Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

NPR Pledges More Diversity on Top Shows

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Sunday, March 8, 2009
Updated March 10 

Network "to Keep Trying Until We Get It Right"

Vivian Schiller says too few stations carried 'News & Notes.'As National Public Radio winds down its daily newsmagazine targeting African Americans, "News & Notes," the network's new CEO says NPR needs to do a better job reflecting "the full spectrum of . . . our potential listenership" in its most popular programs, "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered."

"Have we done a good enough job? No, we have not, but we are going to keep trying until we get it right," Vivian Schiller, NPR's president and chief executive, told a National Press Club audience in Washington last week.

"I have the same feeling about this as I do about reaching our younger audiences," she said in response to a question. "You don't create a program for diverse audiences and say, 'Here's our program for diverse audiences, OK, you go there.' In some cases, that's fine, but I don't believe that's the answer for broadening our reach.

"What we need to do is reflect the full spectrum of our listenership, or our potential listenership, in our main programs. Our main programs that most people listen to are 'Morning Edition' and 'All Things Considered.' And in those programs, both in the staffing of those programs, in the stories that we tell, in the guests that we interview, we need to make sure that we are constantly thinking about a diversity of audience. So rather than having a special program that is just for African Americans or a special program that is just for Latino listeners, we needed to be represented in the fabric of everything that we do."

NPR announced in December it was canceling "News & Notes" and the midday newsmagazine "Day to Day" effective March 20, and said the network was reducing its work force by 7 percent. A projected $2 million deficit for fiscal 2009 has become $23 million with the downturn in the economy, it said then.

Among those laid off was Doug Mitchell, an NPR employee of more than 20 years who trained scores of young journalists of color to enter broadcasting.

"News & Notes" started life in 2002 as "The Tavis Smiley Show," a vehicle for the network to reach out to African American audiences. Smiley left, complaining about a lack of promotion for the show, and his successors, Ed Gordon and then Farai Chideya, echoed his complaints. Others have said that NPR's corporate culture works against efforts to improve diversity, though at "All Things Considered," a black journalist, Michele Norris, has influenced content as a host since December 2002.

In a follow-up question, Schiller, who had been general manager of the New York Times' Web site and a senior vice president with the New York Times Co., denied that NPR "was closed to ideas that would attract more diverse listenership."

"I'm telling you like it is. We haven't gotten this right yet. We absolutely haven't gotten it right yet," she said.

"'News & Notes' was canceled, and 'Day to Day' were canceled because we had to make cuts in this economy and they just weren't reaching enough people. It did not have enough distribution . . . in terms of the number of stations that were airing the program. I think on a station-by-station level we had pretty good listenership, but unless you have that kind of distribution and incredibly high listenership it just didn't make sense . . . . I hate to put it in [these] terms but the cost-benefit analysis of the cost of reaching very few people, even though the shows were terrific - this had nothing to do with the quality of the shows or the quality of the people who worked on them - we had to make hard choices and these were the hard choices.

"We must, again, though, continue to find a way - 'News & Notes' was a program that had a great deal of orientation around African American issues; we need to embed that in everything we do in a better way. "'Tell Me More'," a show hosted by Michel Martin with a multicultural focus, "is a wonderful program that has really picked up a lot of traction. It's dealing with a lot of issues of diversity, but we're going to spread it across everything that we do."

In December, an NPR spokeswoman said the mid-day newsmagazine "Day to Day" was carried on 186 stations, and "News & Notes" on 64.  The spokeswoman, Anna Christopher, said on Tuesday that as of the end of March, "Tell Me More" will be carried on 61 stations, including those in six of the top 10 markets.

"Chocolate News" Canceled, News Follows Hughley Exit

Less than a week after the news that comedian D.L. Hughley's news-comedy hybrid is leaving CNN comes word that Comedy Central has canceled "Chocolate News" with comic actor David Alan Grier.

"Yes, they were both cancelled," David Zurawik wrote Tuesday on his Baltimore Sun blog. Hughley's Saturday night show, "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News," "got the ax last week, but will play out the month. Comedy Central confirmed yesterday in an email response to me that Chocolate News 'has not been renewed.' But both moves were made so quietly by the cable channels you might not have noticed. That was the idea. Until yesterday, I wasn't certain of the fate of Chocolate News."

The two shows, both introduced in October, attempted to mine the same vein as Jon Stewart's successful and influential "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report." But neither truly caught on, although CNN said Hughley's show was departing only because the comedian wanted to move the show to Los Angeles to be closer to his family, a step CNN said it could not take.

"Now, with both shows cancelled before either completed even one season, no one seems to want to talk about what it means that they flopped," Zurawik wrote.

"But here is the question that matters for us: Were they just awful shows, or does their failure say we are not such a great and progressive nation ready to embark on a more meaningful and open discussion of race?

"Or how about the more extreme version of that question: Were one or both of the shows offensive to blacks, as some have claimed (on this blog and elsewhere), or are we the nation of 'cowards' when it comes to when talking about race that Attorney General Eric Holder recently called us?" [Added March 10.]

On Auction Block: Historic Black-Drawn Comic Book

Top bid so far: $6,500A comic book produced in 1947 by a black journalist - billed as the first ever created by African Americans for a black audience - is being auctioned in New York.

"A copy of All-Negro Comics No. 1 is up for sale by comics entrepreneur Stephen Fishler. He says the comic is very rare - lasting one issue," the Associated Press reported.

All-Negro Comics sold for 15 cents and was the brainchild of Philadelphia journalist Orrin C. Evans, who in a 25-year career wrote for the Afro-American newspapers, the Chicago Defender, the Philadelphia Tribune, the Philadelphia Independent, the Philadelphia Bulletin and the NAACP's the Crisis, among other publications. He died in 1971.

In his introduction to the comic, Evans wrote:

'Dear Readers: This is the first issue of All-Negro Comics, jam-packed with fast action, African adventure, good clean humor and fantasy.

"Every brush stroke and pen line in the drawings on these pages are by Negro artists. And each drawing is an original; that is, none has been published ANYWHERE before. This publication is another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism.

"All-Negro Comics will not only give Negro artists an opportunity gainfully to use their talents, but it will glorify Negro historical achievements.

"Through Ace Harlem, we hope dramatically to point up the outstanding contributions of thousands of fearless, intelligent Negro police officers engaged in a constant fight against crime throughout the United States.

"Through Lion Man and Bubba, it is our hope to give American Negroes a reflection of their natural spirit of adventure and a finer appreciation of their African heritage.

"And through Sugarfoot and Snakeoil, we hope to recapture the almost lost humor of the lovable wandering Negro minstrel of the past.

"Finally, Dew Dillies will give all of us - young and old - an opportunity to romp through a delightful, almost fairy-like land of make-believe.

"And we're proud, too, of our big educational feature - a monthly historical calendar on which the contributions of the Negro to world history will be set forth in each issue.'

The ComicConnect Event Auction Web site shows 25 bids tendered so far; the highest, $6,500.


Anderson Cooper, left, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discuss Gupta's withdrawal from consideration as surgeon general on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." No tough questions were asked.

CNN Said to Tread Lightly in Reporting on Gupta

"Anderson Cooper and CNN gave Sanjay Gupta a pass" in reporting on the CNN medical correspondent's withdrawal from consideration as U.S. surgeon general, Bob Steele wrote Saturday in his ethics column for the Poynter Institute.

On "'Anderson Cooper 360,' which is a news program, Cooper said how happy he was Gupta was going to stay at CNN and lobbed a few simple questions his way. There was no serious attempt to probe why Gupta had stayed in contention for over two months only to withdraw now. No effort to report on what his pulling out might mean to an Obama administration that has lost a number of appointees. No references to concerns about Gupta voiced by some politicians.

"For a couple of months we've had Sanjay Gupta in the running to be one of Obama's trusted allies. As surgeon general he would have had a key voice in the President's health care policy. While Gupta was, in essence, interviewing for the surgeon general's position, he was likely interviewing the President as well, not as a reporter but as a potential team player. He was bound to learn some insider information.

"That's where the ethical challenges surface. To whom does Dr. Gupta owe loyalty? Can he serve the public with comprehensive reporting uninfluenced by his White House connections? Can he fairly report on an administration he almost joined? Can he fairly report on critics of Obama's health care plans?

"Do CNN executives share these concerns about Gupta continuing to report on the Obama White House and the administration's health policy?

"I asked CNN for comment, and heard back from Jennifer Dargan, PR director. She said in an e-mail, 'Sanjay is a first-rate, independent journalist, with nearly 10 years of solid reporting experience. He will continue to cover health care issues and policy objectively, as he's always done.'"

Obama Reaches Out to Hispanic, Black Media

President Obama telephoned Eddie 'Piol??n' Sotelo, right, and said, 'I think that it’s so important that the Latino community, the Spanish-speaking community, continues to stay involved in politics.'"Eddie 'Piol??n' Sotelo isn't a national media figure, but last month he found himself on the line with President Obama," Howard Kurtz wrote Monday in the Washington Post.

"'We're so proud,' the popular Los Angeles radio host said. 'I know you are the president for everybody. . . . Congratulations on your accomplishment. . . . Is there some sort of network we could establish to be in communication regarding the comprehensive immigration reform? And personally, what can I do?'

"The conversation last month was one of a spate of interviews that Obama has done with Hispanic media outlets. And the White House plans to do more, even though most of the questioners have been a tad tougher than Sotelo.

"'We should have a conscious strategy of communicating through Hispanic media,' White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel says in an interview. 'It's one of the fastest-growing groups in the country. Telemundo is one of the most significant media outlets.'

"Telemundo apparently agrees. The Spanish-language network was granted an interview in Florida last month, days after complaining about being left out when the president appeared on ABC, CBS and NBC," which owns Telemundo.

". . . The nation's first African American president isn't neglecting black media outlets, either. His first print interview after taking office was with Black Enterprise magazine. Editor in Chief Derek Dingle asked the president about the 12.6 percent unemployment rate among African Americans and how he plans to run the Minority Business Development Agency."

Consensus: GOP's Michael Steele Had a Bad Week

"He once described feminism as something invented to allow ugly women access to the mainstream," Leonard Pitts Jr., syndicated Miami Herald columnist, wrote on Sunday.

"According to the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, he once advised a black caller to his radio show: 'Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.'

"He once made fun of the body tremors of a man struggling with a degenerative and incurable disease of the nervous system.

"Yet, when Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele described Rush Limbaugh's radio program during a recent CNN interview as 'ugly' and 'incendiary,' it was Steele who was required to tender a prompt apology.

"People keep asking, in the wake of two consecutive shellackings at the voting booth, what is wrong with the GOP. They have wrung their hands and hung their heads over Steele's goofy attempts ('off the hook') to bring street cred to the party of big business and social conservatism, over the way Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seemed to channel Howdy Doody in delivering the GOP response to President Barack Obama's speech before a joint session of Congress."

Philly Daily News Challenges "Endangered" Designation

The Philadelphia Daily News is taking exception to a Time magazine piece that placed it No. 1 on a list of "The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America." 

"We completely disagree with this post since it has no basis in fact," spokesman Jay Devine told Journal-isms on Tuesday.

"As you may be aware, Philadelphia Newspapers has an operating profit last year of approximately $36 million. In addition, the newspapers were ranked as one of the largest gainers in advertising growth in 2008, having moved from the bottom of the pack to near the top. As the #91st largest newspaper in the U.S., we take strong exception to his assumption that a paper with a daily circulation of 100,000 cannot continue to thrive. Lastly, this blogger clearly has no appreciation for the unique voice of the Daily News in terms of its coverage of politics, entertainment and sports. It will be here for years to come."

The Time list, compiled by Douglas A. McIntyre, described the Daily News as, "The smaller of the two papers owned by Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, which recently filed for bankruptcy. The company says it will make money this year, but with newspaper advertising still falling sharply, the city cannot support two papers, and the Daily News has a daily circulation of only about 100,000."

The list also included the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Detroit News, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. [Added March 10]

Chris Brown-Rihanna Story Resonates

"When I first heard of the alleged assault in the Chris Brown/Rihanna case, I was surprised. When I worked with Chris just a few months ago on an Ebony cover shoot, he came across mostly as a happy-go-lucky young man thoroughly enjoying his life. Nothing about him seemed violent," Harriette Cole, creative director of Ebony magazine, wrote on the site.

"Reading the police report I immediately thought that the only way something like this could have happened was if one or both of them had completely lost control of themselves. But, as more details became public, I took a horrifying trip down memory lane.

"The police report? I could have written it.

". . . I read what seemed almost like a play-by-play description of my story. I found myself wondering how many others would read their story in those graphic words. How many women take back abusive partners; how people end up healing from the emotional pain of somehow allowing themselves to be assaulted. I wonder how many of those anonymous people never get the help they need and continue to behave poorly — either through violence or fear — for the rest of their lives.

". . . Thank God I got the professional and personal support I needed to move on."

Darfur Could Face "Genocide by Other Means"

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, who has consistently sounded the alarm about genocide in Darfur, Sudan, sounded one again on Sunday.

"The first gauntlet thrown at President Obama didn’t come from Iran, Russia or China. Rather, it came from Sudan, in its decision to expel aid groups that are a lifeline keeping more than a million people alive in Darfur," he wrote.

"Unfortunately, the administration’s initial reaction made Neville Chamberlain seem forceful. The State Department blushingly suggested that the expulsion 'is certainly not helpful to the people who need aid.'


"Since then, the administration has stiffened its spine somewhat. Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations and designated hitter on Sudan, told me, 'If this decision stands, it may well amount to genocide by other means.'

"That’s exactly what we may be facing, for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is confirming the International Criminal Court’s judgment when it issued an arrest warrant for him on Wednesday for 'extermination,' murder and rape. Now Mr. Bashir is preparing to kill people en masse, not with machetes but by withholding the aid that keeps them alive.

"More than one million people depend directly on the expelled aid groups for health care, food and water."

Short Takes

  • Roxana Saberi, the freelance Iranian-American journalist imprisoned in Iran, met with a lawyer, according to the Iranian news agency Press TV. "Reza Saberi said his 31-year old daughter's lawyer found Roxana depressed, but saw no signs of physical torture after meeting with her in prison," Press TV reported¬†on Monday.
  • Chuck Olmstead, longtime reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky., died Tuesday, the station reported. Olmstead, 60, had been hospitalized after suffering a brain aneurysm. A Boston native, "Chuck came to WHAS11 in 1975 and quickly became a favorite with his signature hats and signature style, " covering nearly every major story in the region, including the desegregation of area schools, the station said. Louisville native Angelo B. Henderson, Pulitzer Prize winner and Detroit radio personality, who worked closely with Olmstead as a WHAS-TV summer intern in the 1980s, told Journal-isms, "Chuck was Louisville's Ed Bradley, proving that we as African Americans were supposed to tell all sorts of news stories on television. He was not the well-coiffed, pretty-boy, TV type. Chuck was the scraggly-beared, old school, trench-coat tough, no-nonsense journalist who asked questions that hurt and healed. He climbed inside his stories. He used his internal lens as well as the camera's to see, sell (in morning news meetings) and tell stories that made a difference." [Added March 10.]
  • Among those attending Friday's funeral for Wilbert A. Tatum, former New York Amsterdam News publisher, were Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor David Dinkins, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Charlie Rangel," Fox News reported. "A number of people spoke, including Tatum's daughter, Elinor, who took over as the paper's publisher when her father retired." Tatum died Feb. 25 at age 76 while on vacation in Croatia. Herb Boyd reported on the two-hour service in the Amsterdam News: Gov. "David Paterson recalled spending time with Tatum as a co-host on his breakfast show on WLIB many years ago and how Tatum would have relished taking on the New York Post for its publication of a recent racist cartoon. 'Every Thursday (when the Amsterdam News hit the stands) you could expect Bill to give us the truth, and you know that truth crushed to earth will rise again.' For those interested in gauging the pulse of the community, the Amsterdam News and Tatum‚Äôs editorials were required reading, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 'We didn‚Äôt always see eye-to-eye,' the mayor admitted, 'but that didn‚Äôt stop me from liking him.'‚Äù
  • Michael Meyers, president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, was denied permission to speak at the NAACP's annual meeting as the group discussed the New York Post's infamous chimpanzee cartoon, according to columnist Nat Hentoff. "The new NAACP has long been a laughingstock, now, it is a national embarrassment," Meyers wrote in a letter published in AM New York. "Jealous of the publicity other groups got by protesting a NY Post cartoon, which they falsely claimed was racist, the NAACP joined the fray and upped the ante with the charge that the cartoon was in effect an invitation to assassinate President Obama. The last thing intelligent civil rights advocacy needs is grown-ups chasing after a silly cartoon." NAACP Chairman Julian Bond told Meyers, "Your views are not welcomed here," Hentoff wrote. Meyers is a former Post columnist, but told Journal-isms he has no financial ties to the Post or to owner Rupert Murdoch.
  • "James G. Bellows, whose insistence on stylish writing and bold, clean graphics promoted the New Journalism movement while he was the editor of three major newspapers, including The New York Herald Tribune, died Friday. He was 86 and lived in Los Angeles," Dennis Hevesi wrote in the New York Times. Among Bellows' many achievements, "In April 1963, while editing The Tribune, he decided to publish the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‚Äôs historic letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail, written in response to white clergymen who had argued that segregation should be fought in the courts, not in the streets," Hevesi wrote. Dick Wald, a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, said. ‚ÄúHe felt this was a statement of purpose by a man on the edge of being condemned or glorified. Jim felt it was an important American moment.‚Äù
  • As the number of immigration-related arrests continues to escalate in Nashville, the ethnic media ‚Äî like La Sabrosita AM Radio ‚Äî have moved to the forefront of the immigration battleground, according¬†to Anthony Advincula of New America Media. "Since December 2008, more than 5,000 undocumented immigrants in the Nashville area have been placed under removal proceedings, about a 5.2 percent increase from 2007. Most of the immigrants were arrested and detained after being stopped for minor traffic violations."
  • Readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are helping to select¬†a new conservative op-ed columnist. "From nearly 200 candidates, we have 10 finalists. Three are professional journalists. The others have a variety of intriguing backgrounds," Matt Kempner, public editor, wrote. "We asked each to write two columns: one on efforts for a U.S. economic stimulus plan and one on any other topic. We‚Äôre publishing them today (without names, to protect confidentiality). This isn‚Äôt a vote. It‚Äôs an opportunity for you to give us input on the candidates‚Äô work."
  • Romona Robinson"Romona Robinson, a statuesque beauty who radiates the warmth and sincerity of a favorite sister, is the only solo anchor in Cleveland news, the 15th-largest media market in the country," Julie E. Washington wrote¬†Sunday in a profile of Robinson. "Robinson is the first black woman to be the sole anchor of a weeknight newscast here." As a teenager in the 1970s in a rural Missouri church, Robinson declared her intention to be a television anchor, according to the story. "Afterward, a well-meaning church lady buttonholed Romona's mother, Henrietta Robinson, for some frank talk, with Romona listening in the background. 'You tell that girl to get that notion out of her head. She ain't gonna get no job reading the television news. White people never gonna let black people sit next to them and give the news. Tell that girl to study something sensible.'"
  • The Sacramento Bee's Aurelio Rojas, veteran of the Sacramento press corps. is heading "back home" to Los Angeles, reportedly to work for recently-elected Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Steven Maviglio wrote¬†for Sacramento's California Majority Report. "Rojas came to the Bee from the San Francisco Chronicle. The mainstay of his beat was health care reform and did an excellent job of covering the Prop 8 battle for the Bee last year."
  • Since he left Texas A&M in 1991, Roland Martin "has been fighting his way out of boxes with such alacrity that he‚Äôs never held a job for more than three years while dashing from Houston to College Station to Austin to Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston to Dallas to Chicago. His winding road, however, has led to the national stage at an ideal time to analyze and interpret new initiatives by a new administration," David Barron wrote¬†Saturday in a Houston Chronicle profile of the multimedia journalist, most visible now on CNN.
  • Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, continued his campaign for Federal Communications Commission approval of his proposed Urban Television network. In an interview¬†with John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, Johnson dismissed claims¬†by the TV One cable network that cable companies might drop that network if also forced to carry Johnson's channel. "There is no threat that channel capacity will be reduced, [or that] cable operators will have to make a choice between BET and Urban TV or Urban TV and TV One. That is just a scare tactic by the cable operators," Johnson said.
  • A four-month collaboration between the Annenberg School for Communication at USC and the Center for Investigative Reporting "explores the impact of the Iraq war in Southern California. The multimedia package of stories includes: a portrait of U.S. Army recruiting and the Junior ROTC program at Hollywood High School; the tale of an undocumented Mexican, in the U.S. since the age of three, who wants nothing more than to serve in the U.S. military, but can‚Äôt; stories of Iraqi exiles with roots in Southern California who‚Äôve returned to help rebuild their country; a 'biography of a fighter jet,' from Southern California assembly line to payload delivery in Iraq; an analysis of the U.S. Army‚Äôs advertising strategy in light of an unpopular war; and a first-person essay by a reporter whose father‚Äôs secret defense-industry work has its own ties to Iraq," the center said on Monday.
  • "Roberto de Jes??s Guerra P?©rez, a Havana-based independent journalist, sent an e-mail message this morning to his "brothers, colleagues, and organizations that protect and watch over press freedom around the world" announcing that he had been released from police custody after a four-day detention," Maria Salazar of the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday. "In his e-mail, titled 'Thanks to you and to your demands, I am at it again,' Guerra P?©rez detailed the ordeals of his arrest."

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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NPR Pledges More Diversity on Top Shows

NPR claims to pledge that more diversity will be offered but I would not place too much weight on it. This passive attitude by NPR's CEO simply represents her organization's ongoing failures to openly embrace mulitcultural audiences who are actual listeners and members of their stations. Until NPR does intensive soul searching to counteract their own internal social problems regarding programming coverage, we'll be hearing the same song I've grown increasingly tired of hearing.

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