The Newsroom Diversity Connection
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
- Journalists of Color Hit in New Tribune Layoffs (second item) (Aug. 15)
Affirmative Action Politics Might Have ConsequencesWhy does Barack Obama want to tamper with one of the means by which the news industry hopes to diversify its newsrooms?
And why does John McCain want to do the same?
Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, declared July 27 at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention:
"I am a strong supporter of affirmative action when properly structured so that it is not just a quota, but it is acknowledging and taking into account some of the hardships and difficulties that communities of color may have experienced, continue to experience, and it also speaks to the value of diversity in all walks of American life. We are becoming a more diverse culture, and it's something that has to be acknowledged."
But then he suggested that perhaps race should be devalued in applying the concept.
"We have to think about affirmative action and craft it in such a way where some of our children who are advantaged aren't getting more favorable treatment than a poor white kid who has struggled more," Obama said.
He didn't even give an exemption to those of "our children" who want to study journalism.
Separately, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, endorsed a proposed state ballot measure backed by Ward Connerly that would end race and gender-based affirmative action in McCain's home state of Arizona.
Neither candidate seemed to stop to think that affirmative action isn't in place simply to help individuals, but to promote a diverse workplace -- such as a newsroom -- and a diverse society.
In fact, when the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., cast the deciding vote in the landmark 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke affirmative action case, diversity was the sole justification that passed muster with him.
As those who follow newsroom diversity initiatives know, the efforts have just about stalled. The American Society of Newspaper Editors, which conducts an annual census of its member newspapers, reported in April, "the percentage of minorities working at daily newspapers grew minimally to 13.52 percent from 13.43 percent of all journalists." That's nowhere near the goal of reflecting the population at large, which in 2006 was 34 percent people of color.
ASNE said 423 of the papers -- primarily those with under 10,000 circulation -- still had no people of color as full-time staffers.
In the pipeline, "our children who are advantaged," to use the Obama phrase, aren't much to be found on mainstream college newspapers, as Justin Elliott of Brown University wrote in September.
"No one consistently tracks staffing demographics at college newspapers," Elliott wrote for campusprogress.org. "But five of six editors-in-chief of sizable college dailies I spoke to for this story told me black and Latino students are underrepresented on their staffs. The other, at the University of California-Berkeley, said there were too few blacks and Latinos in the student body for them to be underrepresented at the Daily Californian (thanks to Ward Connerly). The disparities are particularly glaring at the Harvard Crimson's annual conference for Ivy League editors, where non-white faces are hard to find."
It would seem that class issues notwithstanding, "our children" should be given more encouragement, not less.
What's really going on with Obama and McCain is politics, with affirmative action -- and indirectly, newsroom diversity -- becoming a political football. In an op-ed piece in Wednesday's Washington Post, Peter Beinart of the Council of Foreign Relations quoted an estimate from Notre Dame political scientist David Leege that 17 to 19 percent of white Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will resist voting for Obama because he is black.
Beinart wrote that Obama could win over these voters by making "a high-profile speech -- and maybe a TV ad -- calling for the replacement of race-based preferences with class-based ones. That would confront head-on white fears that an Obama administration would favor minorities at whites' expense."
Such talk drives Clifford Alexander Jr. to distraction.
Alexander, 74, has spent his professional life -- including stints as chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as secretary of the Army and as a board member of several corporations -- grappling with equal-opportunity issues. He'd rather not use the phrase "affirmative action," much less the loaded "racial preferences."
"It's not about giving someone a preference," he told Journal-isms, "it's about giving equal opportunity. That's what the white reporters and white candidates need to talk about." Alexander noted that only one black CEO remains at the nation's major corporations, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, when a few years ago there were three. And he pointed out that, according to a recent essay by Harriet A. Washington in the New York Times, the percentage of doctors in the United States who were African American was 2.5 percent in 1910 -- and is even less, 2.2 percent, today.
"All of a sudden it's incumbent upon the black candidate" to be the one to discuss race, Alexander said. "We need to ask Mr. McCain what does he think about race in this campaign and race in the society. What are his proposals?"
"Equal opportunity" is achieved by access, proximity and associations, he said. "If you're in a car pool and you know all the people with you, and one mentions a job opening, that person not in the car pool is at a disadvantage."
Moreover, "Studies suggest that employers often favor white job seekers over black applicants, even when their educational backgrounds and work
experiences are nearly identical," as Rachel Swarns pointed out in a recent New York Times piece.
That applies to even "our children who are advantaged,"¬† notwithstanding wishful thinking to the contrary.
- Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times: Delicate Obama Path on Class and Race Preferences
- Marisa Trevino, Latina Lista blog: Does an Obama win signal an end for the need for affirmative action?
- U.S. Census Bureau: Minorities, now roughly one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become the majority in 2042
Journalists of Color Hit in New Tribune Layoffs[Aug. 15] The Chicago Tribune laid off more than 40 newsroom employees on Friday, including a disproportionate number of journalists of color, according to newsroom employees there.
"Coupled with last week's voluntary exit of more than 30 journalists," the additional cutback "means the paper has cut 80 people from its editorial staff as part of cost-cutting campaign at all of parent Tribune Co.'s newspapers," Phil Rosenthal wrote¬†on the Tribune's Web site.
Among those called in Friday and told their jobs were eliminated was Ray Quintanilla, a 14-year Tribune veteran. "It's sad because if you look at the list, it's heavily minority. It looks bad," he told Journal-isms. He said his marching orders came a day after he challenged a powerful white Tribune columnist who for the fifth time had hired a white assistant, asking the columnist if he had considered any people of color.¬† He recalled that owner Sam Zell had told employees to question authority.
Quintanilla said the columnist publicly challenged him to a fight, and said¬†he has filed a complaint with the Tribune's human relations department.
The reporter said he could not prove his layoff was related to the Thursday incident, but said, "It just smells bad to me."
Neither the columnist nor Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern could be reached for comment.
Other departing journalists of color included Norman O. Unger, an assistant editor; Mark Hinojosa,¬† assistant managing editor for multimeida; Paul Iwanaga, a photo editor; Michael Martinez, Los Angeles correspondent; Gentry Sleets, graphic artist; and editors Donna Pierce, Emeri B. O'Brien¬†and Jeffrey Williams, among others, according to a list compiled by religion writer Manya Brachear and other newsroom sources.
"I was looking forward to earning my 20-year pin in about 6 months, but alas: POOOOOFFFFFF. . . and he's gone with lots of great memories," Unger said in a note to colleagues.
"To all my friends," read the subject line in an e-mail from Williams. "Who have been family for nearly 20 years," his message began, "especially those on the copy desk and in the DuPage bureau, take care. And remember who you are: the world‚Äôs greatest journalists and the finest human beings I‚Äôve ever known."
"'Endings are never easy,' Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern said in a note to staff, adding that 'with the departure of 80 individuals through today, the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune stands at 480, the largest news organization in Chicago by a wide margin and one of the largest and most accomplished in the United States,'" Rosenthal's story continued. "'While painful, these staff reductions are necessary to establish the foundation for a sustainable future.'
"The latest round of cutbacks is the paper's fourth since late 2005, when the newsroom was said to have had 670 positions. Other departments at the paper have been making cuts, as well.'
Quintanilla, 46, said he expected more from the paper after he returned from covering Iraq in the early days of the war, which began in 2003. "The Tribune is where minority reporters can go to die. They get lost in the bureaucracy and they're ignored," he told Journal-isms.
Also see: "When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Window" (Aug. 15 column)
Presidential Debate Co-Chair Has Heard No ObjectionsThere might be some grumbling among journalists of color about the makeup of the questioners for the televised fall presidential face-offs, announced last week, but none of it seems to have reached Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
In an interview with Michele Greppi of TV Week posted Sunday night, Fahrenkopf was asked, "What kind of feedback have you gotten on the quartet of moderators?"
"Absolutely nothing but positive remarks . . . from the general political realm," Fahrenkopf replied.
"'The NewsHour' anchor Jim Lehrer will moderate the first event Friday, Sept. 28, at the University of Mississippi. 'The NewsHour' correspondent and 'Washington Week' moderator Gwen Ifill will moderate the vice presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 6, at St. Louis' Washington University. NBC News special correspondent and interim 'Meet the Press' moderator Tom Brokaw will preside over the town hall-style presidential forum Thursday, Oct. 7, at Nashville's Belmont University. 'Face the Nation' moderator Bob Schieffer will handle the final presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Hofstra University in New York.
Ifill is a black journalist. All of the presidential debate moderators are white men 68 and over. Unity: Journalists of Color had set as a "strategic objective" moderating one of the debates this year, a plan that never bore fruit. National Public Radio host Michel Martin said in a commentary Monday on her "Tell Me More" show, "They all do fine work, they have all paid their dues. But you cannot tell me that race and age do not matter in a year when race and age are two of the issues that people bring up when they talk about how they are going to vote and why."
Broadcast personality Tavis Smiley said in November he had lunch with Fahrenkopf about including journalists of color in the three presidential debates.
"Everyone respects the four of them a great deal," Fahrenkopf told Greppi, who also asked, "The average age of this quartet is slightly more than 66. Gwen Ifill at 52 is the only one who qualifies for a demographic that can still be sold to news advertisers. Did the commission have any thoughts about the ages, the aggregate ages, given that youth has been a factor in the primaries?"
Fahrenkopf replied, "We tried to consider everyone, but in trying to make decisions as to people who have the expertise ‚Äî we're also looking for people who will not inject themselves into the debate. We want to hear from the two candidates. There are certain personalities on television who are experienced and maybe younger who just don't fit that mold. It is a very, very frightening experience for the moderators, too. There may be between 60 million and 100 million people watching. You've got to have people who are very, very, very experienced."
He said the commission had abandoned a multiple-moderator format, which might have allowed for more variety among the interviewers, in 1996.
- Yael T. Abouhalkah blog, Kansas City Star: Black journalist whines about Obama's media coverage
- Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Racism and the Race
- Brent Budowsky, Editor & Publisher: Target Obama: Why The Press Must Fact-Check Campaign Claims
- Nick Charles, theRoot.com: What Camp Obama Has in Common With the Bushies
- Stanley Crouch, New York Daily News: The problems Barack Obama is tackling belong to all Americans
- Joshua Green, the Atlantic: The Front-Runner's Fall
- Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Tough tasks await Obama on march to convention
- Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Obama a flop on pop culture
- David Roybal, Albuquerque Journal: Barry O'Bama ‚Äì Now There's a Name Voters Could Trust
- Jim Rutenberg and Julie Bosman, New York Times: Book on Obama Hopes to Repeat Anti-Kerry Feat
- Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Dear John and Barack: A word about the ladies
- Beth Walton, City Pages, Minneapolis: Star Tribune offends internet with race allusion in Obama headline
- Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Race questions cast doubt on presidential polls
CNN Plans "Modest Increase" in Multimedia Journalists"CNN announced on Tuesday that it would assign journalists to 10 cities across the United States, a move that would double the number of domestic cities where the cable news network has outposts," Brian Stelter reported on Wednesday for the New York Times.
"But in a reflection of the way television networks are reinventing the way they gather news, the journalists will not work from expensive bureaus ‚Äî rather, they will borrow office space from local news organizations and use laptops to file articles for the Internet and TV. When news happens, they will use Internet connections and cellphone cameras to report live."
"We will have a modest increase in staff. It will be a small increase in headcount," a CNN spokeswoman told Journal-isms. "So they are looking for candidates internal and external since it is an increase. We're not sure yet about expansion plans outside of the 10 new cities."
Services Set for Isaac Hayes, Bernie MacServices for soul musician and actor Isaac Hayes are planned for Monday in the Memphis area and for comic actor Bernie Mac on Saturday in Chicago.
The Hayes service is planned for Hope Presbyterian Church, 8500 Walnut Grove Road, Cordova, Tenn., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the family announced on Wednesday. Hayes died Sunday at age 65 after a stroke.
"To celebrate Hayes' constant support of the Stax Music Academy and his Stax Records Legacy, the Hayes family, in lieu of flowers requests that donations be sent to the Stax Music Academy in Memphis, made out to Soulsville, 926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106. Please specify 'In memory of Isaac Hayes,' a family statement said. "Condolences may be sent to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org."
A public memorial for Mac, who died Saturday at age 50 of complications from pneumonia, will be Saturday at noon in the 10,000-seat House of Hope, according to Us Magazine.
- Cary Clack, San Antonio Express-News: Cool died but his songs live
- Judith Graham, Chicago Tribune: Bernie Mac's death puts sarcoidosis in spotlight
- Steven Ivory, EURWeb.com: Lesson at the Hem of Black Moses
- Jimi Izrael, theRoot.com: Farewell to Black Moses
- Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Isaac, Bernie knew how to play a bad hand
- Mark Anthony Neal, theRoot.com: An Ode to Hot Buttered Genius
- Anthony Asadullah Samad, EURWeb.com: Ode' to The Mac Man
- Otis L. Sanford, Memphis Commercial Appeal: Laughter, joy leave too soon
- Lisa Snedeker, Medialifemagazine.com: Remembering Bernie Mac, funnyman
- Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Could Bernie Mac's Early, Impoverished Years Have Contributed to His Fatal Lung Ailments?
Michigan Chronicle Calls for Mayor to Resign"The Michigan Chronicle, Detroit's predominant African American newspaper, in today's edition is calling on Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to leave office now for the benefit of the city and Michigan," Detroit's WDIV-TV reported on Wednesday.
"The respected African American newspaper and one of the oldest in the country founded in 1936 supported Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's 2005 reelection. This latest call is being described by many political pundits in the Motor City as the last straw to break the camel's back because the Michigan Chronicle is read by both the Black political and economic class as well as the grassroots community."
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press columnist, told the station the position taken by the African American newspaper was "huge" because many don't trust the mainstream media.
["The Chronicle, Michigan's most prestigious black newspaper, has supported the mayor mightily in the past. It was treated her like God smacked the mayor," Riley told Journal-isms on Thursday.]
Kilpatrick is awaiting trial on felony perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.
Chinese Still Interfering With Foreign Press"The start of the Olympic Games has done nothing to help Chinese human rights activists, who continue to be arrested, watched or threatened," Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.
"At the same time, incidents involving foreign journalists, including an attack today on a British TV reporter working for ITV, shows that the security services are still preventing the foreign press from working freely."
- Committee to Protect Journalists: CPJ's Web site blocked in Olympic press centers
- Wayne Dawkins, politicsincolor.com: Despite sportsmanship, world demonstrates it is a dangerous place
- DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Far from the glow in China, there are no games in Darfur
Ex-St. Pete Times Staffer Wants to Start RevolutionMany of those leaving newspapers these days in buyouts and layoffs say they have no idea what they will do next. Amber Mobley, who left the St. Petersburg Times on May 16, says, "I want to start a revolution."
"After working professionally for nearly five years, for The Shreveport Times (one and a half years) and most recently The St. Petersburg Times (it would have been three years this month), I've decided to return to school to get my master's degree in specialized journalism at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. My concentration is education journalism," Mobley, 26, told Journal-isms via e-mail.
"I want to start a revolution.
"I want to cover education in a way that highlights what's wrong, what can be done and changes the way that urban, Title I, highly diverse and ethnically-identifiable schools are represented in the media.
"I want to change the perspective, point the blame and start a dialogue of 'Where did we go wrong' and 'Where do we go from here?' when it comes to the educational system and the ethnic [minorities] in America.
"My final project will focus on grassroots efforts to 'stand in the gap' of the educational divide for young black males. My five-year goal is to start a magnet/charter school for K-12 black men. After I finish the program, depending on the industry, I hope to either a) start writing for a newspaper again or b) work with a non-profit as a sort of lobbying agent in the realm of education short falls in regards to our black boys and girls.
"I'm currently taking a summer course, Introduction to Specialized Journalism, under Roberto Suro, a veteran print journalist with extensive experience in domestic, foreign and Washington coverage as a senior staffer for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Parks who is also a former managing editor and editor of The Los Angeles Times. (Class started Monday.)
"The specialized journalism program is a nine-month program (Class starts Aug. 25) and I am a fellow. USC is providing a full scholarship for me, health and dental care, as well as $20,000 for living expenses."
Among others who left the newspaper, local columnist Andrew Skerritt told Journal-isms he was exploring teaching opportunities, and reporters Chuin-Wei Yap and Tamara El-Khoury confirmed their resignations. El-Khoury said she left for the Washington area to be closer to her fiance.
- Amber Mobley, St. Petersburg Times: Civil Wars
- "The Labour Court has ordered the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to reinstate immediately, without loss of salary or benefits, six journalists who were suspended in June 2008," according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa. "The six . . . were suspended on allegations that they were 'acting in a manner inconsistent with the fulfilment of the implied conditions' of their contracts. MISA-Zimbabwe is reliably informed that the journalists were actually suspended for not reporting positively on President Robert Mugabe's campaign for the 29 March elections."
- "Thanks to your and this newspaper's backing, I depart as the world's longest-serving news ombudsman," C.B. Hanif told readers of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post on Sunday. Hanif, who is both African American and Muslim, started in 1987. "I hope that the newspaper's conversation with its readers, which predated me, continues. I can report that The Post's management recognizes that there's no substitute for having the newspaper independently air criticism. As we all enter a new era, I plan to continue living and working in this community . . . writing and editing, taking a few classes and teaching some, and working on other projects."
- "Univision Communications moved quickly to name a new president of its 63-station Television Group. On Monday, the Spanish-language broadcaster named Joanne Lynch to replace Terry Mackin, who exited suddenly last week after a brief five-month run," Katy Bachman reported Monday for MediaWeek.
- Edgar Hernandez was named publisher of the Vibe Media Group, promoted from associate publisher, the company announced on Monday. The firm produces Vibe magazine and associated products.
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. 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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