Obama Calls on Two Journalists of Color
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama said of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, "The notion that somehow the commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken." He took three questions, two from journalists of color.
Drought Ends at News Conference Naming Richardson
President-Elect Barack Obama redressed two omissions in a Chicago news conference on Wednesday: After five post-election news conferences in which he failed to call on any journalists of color or on Fox News, he took questions from both an African American and a Latino journalist, and one of them was from Fox News Channel.
Those questioners were Vicente Serrano, the main anchor for Telemundo Chicago, and Wendell Goler, a White House correspondent for Fox News Channel. They were two of the three questioners Obama called upon after naming New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson secretary of commerce. The third was Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg.
Serrano asked Obama what he thought about the disappointment among some Latinos that Richardson, who is Hispanic, had not been named secretary of state, that being named commerce secretary was "somehow the consolation prize for Latinos."
"Commerce secretary is a pretty good job," Obama replied, adding that he thought Richardson the best person for that job, citing his mixture of diplomatic and hands-on experience. "The notion that somehow the commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken," Obama said.
About the notion that Latinos were not receiving their fair share of Cabinet picks, the president-elect said, "I've completed about half of my Cabinet," and "when people see the entire slate, what they will see is this is one of the most diverse Cabinets and White House staffs of all time." But more important, he said, he has always believed "there is no contradiction between diversity and excellence" and that his will be a "cabinet of excellence."
Goler, a Fox News White House correspondent who had covered the primary campaign, and a black journalist, asked about the financial bailout and joked about Richardson's return to a beardless face.
Obama seized on the facial hair question first, smilingly declaring that "I thought it was a mistake for him to get rid of it. We're deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard."
He then told Goler he was reviewing whether taxpayers are getting maximum bang for the buck from the $700 billion government financial rescue package and indicated particular interest in helping prevent mortgage foreclosures, as Reuters reported.
Anticipating the choice of a Latino cabinet member, MSNBC had Maria Teresa Petersen of the Voto Latino project in the studio for its post-news conference analysis. She noted that the remarks Richardson made in Spanish after delivering his acceptance of the nomination in English did not directly correlate.
The secretary-designate said in Spanish, "our fight for our rights are still not finished," Petersen said, and he delivered a message to Latin American governments that he will reach out and seek trade agreements in an area where China is becoming a strong competitor.
Questioners at the news conference are selected beforehand, and Obama began the question period having temporarily misplaced his list.
Goler told Journal-isms via e-mail, "I always appreciate being called on by the President (or President-elect). I'm rarely 'satisfied' at the answers I receive, though in this day of infrequent follow-ups some responses get closer to the mark that others. I felt Mr. Obama at least addressed the issue."
Serrano said he had been told by a member of Obama's media staff that he might be called upon at Obama's first post-election news conference, but was not. He said he was "not really" satisfied with Obama's answer to his question Wednesday.
"I wish he would have gone the extra step. He promised a diversified Cabinet, but he did not give specific information on who might be part of that Cabinet," he told Journal-isms. Moreover Serrano said he wanted Obama to explain why, if Richardson were so qualified, Clinton was chosen over him.
"He was pretty smooth," Serrano said. "He put it in very good terms. I was surprised that he took so much time to elaborate," which said to him that Obama wanted to be sure everybody was satisfied.
Gannett Reportedly Slashes 863 Jobs and Counting
"Gannett launched what is likely the biggest mass layoff in newspaper industry history yesterday, slashing 863 jobs by early this afternoon, in an increasingly desperate bid to return the troubled 102-year-old publisher to prosperity. The final tally could run into the thousands," according to Jim Hopkins, a former Gannett editor and reporter who produces a blog about the Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper enterprise.
"Many more layoffs are expected today and tomorrow across the 85-daily community newspaper division, plus USA Today and the Detroit Free Press," he continued.
"As of 1:51 p.m. ET today, only 24 papers had been accounted for, based on published accounts and Gannett Blog reader reports. Some of the biggest worksites have not announced their plans, including The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and The Des Moines Register . . . Corporate has said the cuts will number 'significantly less' than 3,000."
Gannett announced in October it planned to eliminate about 10 percent of jobs at its U.S. newspapers, citing declining advertising sales.
That announcement did not include its largest newspaper property, USA Today, which announced separately last month it would eliminate about 20 positions in early December. Editor Ken Paulson and Executive Editor John Hillkirk asked staffers who wished to volunteer for severance pay to do so by Dec. 1. Paulson did not return a call on Wednesday seeking an update.
The cuts might have the most severe impact on smaller Gannett properties. The Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer wrote in Wednesday's editions that "About half of the staff members . . . will lose their jobs, after Tuesday's announcement that the paper will cut production and newsroom staff.
"The Enquirer also will shut down the paper's printing press and move all printing operations to a facility in Lansing."
"We're doing some grieving here," Michael McCullough, executive editor and general manager, told Journal-isms. He said he could not discuss the effect on diversity at his newspaper without checking with his supervisors.
The Arizona Republic announced 97 layoffs spread across all divisions, but Betty Reid, the paper's only American Indian reporter, who has worked at the paper since June 1991, will keep her job in paper's "Community sections," her husband, Ben Winton, told Journal-isms.
"Ironically, the paper will be pulling out of the Phoenix metro area's largest black and Hispanic neighborhoods, which are south of the city railroad tracks called 'South Phoenix,' because managers say those demographic groups are not buying the paper or responding to advertisers," Winton, a former reporter at the paper, said.
One person for whom newsroom angst is no longer a worry is Ed Foster-Simeon, formerly the highest ranking journalist of color in USA Today's main news section. Foster-Simeon was deputy managing editor for News, though he spent most of his time with recruiting and diversity matters. He left in June to become president and CEO of the Washington-based U.S. Soccer Foundation. The organization awards grants and helps programs in economically disadvantaged areas.
"It's the only opportunity I could imagine leaving USA Today for," said Foster-Simeon, who spent 15 years at USA Today and 12 years before that at the Washington Times and as a Navy journalist. He said he was not eligible for a buyout and was happy in his new job.
- Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher: Gannett: Latest Newspaper Job Cuts Will Reach About 2,000 (Dec. 4)
Darlene Superville of the Associated Press Washington bureau, right, with Deepti Hajela of the New York bureau, left, and George Garties, Chicago bureau chief, during an AP gathering at the Unity convention in Chicago last July. (Credit: Associated Press)
Darlene Superville joins the Associated Press' White House coverage team and Jesse J. Holland goes to the Supreme Court under assignments announced internally Wednesday at the Associated Press Washington bureau.
The presence of Superville, who supervises the AP's political desk on weeknights and Sundays, adds to a small but slowly growing group of black journalists assigned to the Obama White House for mainstream news organizations, covering the president or the first lady. Wendell Goler of Fox News Channel said he had not been told his current White House assignment will change; the New York Times has assigned Helene Cooper, the Washington Post Michael Fletcher and Politico.com will have Nia-Malika Henderson.
Superville has also chaired the Urban Journalism Workshop for the Washington Association of Black Journalists. She will be one of 11 on the AP's White House team, and the first black journalist to be there for the AP since Sonya Ross in the 1990s.
Holland, currently a labor reporter, will be one of the very few journalists of color ever to cover the high court for a mainstream news organization. He formerly covered Congress and was the first African American elected to the Standing Committee of Correspondents. Last year he wrote "Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History in and Around Washington, D.C."
Other journalists of color with Washington bureau assignments are: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, a reporter on the health policy, energy, environment team; Shawn Chen and Damiko Morris of the multimedia team and Michele Salcedo and Hope Yen, general assignment. Ross is regional news editor, directing Washington coverage for the 50 states.
50 Leaving Cleveland Plain Dealer Newsroom
About 50 people are leaving the newsroom of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, 24 who took buyouts and 27 who were laid off, reporter Harlan Spector, chairman of the Plain Dealer unit of the Newspaper Guild, said on Wednesday.
He confirmed that six of those laid off were journalists of color: Merlene Santiago, assistant features editor; Jennifer Gonzalez, education writer; Susan Ruiz Patton, assistant metro editor; Greg Richards and Charles Jones, sports copy editors; and Roadell Hickman, photographer.
In addition, the following people of color took a voluntary layoff: Denise Ritter, Sam Fulwood, Damian Guevara, Jesse Tinsley and April McClelland-Copeland, he confirmed.
Staffers said two non-union people in the newsroom took a different buyout package last month: Chia-Min Chen and Ron Rollins.
"In a memo Monday to Newspaper Guild-represented employees, Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg said 'there was insufficient participation' in the paper's buyout offer, and so 27 employees will be notified Tuesday they are being laid off," Editor & Publisher reported on Monday.
"All Employees in the Guild local 1 bargaining unit are instructed that 'no matter what your shift or schedule, please be reachable by phone tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 2) between 7:00 am to 9:30 am.'
"Goldberg said she would be calling then to tell people that they have been selected for the layoff. Those who do not receive a phone call by 9:30 a.m., should report to work at their regularly scheduled start time, she added.
"'There is no good way to tell anyone he or she has been laid off,' Goldberg wrote. 'We have chosen to do it this way because I believe it respects and protects the laid off person's privacy when receiving such traumatic news. In a world of bad options, this seems the best alternative.'"
Goldberg did not respond to a request for comment, but Spector said the Guild was dissatisfied because the company offered non-Guild members a more generous departure package, including health care and more money. Guild members received only two weeks' severance for every year of service, and no health care, he said.
Overall, "it's just a very dark time here," Spector said. "The industry is in bad shape, everybody knows it. But it doesn't ease the pain."
Cox Closing D.C.-Based National, International Bureau
"It's sad news, but not unexpected. We've known for months that something like this was probably coming," David Ho, New York correspondent for Cox newspapers, told Journal-isms on Tuesday. "I had worried the end would arrive as early as this month, so having until the end of March is a small gift in a dark moment."
Ho was talking about Tuesday's announcement that Cox Newspapers would close its Washington-based national and international news bureau on April 1. "This decision follows Cox's earlier announcement to offer its newspaper operations in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado for sale," the announcement said.
"Cox's metro newspapers The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dayton Daily News will manage their own Washington and international newsgathering independently following the national bureau's closing through dedicated correspondents in D.C. Eligible employees of the bureau will be offered generous severance packages and continued employment through March 31, 2009."
"I've had a while to ponder the prospect of losing my job," said Ho, 36. "It's a first for me. I've come around to seeing this more as an opportunity to find new challenges.
"My son is 4. My daughter is just 7 weeks. I just got back from paternity leave not long ago. I'm actually happy about the timing of the Cox news in a way since I'd been worried I'd take leave and have no job to come back to.
"I've loved my job. For five years, I've been a one-man bureau covering New York City and several national beats. I've reported on everything from tech and telecom to the president and the pope.
"Cox and the DC bureau gave me the chance to do it all, to be reporter, photographer, editor, blogger, multimedia producer.
"It's been a great run. I'll miss it.
"I honestly don't know what comes next for me.
"Times are tough. Especially for a journalist looking for work. I know I've got a lot of company.
"My first priority is taking care of my family, my kids. Where that leads me, whether someplace new in journalism or somewhere else entirely, I'll find out soon enough."
Another journalist of color affected by the bureau closing is Eunice Moscoso, who covers immigration from the Washington bureau and had been there 10 years, working for Cox's Austin American-Statesman for four years before that. She said she did not know what she wanted to do next. Bob Keefe, West Coast correspondent who is Asian American, will also be affected, according to bureau chief Andy Alexander. Keefe, who started the Cox West Coast bureau in 2000 and said 80 to 85 percent of his pieces are about technology, said he had not yet decided what he would do next.
Alexander, who was named Wednesday to be the new ombudsman of the Washington Post, said tough economic times had made it difficult to improve diversity in his bureau. "I haven't hired anyone in years," he said. "It's that hard." In partial compensation, he said, he had invited people of diverse backgrounds to critique news coverage.
Obama Says Blacks Will Benefit From Overall Agenda
In a message consistent with his campaign theme, Barack Obama has told Ebony magazine that there is little need for him to pursue an African American-specific agenda as president if he addresses concerns that affect everyone.
"The issues that affect the African American community are issues that affect everybody. It's just that they affect the African American community in a worse way," he said. "The biggest problem in the African American community is that they don't have health care ‚Äî well, there are a lot of white folks and Latino folks that are in the same situation, so if we put together a plan to deal with the health care as a whole, then everybody benefits. African Americans may benefit even more because there are more likely not to have health insurance, but that's not a race-specific agenda." He said the same was true about economic issues.
While African Americans have come a long way in the last 40 years, so have whites, Obama said.
"I mentioned earlier the incredible journey that the African American community has gone through over the last 40 years, but you also think about what white Americans have gone through in 40 years," he said. "You know, the maturing, and the shedding of old baggage to the point where they are judging people based on ‚ÄòCan this person help me achieve the American Dream?‚Äô That‚Äôs a huge leap that we‚Äôve all made together.
"'As I‚Äôve traveled around the country, what‚Äôs kept me going and happy and cheerful is just how impressed I am with the American people, generally. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, it doesn‚Äôt matter what region of the country they come from. I am somebody who firmly believes that people are good. I believe in America‚Äôs institutions. I believe that whatever our history, that our better days are ahead of us. That gives me great confidence. We may be going through tough times right now, but I have no doubt that we will bounce back. And I hope that I can be an important part of that. "
Obama sat down with Ebony on Nov. 13 and the magazine plans a "commemorative issue" that goes on sale on Dec. 9. As reported previously, ebonyjet.com ran a story by Eric Easter this week about the photo shoot.
Lewis Diuguid Column at K.C. Star Ends 21-Year Run
Lewis W. Diuguid, columnist, editorial board member and vice president for community resources at the Kansas City Star, is losing his column as Star Publisher Mark Zieman assigns him more responsibilities elsewhere, Diuguid said on Wednesday.
"I have about six jobs. I am responsible for The Star's philanthropic efforts in the community, I do more than 200 speaking engagements on behalf of The Star and I am co-chair of the companywide diversity initiative. I will be picking up duties that include staff development and community forums," Diuguid told Journal-isms.
"I am to remain on the editorial board as its only minority member but with no public voice.
"I have been writing a column for The Star since June 1987. I got permission to write the column once a week to add perspective to the neighborhood news section that I edited back then. The column grew to twice a week as I took on writing for an additional section, and then in May 1994 the column became a twice a week metro column. I started doing a third column not long afterward by continuing to write for one of neighborhood news sections. In September 1999 I moved to my current position, writing two columns a week. In April 2006 the second column was killed. In the time I have been writing a column, I have never missed an opportunity to write a column ‚Äî not for holidays, vacations, sicknesses or for deaths in my family. No box has ever run saying my column will return whenever."
Zieman was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Mumbai Coverage Said to Be Plagued by Downsizing
"As terrorists descended last week on Mumbai, the financial and entertainment [capital] of India, the staffs at American TV news organizations scrambled to mobilize resources and personnel, underscoring the effects of deep cuts in foreign news operations," Marisa Guthrie reported Wednesday in Broadcasting & CAble.
"The dearth of reliable information on U.S. television over the three-day conflict that broke during the Thanksgiving holiday was apparent.
"TV news reports lacked precise numbers of targets, attackers, casualties and hostages. Some of the confusion could be attributed to misinformation ‚Äî or none at all ‚Äî from Indian authorities overwhelmed by the horrifically coordinated attacks. But the absence of boots-on-the-ground reporting was also apparent.
". . . Many Western news organizations long ago downsized the number of foreign outposts. But the slump in TV ad revenue and the dire economic forecast coming after a protracted and expensive election season has meant more painful cuts to network budgets, especially for broadcast news divisions with a finite amount of hours in which to amortize costs."
- Rupa Dev, New America Media: Mumbai Attacks Hit Home For Young South Asian Americans
- Press Trust of India: India TV defends broadcast of conversation with terrorists
- Emily Wax, Washington Post: Gunmen Used Technology as A Tactical Tool
- For the first time in memory, the Newspaper Association of America's annual "20 Under 40" list ‚Äî 20 people under the age of 40 who "represent the enthusiasm, talent, hard work and innovation that's needed to carry the newspaper industry into the future" ‚Äî includes no journalists of color. Sheila Owens, spokeswoman for the Newspaper Association of America, the trade association of publishers, said nominations from newspapers were down this year but that the organization could do a better job of outreach. Employees of color on the business side did make the list.
- "South Florida's three largest daily newspapers are about to announce a new initiative in their three-month-old content-sharing arrangement, the launching of a news service with print and digital articles produced by Florida International University journalism students," Mark Fitzgerald wrote Monday for Editor & Publisher. "The South Florida News Service will launch in January, Earl Maucker, editor and senior vice president of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, confirmed in an interview Monday." The other papers are the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post.
- Patricia Marroquin, a 1990 graduate of the Maynard Institute's Management Training Center while an editor at the Los Angeles Times, began work Monday as the copy editor at Hispanic Business magazine, a national monthly based in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was laid off last month as a senior copy editor at the Ventura County (Calif.) Star after five years there. "While I was at the Ventura County Star, I created and maintained a blog for our copy desk. When I was laid off, I wrote one last item and was allowed to keep the site online, even though I will no longer add anything to it. That site is at: http://stardesk.blogspot.com/" she told Journal-isms.
- Zimbabwe journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was abducted at dawn on Wednesday from her home near the capital of Harare, Reporters Without Borders reported. Mukoko, a former broadcaster at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp., was snatched from her home by 15 men in plain clothes, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said, according to the press-freedom group.
- National Public Radio's Corey Flintoff provided a rare look at black Iraqis, whose community is centered in Basra. "Although they have lived in Iraq for more than 1,000 years, the black Basrawis say they are still discriminated against because of the color of their skin, and they see [Barack] Obama as a role model. Long relegated to menial jobs or work as musicians and dancers, some of them have recently formed a group to advance their civil rights," Flintoff reported Wednesday on "Morning Edition."
- Destiny Communications, LLC, of Great Falls, Mont., one of only six African American-owned full-power television broadcast companies in the United States, announced an agreement with Chicago-based College Creek Media, LLC to manage three new full power FM radio stations, the company announced on Monday. The company is owned and operated by 25-year veteran broadcaster Darnell Washington.
- "Insiders say House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel has no intention of giving up his powerful post," John Bresnahan reported on Tuesday for politico.com. "To the contrary, the New York Democrat is launching a concerted counterattack against The New York Times, which reported last week that Rangel helped retain a multimillion-dollar tax loophole for an oil drilling company at the same time that the company's CEO was pledging $1 million to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York." But, New York magazine reports, "the Times, like the wily little know-it-alls they are," posted a response from Rangel online "alongside a point-by-point takedown of his arguments. You really have to read it to believe it ‚Äî now the paper has moved beyond implying that Rangel has done wrong and is currently calling him a liar and a fantasist."
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