has been the Emma Bowen Foundation.

"The Emma L. Bowen Foundation was established by the media industry to help increase access to permanent job opportunities for minority students," according to the NBC website.

"The Foundation's program is unlike other intern programs in that students work for a partner company during summers and school breaks from the end of their junior year in high school until they graduate from college. During that five-year period, students have an opportunity to learn many aspects of corporate operations and develop company-specific skills. Students in the program receive an hourly wage, as well as matching compensation to help pay for college tuition and expenses. Mentoring from selected staff in the sponsoring company is also a key element of the program."

At CBS News, the interns' duties are listed as, "Log tapes, coordinate script, research stories, conduct preliminary interviews, assist during shoots, select footage, perform light clerical duties and assist staff members," with the proviso that "Duties vary in each department."

A description adds, "This is an unpaid internship. Student must get credit." [Updated Nov. 27]

George Curry, Editor Step Down at Heart & Soul

Veteran journalist George E. Curry, part of a group that purchased Heart & Soul, a health-and-wellness magazine targeting women of color, has resigned as executive vice president/content and editorial director, he confirmed to Journal-isms.

So has the woman Curry brought in as top editor, former Latina magazine editor-in-chief Sandra Guzman.

Heart & Soul still owes writers.

"This has been an extremely disappointing experience and I don't want to go into the details about everything that went wrong," Curry said by email. "I will say, however, that everyone had different areas of responsibilities and not everyone performed as well as we had expected. Even working with a restricted budget, I am proud of the issues we published this year. I can walk away from Heart & Soul knowing we produced an excellent product."

Curry and his partners in Brown Curry Detry Taylor & Associates, LLC of Silver Spring, Md., announced in January they had bought the 18-year-old publication from Edwin V. Avent, a Baltimore-based businessman who now heads a nascent cable network, Soul of the South.

The new Heart & Soul owners promised to compensate a group of angry writers who said they were owed more than $200,000 in back pay. The writers have not been fully compensated, and the National Writers Union has taken up their cause.

"Thirteen people are owed $150,000," Larry Goldbetter, president of the union, told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday. The owners "haven't made a payment in nine months. We initially got seven writers paid in full for $20,000. We're waiting on more." Goldbetter said that the union planned to go to court and that the company had offered a "Ponzi scheme" in which the writers would be paid later if they agreed to continue writing for the magazine.

Patrick H. Detry

Patrick H. Detry, executive vice president, advertising, told Journal-isms by telephone that the company was "looking at things to see how we move forward. We inherited a lot of debt. Once we started paying writers, it seems a lot more people started popping out of the woodwork."

Asked whether the company was undercapitalized, Detry said, "It was tight, but the problem was when these extra liabilities started popping up. That's when things started to have a crescendo effect. Things started slowing down, revenues got a little sporadic.

"My personal view is that if things were rolling on a regular basis, if the magazine were coming out regularly, we wouldn't have had these problems. . . . then [there were] rumors that we were going out of business. It kind of helped to slow down the selling process" for advertising. Detry said the magazine missed deadlines after "writers were slow in getting their editorial" content in.

Guzman did not respond to requests for comment.

The December issue will be the sixth under current management, Detry said.

Curry said by email, "The hardest part for me was bringing talented writers and editors aboard after being assured that the funds would be there to pay them. Obviously, that was not the case. I've never been in this situation before and hope to never been in one like it again."

Avent previously told Journal-isms that the magazine, published six times a year, had a circulation of 300,000.

Brown Curry Detry Taylor & Associates, LLC is the magazine's sixth owner in its 23 years. Until the new owners, Heart & Soul was a health-and-wellness magazine targeting African Americans. The decision to name Guzman its top editor as part of an effort to broaden its focus to other women of color.

"We're at a very critical juncture," Detry said. "The biggest thing is the writers getting paid. We need to get more positive news out there, and giving all the women of color the information we need."

Black Civil War soldiers depicted in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" movie.

"Lincoln" Movie Praised, Gave Abe Too Much Credit

Steven Spielberg's new "Lincoln" movie, third ranking in holiday weekend box office receipts, was also a hit on the Sunday talk shows.

"And what a film!" moderator David Gregory said on NBC's "Meet the Press." That— the chronicle is such a critical part of our history and Lincoln's presidency, fighting to abolish slavery and — and— and— and winning the 13th Amendment."

Gregory was joined in the discussion by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, New York Times columnist David Brooks, MSNBC host the Rev. Al Sharpton, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Most of the discussion was about leadership and Lincoln's political skills, but Burns said, ". . . Race is always there in America. It's always something we don't want to talk about. It's on the table. Do you think we'd have a Secession Movement in Texas and the other places, faddish Secession Movement, if this president wasn't African-American?"

Sharpton said, ". . . that was the striking part to me of the film, because I've been an activist and an advocate all my life, leading an advocate organization. A president has to get things done. So even if a president is transformational as how he gets there. And that's what Lincoln had to deal with. . . . I think that's the challenge that Mr. Obama has now. And I think that was very critical in that— that movie. I wish Frederick Douglass pushing Lincoln would have been a— a scene in the movie because I think that’s what we're dealing with, David."

On CBS, "Face the Nation" featured a panel of authors of books on Lincoln (Doris Kearns Goodwin), Thomas Jefferson (Jon Meacham), Dwight Eisenhower (Evan Thomas) and President Obama (Bob Woodward).

Lerone Bennett Jr., former editor of Ebony magazine and author of 1999's "Forced to Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream," was not among them.

". . . At this critical point, and at every other critical point, Lincoln followed the people instead of leading the people," Bennett wrote of Lincoln's leadership on the 13th Amendment. "One reads everywhere, or almost everywhere, that Lincoln dragged his feet on this or that issue because the people were not ready. In fact, on the Thirteenth Amendment and the use of Black soldiers, the people marched on before Lincoln."

Eric Foner, who won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for history for "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery," agreed. "The 13th Amendment originated not with Lincoln but with a petition campaign early in 1864 organized by the Women's National Loyal League, an organization of abolitionist feminists headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton," Foner wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Times.

"Moreover, from the beginning of the Civil War, by escaping to Union lines, blacks forced the fate of slavery onto the national political agenda.

"The film grossly exaggerates the possibility that by January 1865 the war might have ended with slavery still intact. . . ."

On Friday, Hari Jones, assistant director and curator at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, was supportive of Spielberg in an unbylined blog post.

"The film is almost a documentary, and far more historically accurate than 50% of the documentary films I have seen on the Civil War," Jones wrote, disagreeing with those who would like to have seen Douglass. He also said, "The focus of the movie was on the passage of the 13th Amendment. Douglass did not have a role in getting the amendment passed in January 1865. His monthly had even ceased publication by then. . . ."

Monochromatic List of "Breakout" Political Writers

Politico's Dylan Byers unveiled "10 breakout political reporters of 2012" on Sunday, and none was a journalist of color.

Was that the fault of Byers or of the Washington press corps?

Byers included this caveat in his story: "The list includes reporters from the Mitt Romney press corps and none from the Barack Obama side, which is largely due to the fact that there were more veterans on the president's trail who had already made names for themselves. (For the obvious reasons, we've decided to leave off POLITICO reporters from the list, though more than a few came up for nomination.) Also omitted are the media personalities who, despite producing excellent work, had already gained national recognition in past cycles."

The composition of the Washington press corps periodically comes under scrutiny. In 2008, Unity: Journalists of Color Inc. and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University found that "Journalists of color make up 13.1 percent of the 495 reporters, correspondents, columnists and editors in the Washington daily newspaper press corps. That's an improvement over the last census four years ago, when just under 10.5 percent of the press corps consisted of minority journalists."

Then President Obama took office, and more black journalists were assigned to the new administration. At the Washington Post, the new Obama presidency coincided with a national desk newly led by Kevin Merida, with Terence Samuel as a political editor and Krissah Thompson, Perry Bacon Jr., Michael A. Fletcher  and Nia-Malika Henderson among its reporters. Bacon left the paper for the Grio, and Fletcher now covers the economy, but Vanessa Williams became a night political editor.

Still, Wayne Dawkins, a Hampton University journalism assistant professor, reported in the Diversity Factor, a subscription-only online journal, "As of 2009, the Washington Press corps was less diverse than the group that covered George W. Bush from 2001-08. Media downsizing wiped out experienced journalists of color who were prepared to compete for those top beats, meanwhile, cuts in state and local gov't and political reporting dried up the pipeline of new recruits."

Sonya Ross

Sonya Ross, an editor in the Associated Press' Washington Bureau and former White House correspondent who chairs the National Association of Black Journalists Political Journalism Task Force, told Journal-isms by email:

"We are very proud of the sharp, honest work of all of our task force members who covered the 2012 campaign, particularly NBC White House reporter Kristen Welker, CNN political producer Shannon Travis, NPR national digital correspondent Corey Dade and Juana Summers, a national political reporter for POLITICO.

"These folks may not be on this latest list, but they won't be invisible forever."

Local TV Pay Not Keeping Up With Inflation

"A new study by the Radio Television Digital News Association and Hoftsra University found salaries at local television stations have been losing ground to inflation for the last ten years," Kevin Eck wrote Monday for TVSpy.

"The study [PDF] tracked salaries at local TV stations over a five and ten year period. In the period between 2007 and 2012, while inflation rose by 12 percent, local TV pay rose by only 10.5 percent. The pay gap widened over a ten year period with inflation rising by 28 percent while salaries rose by just 21.6 percent."

"Between 2002 and 2012, the study showed only news directors (+35.9%), weathercasters [(+37%)], sports anchors (+28.6%), and assignment editors (+28.3%) beat the rise of inflation. The biggest loser over the ten year period were web and mobile writers (+13.3%). News assistants saw the largest drop (-3.1%) in pay between 2007 and 2012 compared to an inflation rate of 12 percent."

A commenter named Ariadne saw a "blindingly pale group of women"

Hollywood Cover Should Be Beyond the Pale

"About a week ago the entertainment trade magazine 'The Hollywood Reporter' published its annual 'The Actresses Roundtable' cover story that featured leading actresses discussing the state of the industry. Now, a week later, any mention of the story on magazine's website is followed with comments criticizing the editors for only including white actresses," Jorge Rivas wrote Monday for ColorLines.

". . . .What's striking in 'The Hollywood Reporter's' case though is that diversity in the industry is an issue that makes it in to [its] stories regularly. They also understand the importance of the Latino market, and print stories ranging from Univision's record breaking ratings to Colombian actress Sofia Vergara being named the highest paid woman in television. But still she was nowhere to be found in 'The Actresses Roundtable.' Neither was Eva Longoria who came in at number three on the Forbes list of highest paid women in Hollywood. . . ."

Female War Reporters Have Advantage With Muslims

"Phoebe Greenwood was frantically filing her latest piece for The Telegraph in Gaza City earlier this week when she noticed something," Emma Barnett reported last week for the Telegraph in London.

"Sat in the main lobby of the Al Deira Hotel, which has become effectively become a big newsroom in the war-torn strip of land, Greenwood observed that all of the correspondents of the American, Australian, Spanish and British broadsheets writing around her were women.

"Jodi Rudoren (New York Times), Ruth Pollard (Sydney Morning Herald), Harriet Sherwood (Guardian), Ana Carbajosa (El Pais), Abeer Ayyoub (freelance Palestinian journalist) and Rolla Scolari (Sky Italia) have all been Greenwood's comrades during the latest troubles in the Middle East. On the job she has also been accompanied by Heidi Levine, whom she describes as a 'ridiculously tough war photographer' and worked alongside Eman Mohammed Darkhalil, an award-winning and heavily pregnant photographer.

"At the start of the latest Israel-Gaza conflict last week, Greenwood, a freelance reporter based in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, said the majority of the correspondents first on the ground were women and what's even better, it's no longer remarkable. . . ."

"However, interestingly, Greenwood reveals that women war correspondents do have a unique advantage because of their gender when reporting in Muslim countries. . . ."

More Blacks, Latinos Spend Holiday with Co-Workers

More African Americans, Hispanics and disabled workers planned to spend Thanksgiving with co-workers in or out of the office than did "non-diverse workers," according to a CareerBuilder online survey released last week.

Among African American workers, 26 percent said they planned to be with co-workers. Among Hispanics, the figure was 25 percent; disabled workers, 22 percent; Asians, 18 percent; and LGBT employees, 17 percent. "This compares to 16 percent of non-diverse workers," CareerBuilder said.

The survey was conducted nationally online by Harris Interactive© from Aug. 13 to Sept. 6 and included more than 3,900 workers.

"Seventeen percent of workers said they have to work on Thanksgiving, with hospitality workers the most likely to be on the clock," its authors added.

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 BugMeNot.com 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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Comments

Unpaid Internships

To be clear, an employer can NOT offer an internship for "course credit". Colleges and universities are the only institutions who can offer academic credit.

Re: Hollywood Reporter Actress Roundtable's Lack of Diversity

I saw, monitored those comments at the THR.com end and almost wrote about it at my end, as well. Very much like Vanity Fair has been criticized in the past, I agree that THR really missed the boat this year by not including Vergara, Berry, etc. I also thought it strange that for this one, the two journos were male.

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