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What Is Obama's Personal Responsibility?

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Speeches Reignite Debate Over Posture Toward Blacks

Pinkston Sign-Off Recaps '63 Appearance by Medgar Evers

Panel on Diversifying City Magazines Draws Little Interest

George Washington U. Adds Cheryl Thompson, Imani Cheers

NBC Names First Woman to Run Network News Division

S.F. Chronicle Joins Others Dropping "Illegal" as Noun


Outrage Over Justice Dept. Probe of Fox Reporter

Marcus Carmouche to Head Sports at NOLA Media Group


Short Takes

President Obama tells 500 at Morehouse College graduation, "barriers have come t

Speeches Reignite Debate Over Posture Toward Blacks

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama addressed freshly minted African American graduates over the weekend, reopening a debate that has dogged him since he was a candidate. On such occasions, how much emphasis should he give to addressing the "personal responsibility" of African Americans? How much should he focus instead on the responsibility of the government he leads to address African Americans' plight?

Underlying the question is the obvious fact that Obama is the nation's first black president and African Americans are his most loyal voting bloc. What is Obama's own responsibility?

By all accounts, the president was a hit Sunday at Morehouse College in ". . . I also have to say that you all are going to get wet," Obama told the croAtlanta, as the first lady was the previous day at Bowie State University in Maryland, another historically black institution.

The first couple separately implored graduates to set examples for those whose achievements they have already surpassed. "Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it," Obama told the Morehouse crowd.

"But that doesn't mean we don't have work — because if we're honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you've had here at Morehouse. In troubled neighborhoods all across this country — many of them heavily African American — too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here — they're places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell. . . ."

Many in the media immediately jumped on the "personal responsibility" angle. "Two Excerpts You Should Read From Obama's Morehouse Speech," read a headline over a piece by Eyder Peralta of NPR, pointing to sections on "personal responsibility" and "family." The conservative Washington Times ran this headline: "Obama at Morehouse: Black men cannot use racism as a crutch."

That was just the kind of emphasis that irked Ta-Nehisi Coates, recent winner of a National Magazine Award for a piece about race and the Obama presidency. He wrote in the Atlantic:

"This clearly is a message that only a particular president can offer. Perhaps not the 'president of black America,' but certainly a president who sees holding African Americans to a standard of individual responsibility as part of his job. This is not a role Barack Obama undertakes with other communities.

"Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people — and particularly black youth — and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that 'there's no longer room for any excuses' — as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of 'all America,' but he also is singularly the scold of 'black America.' "

Wayne Bennett, a lawyer who acts as a magistrate for the First Judicial District's Domestic Relations Division, working with families in the Philadelphia court system, disagreed. In his Field Negro blog, he wrote, "Look, without getting too personal, I work in an area of law that unfortunately has to confront a lot of dysfunction when it comes to families, and I can say without question that not having a good father figure at home is a major cause of problems with families here in my city. I suspect that this is the case all over the country. Asking young African American graduates to go out into their communities and be good family men is exactly the type of message that the president should be sending.

"But Field, why didn't he deliver a similar message to the graduates of Ohio State University? Why doesn't he talk about being a responsible parent when he talks to white folks? Why does he only choose to lecture us?

"Because, as a black man, he has a stake in how we progress as a race," Bennett wrote.

Trevor W. Coleman, a former Detroit Free Press editorial writer and gubernatorial speech writer, sided more with Coates. Coleman wrote on Facebook, "those kids are Morehouse graduates and if they weren't aware of the internal challenges facing Black men when they started there, they most certainly are now. Does he always have to play in to that slanderous narrative that we as Black men suffer from some sort of moral deficit and are incapable of being nurturing parents lest we are shamed in to it?

"His commencement address would have been more helpful if he affirmed those young leaders and then challenged them to use their skills to become vigorous and relentless fighters against racism, classism, sexism, economic and political exploitation. The dirty little 'secret' of his very own presidency is that he is the ultimate example of how constrained Black achievement really can be, if it is not accompanied by a vigorous fight against structural and institutional racism. . . ."

Salim Muwakkil, longtime writer for the Chicago-based In These Times, argued on Facebook that the narrative that Obama chose was the only one the media would accept: "The patriarch-in-chief once again patronized his black audience. But condescension is the only public attitude Obama is allowed to express when making explicit racial connections. Were he, by chance, to speak of shared racial grievances with his black male audience or of the structural impediments he faces in a racist Congress, his presidential image would take a severe media battering. This media take-down would feed the (well-nourished conservative) narrative that the first black president is a feckless complainer who plays the race card to excuse his failures."

Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African & African American Studies at Duke University, wrote that he saw "a lot of digital space being spent on issues that really don't get us anywhere in terms of policy issues." After all, hadn't Obama already made these points in his Father's Day speech of 2008, back when he was a first-time presidential candidate?

Jarrett L. Carter, founding editor of HBCUDigest.com, came at it from the perspective of historically black colleges. "Some will call the president's speech good medicine for black America to cure the prevalent self-imposition of fear and failure in our culture," Carter wrote on HuffPost BlackVoices. "Some will call it racial contempt and a lack of nuanced awareness or concern about the painful and lasting affects of slavery. But in any interpretation, the most glaring omission from his address was the need for education, and specifically historically black colleges and universities, to be at the center of any cultural reform for Black America. . . ."

Michael H. Cottman of BlackAmericaWeb.com was one of the Obama enthusiasts. "Obama's address to 500 black male graduates was his most direct public speech about the experiences of black men during his second term in the White House and one of his most straight-forward lectures about race since he took office," he wrote. Cottman called it "arguably one of the most significant speeches of Obama's presidency."

Bennett seconded the motion. "Mitt Romney, as America's president, would not have spoken at Morehouse College (or any other HBCU), and Anne Romney would not have been caught dead speaking at Bowie State University in her capacity as First Lady. (Loved how Michelle Obama went there about black kids thinking other black kids are acting white if they are hitting their books.) So rather than rip the man for telling you Negroes what you need to hear, you need to take stock of yourselves and see why there is a need for him to say it in the first place. . . ."


On the "CBS Evening News" on Sunday, Randall Pinkston recalls the breakthrough television appearance by slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers on May 20, 1963. A younger Pinkston is on screen at left. (video)

Pinkston Sign-Off Recaps '63 Appearance by Medgar Evers

Randall Pinkston, who is leaving CBS News after 33 years, signed off Sunday night with the story of an unprecedented appearance on WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., by civil rights leader Medgar Evers one day shy of 50 years ago, at a time when African Americans were not allowed on the air there. Evers would be assassinated a month later.

The appearance helped to pave the way for integration of the station's newsroom and led to the Pinkston's hiring. He was shown in the report anchoring WLBT's 10 o'clock news.

Did Pinkston choose this bit of history as a fitting final piece?

"It was a serendipitous event," Pinkston told Journal-isms by email. "About three months ago, I dropped by the office of Executive Producer Jennifer Siebens. She told me she was working on ideas for 50th Anniversary Civil Rights stories.

"We talked about the March on Washington and the assassination of Medgar Evers. I mentioned that a little known story about Evers was his effort to gain access to media.

"Jennifer said she had never heard about that. I added that I began my career at the station where Medgar made his speech — that Evers had blazed the trail for diversity. She immediately green lighted the story and told me and producer Phil Hirschkorn to make sure part of my story was in the report.

"At the time, I had forgotten that my retirement coincided with the anniversary of Evers' speech. When I realized the convergence of the date, I was pleased — that I could reveal a little reported contribution of Medgar Evers and connect his sacrifice to the opportunity that was opened for me and many, many others.

"It's the perfect closing of 'this' chapter of my career. On now, to the next thing..."

Pinkston expanded on Evers' contribution last week as he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. Script below.

Three approaches to diversity: Philadelphia, Madison and Atlanta magazines

Panel on Diversifying City Magazines Draws Little Interest

As the recent uproar over the Philadelphia magazine cover story "Being White in Philly" demonstrated, regional and city magazines are usually geared toward white people. That's one reason why Rebecca Burns, former editor of Atlanta magazine, secured a spot during the City and Regional Magazine Association's annual conference to discuss diversity.

"One reason [for the discussion] is to see who you're attracting," and who needs to be represented, Burns told Journal-isms by telephone. She is now director of digital strategy for Emmis Publishing, Atlanta magazine's parent company. "Otherwise you're going to go the way of the Republican party" as it stood after the November election, demographically challenged.

It was a "fascinating" discussion, Burns said. Participating were Hank Klibanoff, Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation," former managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and director of the journalism program at Emory University, and William Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

Unfortunately, Burns said, the forum attracted only about 20 people, while sessions about other topics drew 90 to 100.

Those who did show up "said they were inspired." Among the bright moments, she said, was testimony from the publisher of the city magazine of Madison, Wis., about the conscious effort that magazine made to further diversity. "It's a leadership issue," Burns said. "It's the right thing to do, but also the smart thing."

Without diversity, Cobb said, the full story of the community isn't being told, and readers lose. He tweeted on his way to the session, "I'm about to do a panel on diversity in magazine publishing. 88 people here, I'm the only black person. Sigh," and, "It's Malcolm X's birthday and I'm off to do a panel on the absence of black writers in magazine writing. How not-ironic."

Cobb told Journal-isms by email that "even in academia, where the attainment of a PhD is a pretty high barrier to entry, I don't think I've ever been in a gathering that was that white.

"In a nutshell, I said that people had to be intentional, that in the era of blogs it's never been easier to find black voices, that they shouldn't simply seek out one black voice since there's a diversity of opinion among us and they shouldn't necessarily get the black writer whose views on race make them feel most comfortable. Also, that black writers don't necessarily want to write only about black issues. 

"Also, there's really no easy way to understand why police forces can diversify and magazines really can't. . . . I also made some common sense suggestions about diversifying where people advertise for interns and gave the example of David Carr during his time at Washington City Paper doing a lot to change that paper's staff by doing this. Hank Klibinoff made a lot of good points about editors having the capacity to change who their reporters talk to or who they write about simply by asking for something different."

Klibanoff said by email that he made these points: "Diversity is an ethical issue. I discussed how I teach diversity each semester in my journalism ethics course at Emory University and that it is part of the quid pro quo that comes with the privilege of the First Amendment. It is also important to any publication that wants to stay relevant with its ever-changing potential readership. It's good business.

"If diversity of coverage, of staff/contributors, in distribution, marketing and advertising can be achieved naturally by example and by leadership, that's wonderful. If it cannot, it should be built into all the standard corporate incentives — the MBO [management by objective] and other salary and bonus packages, for example.

"I spoke a lot about intentionality — how an editor should have no qualms about being very intentional in pursuit of diversity. That means building Rolodexes/address book that are purposefully diverse. I cited the story we tell in The Race Beat about how, when the Montgomery bus boycott began and the Montgomery Improvement Association was getting started, no one from the Montgomery Advertiser had the names of black ministers in their address books. Reporters found themselves at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church quoting black ministers without their names — including Martin Luther King Jr. (As the story goes, he was actually misquoted in a way that made him sound anarchistic, but the quote was attributed to an unnamed black minister. Only later when a tape of his speech became public was it clear it was King speaking and he was misquoted).

"But the point is to have a diverse set of resources, lunch mates, invitees to events sponsored by your publication, etc. I suggested steering away from usual suspects as 'experts' and finding a fresh and diverse set of wise people to seek comment from, to feature, to celebrate. I mentioned that when I was at The Boston Globe, we had the FEAF book, a binder stuffed for many years with after 5 p.m. phone numbers for everyone under the sun. FEAF stood for Find 'Em After Five. Every newsroom needs a similar book for finding a diverse set of explainers/commenters/observers on every issue that might emerge."

George Washington U. Adds Cheryl Thompson, Imani Cheers

Imani M. Cheers

Cheryl W. Thompson, an investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and Imani M. Cheers, a former executive at PBS NewsHour, are joining the faculty at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, the school has announced.

"We've got to improve diversity in the newsroom and in the classroom, in the seats and in front of the room," Frank Sesno, director of George Washington's School of Media and Public Affairs and former CNN Washington Bureau chief, told Journal-isms by telephone Monday. Thompson and Cheers are black journalists. "We're very committed to this," Sesno said, pointing to the appointment of a university vice provost for diversity and inclusion.

Cheryl W. Thompson

The Prime Movers Media program, "the first intensive journalism mentoring and news literacy program targeting students within urban high schools," was based at George Washington but is sunsetting after nine successful school years, Dorothy Gilliam, the program's founder and director, announced last month. Sesno called that a setback.

Thompson said in a news release that "Investigative skills will always be in demand. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned over the years with my students." She will continue to do investigative projects for the Post.

At PBS, Cheers managed a team of reporters, created a media literacy curriculum and directed a participatory multimedia journalism program for elementary, secondary and post-secondary students. "I especially look forward to my interactions with very bright, talented students, honing their multimedia skills in an ever-changing media environment," she said in the news release.

The school also hired Emily Thorson, most recently at the University of Pennsylvania, "where she received her PhD in both Communication and Political Science," the school said. "Her research explores how voters draw on information to form opinions about politics, and what the media can do to ensure that citizens are fully informed."

Asked how diverse the faculty and student body were, Sesno said, "not where we need to be." But he said the appointments were "an important step forward. Diversity breeds diversity," he said.

NBC Names First Woman to Run Network News Division

Deborah TurnessNBC News on Monday named Deborah Turness, a British news executive, as its next president, ending a monthslong search to fill one of the most prestigious jobs in American television journalismBrian Stelter reported Monday for the New York Times.

He added, "Ms. Turness will be the first woman to run a network news division in the United States. She will succeed Steve Capus, who stepped down in February after nearly eight years at the helm."

In 2007, Capus received the Ida B. Wells Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Medill School of Journalism for his diversity efforts, though he has been criticized for his role in the departure of Ann Curry, who is biracial with Japanese roots, from the "Today" show.

Kathy Kelly-Brown, senior vice president for communications for the NBCUniversal News Group, said by email, "As the first woman to run a network news organization in the US  and UK,  she is bringing that diverse perspective to the job. We expect she will be a champion of diversity."

Stelter reported that Patricia Fili-Krushelthe chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group, "has told others that the top priorities are reviving 'Today,' which remains in second place behind ABC’s 'Good Morning America,' and 'future-proofing NBC News' in a rapidly changing digital age."

S.F. Chronicle Joins Others Dropping "Illegal" as Noun

The San Francisco Chronicle has changed its style on "illegal immigration" and "illegal immigrants" to match a revision announced last month by the Associated Press, David Steinberg, Chronicle copy desk chief, said on Monday.

The Chronicle's new entry on "illegal immigration" reads:

"Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

"Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented immigrant. This prohibition also applies to headlines.

"Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

"Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

"People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story."

Outrage Over Justice Dept. Probe of Fox Reporter

"Journalists, First Amendment watchdogs and government transparency advocates reacted with outrage Monday to the revelation that the Justice Department had investigated the newsgathering activities of a Fox News reporter as a potential crime in a probe of classified leaks," Ann E. Marimow reported for the Washington Post.

"Critics said the government's suggestion that James Rosen, Fox News's chief Washington correspondent, was a 'co-conspirator' for soliciting classified information threatened to criminalize press freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Others also suggested that the Justice Department's claim in pursuing an alleged leak from the State Department was little more than pretext to seize his e-mails to build their case against the suspected leaker.

" 'It is downright chilling,' Fox News executive Michael Clemente said in a statement. 'We will unequivocally defend [Rosen's] right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.'

"Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said, 'Asking for information has never been deemed a crime.'

"The reactions followed a Washington Post report on the inner workings of a Justice Department investigation into a possible leak of classified information about North Korea. . . ."

Marcus Carmouche to Head Sports at NOLA Media Group

Marcus Carmouche

"Marcus Carmouche, a 10-year veteran of the Sports Department of The Times-Picayune and NOLA Media Group, will take over as Sports manager of NOLA Media Group in June, replacing longtime Sports Manager and Editor Doug Tatum, who is leaving the company to pursue a career outside of journalism," NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune reported on Monday.

"Carmouche has worked in the Sports Department since 2003, serving several roles that culminated in him rising to deputy sports editor, the number two position overseeing an award-winning team of professional and college sports journalists. When NOLA Media Group launched in October, Carmouche was promoted to lead a new statewide high school sports initiative as manager of the High School Sports Network, and grew audience to high school sports more than 400% in 6 months. . . ."

Joe Grimm of the Michigan State University School of Journalism noted in January, "Only three of the 32 NFL cities have black coaches and only three of those cities have newspapers with black sports editors."

Short Takes

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Comments

Randall Pinkston Acceptance Speech, May 14, 2013

RANDALL PINKSTON ACCEPTANCE SPEECH FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FROM THE NEW YORK ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS: 14 MAY 2013 – TIME-LIFE BUILDING, NYC

THANK YOU FOR THAT KIND INTRODUCTION. WHEN I ARRIVED IN NEW YORK. WAAAY BACK IN THE DAY, THIS WAS THE FIRST ORGANIZATION THAT I JOINED. NYABJ NOT ONLY PROVIDED SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS ON IMPROVING OUR CRAFT, THERE WERE ALSO PARTIES … AH, THE PARTIES – THEY WERE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY HELPED RELIEVE SOME OF THE STRESS THAT COMES WITH JOURNALISM ANYWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK CITY.

AS YOU BUILD THE ORGANIZATION, I HOPE YOU WILL PLACE MORE EMPHASIS ON THE SERIOUS TASKS BEFORE YOU … TRAINING, RECRUITMENT, MONITORING , BEST PRACTICES, BUT DON’T FORGET THE PARTIES… ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JOURNALISTS RATHER DULL …

ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO, I HAD AN INTERESTING ENCOUNTER WITH A NEW YORK CITY TAXI DRIVER AT THE CORNER OF WEST 57TH STREET AND 10TH AVENUE, A FEW HUNDRED FEET FROM THE ENTRANCE TO CBS. AS I RECALL IT, IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY – SUNSHINE – NICE TEMPERATURE – AND I WAS IN A GOOD MOOD.

I WAS BACK IN NEW YORK AFTER A 4 YEAR RUN IN THE WASHINGTON BUREAU – TWO YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, TWO YEARS AS A GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER . I HAD BEGUN TO CONTRIBUTE TO FORTY-EIGHT HOURS AND SUNDAY MORNING. I HAD EVEN LANDED AN ASSIGNMENT ON A DOCUMENTARY – LEGACY OF SHAME. I WAS FEELING PRETTY GOOD ABOUT MYSELF.

SO, AS I WALKED SOUTH ON 10TH AVENUE, CROSSING 57TH STREET, THE TAXI DRIVER TURNED LEFT AND STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION. HE STUCK HIS HEAD OUT OF HIS WINDOW AND SHOUTED AT ME.

‘HEY, DIDN’T YOU USED TO WORK FOR CHANNEL TWO NEWS? ‘ YES, I RESPONDED, I DID’. ‘THE DRIVER, THEN LOOKS AT ME AND SAYS , ‘DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE RANDALL PINKSTON, I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU LATELY. WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

‘ NOTHING LIKE A CITY TAXI DRIVER TO KEEP YOUR ‘EGO’ IN CHECK. THEN AGAIN, I RECOGNIZED SOMETHING… IT WASN’T A PUT DOWN… BECAUSE HE KNEW MY NAME… HE HAD REMEMBERED MY WORK… AND, WHEN I LEFT CHANNEL 2, HE HAD MISSED ME. HE HAD SEEN MY WORK AND REMEMBERED ME AND THAT WAS NO SMALL THING. SO I PROCEEDED TO WORK WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE.

AND TONIGHT, I’M SMILING…BASKING IN THE WARMTH, AFFECTION AND RESPECT THAT YOU EXTEND TO ME WITH THE DESIGNATION AS THIS YEAR’S LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

YOU HAVE OFTEN HEARD, I’M SURE, THAT I ‘STAND ON THE SHOULDERS’ OF THOSE WHO PRECEDED ME.. THE TRAILBLAZERS AND MENTORS WHO PREPARED THE WAY. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY, I AM THE EMBODIMENT OF A SUCCESS STORY. I STAND ON MANY SHOULDERS.

BUT TONIGHT, I WANT TO FOCUS MY REMARKS ON ONE SET OF SHOULDERS IN PARTICULAR: A WELL KNOWN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER WHO FOUGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE, THE RIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN HIRING AND HOUSING AND SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS. MOST OF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH HIS EFFORT IN THOSE AREAS. But HE ALSO PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN OPENING ACCESS TO MASS COMMUNICATIONS FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR .

MANY OF YOU GREW UP WANTING TO BE JOURNALISTS. YOU ATTENDED MIDDLE SCHOOLS AND HIGH SCHOOLS WITH NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES… SOME OF THE YOUR HIGH SCHOOLS HAD RADIO AND T.V. STATIONS.

I GREW UP IN A DIFFERENT TIME AND PLACE… MISSISSIPPI – IN THE 1950’S. THERE WAS NO ONE WHO LOOKED LIKE ME ON T.V. AND NOT MANY MORE ON RADIO. THE IDEA OF BECOMING A REPORTER DIDN’T CROSS MY MIND. BUT THERE WERE FAR SIGHTED INDIVIDUALS WHO KNEW THAT THE PRESS – MASS MEDIA – PLAYED A VITAL ROLE IN ELIMINATING RACIAL BARRIERS AND MOVING TOWARDS EQUALITY AND THAT ALL AMERICANS SHOULD BE PART OF COMMUNICATING THOSE EFFORTS .

-

IN THE LATE 50’S PRESIDENT EISENHOWER SENT FEDERAL TROOPS TO DESEGREGATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS. THE OWNER AND MANAGER OF A TELEVISION STATION IN MY HOMETOWN, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, BROUGHT LOCAL LEADERS IN TO DISCUSS THE DANGEROUS IDEA OF IMPOSING FEDERAL WILL ON THE STATE'S RIGHTS… DENOUNCING THE VERY NOTION THAT BLACK CHILDREN AND WHITE CHILDREN SHOULD ATTEND PUBLIC SCHOOL. ALL OF THOSE LOCAL LEADERS WERE WHITE.

THERE WERE NO VOICES, ON THAT STATION MAKING THE CASE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY – FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY UNDER THE LAW. SITTING AT HOME, WATCHING THIS ONE-SIDED DEPICTION OF A CRITICAL PUBLIC ISSUE WAS THE FIELD DIRECTOR OF THE N-DOUBLE A CP.. HIS NAME WAS MEDGAR EVERS.

HE WROTE TO THE STATION OWNERS ASKING FOR A CHANCE TO PRESENT A DIFFERENT SIDE TO THE ISSUE – THE STATION REPEATEDLY TURNED HIM DOWN – THIS WENT ON FOR YEARS. THIS IS A COPY OF A LETTER WRITTEN BY EVERS IN JULY 1962, AFTER ONE OF MANY REJECTIONS…

THE LETTER WAS ADDRESSED TO THE GENERAL MANAGER OF STATION WLBT … A WW II VETERAN FROM MISSISSIPPI WHO WAS SMART ENOUGH TO EARN AN MBA FROM HARVARD, BUT TOO STUBBORN TO RETHINK HIS VIEWS ON RACE

EVERS WROTE.. "..WE ARE OF THE OPINION THAT, IN ANY CONTROVERSY, BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE SHOULD BE AIRED. IN THE CASE OF THE CITIZENS COUNCIL FORUM, WHICH EXPRESSES ONE POINT OF VIEW TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, THE NAACP WITH AN OPPOSING POINT OF VIEW SHOULD BE GRANTED EQUAL TIME. YOUR REJECTION OF OUR APPLICATION FOR EQUAL TIME WILL BE APPEALED TO THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY IN AN EFFORT TO BRING ABOUT EQUITABLE PRIVILEGES OF DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION’….

EVERS WENT ON TO WRITE TO THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION – AND THE STATION AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL FINALLY IN 1963, THE STATION GAVE EVERS A CHANCE TO HAVE HIS SAY.

HERE'S AN EXCERPT FROM HIS SPEECH…

' I SPEAK AS A NATIVE MISSISSIPPIAN. I WAS EDUCATED IN MISSISSIPPI SCHOOLS AND SERVED OVERSEAS IN OUR NATION'S ARMED FORCES IN THE WAR AGAINST HITLERISM AND FACISM… WHEN A BLACK MAN LOOKS AT JACKSON, HE SEES A CITY WHERE NEGRO CITIZENS ARE REFUSED ADMITTANCE TO THE CITY AUDITORIUM AND THE COLISEUM, HIS CHILDREN REFUSED A TICKET TO A GOOD MOVIE THEATER… STUDENTS REFUSED THE USE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES, PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS SUPPORTED BY TAX PAYER DOLLARS.

WHEN HE DELIVERED THAT SPEECH, THE SWITCHBOARD LIT UP WITH VIEWERS … WHITE VIEWERS DEMANDING THAT THAT … N WORD BE TAKEN OFF THE AIR…

ALL EVERS DID WAS TO EXPRESS A POINT OF VIEW SHARED BY AFRICAN AMERICANS AND MANY CAUCASIAN CITIZENS OF MISSISSIPPI – EVERS SAW ACCESS TO THE BROADCASTING AS A MEANS OF COMMUNICATING WITH PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T SHARE HIS POINT OF THE VIEW IN THE HOPE THAT, IF THEY DIDN'T AGREE, AT LEAST THEY COULD UNDERSTAND…

IT IS, I BELIEVE, ONE OF THE CALLINGS OF OUR PROFESSION –TO SERVE AS A CONDUIT FOR PEOPLE WITH DISPARATE POINTS OF VIEW – TO REFLECT, AS ACCURATELY AS WE CAN – ALL SIDES OF AN ISSUE— NOT TAKING SIDES, BUT PROVIDING CONTEXT AND PERSPECTIVE … AND LEAVING IT TO THE READERS AND VIEWERS TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT THE INFORMATION WE PROVIDE.

I RECENTLY INTERVIEWED MYRLIE EVERS FOR CBS WEEKEND NEWS. SHE TOLD TOLD ME THAT SHE FELT THAT HER HUSBAND'S APPEARANCE ON T.V. IN 1963 MADE HIM MORE OF A TARGET THAN HE ALREADY WAS. … "MEDGAR WAS NOT ONLY THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, SAID MYRLIE EVERS.. .HE WAS MY HERO IN TERMS OF HIS STRENGTH, HIS BRAVERY AND DETERMINATION TO TURN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.. TO GET RID OF SEGREGATION AND HATRED.. EVEN AT THE COST OF HIS OWN LIFE. WHEN I CHALLENGED HIM, I WOULD SAY 'YOU HAVE ME, YOU HAVE 3 CHILDREN. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? STOP… AND MEDGAR WOULD RESPOND.. MYRLIE, I CAN'T STOP. THIS IS WHAT I'M ALL ABOUT.

THE FOLLOWING MONTH, EVERS WAS ASSASSINATED, BUT HIS DREAM, HIS VISION DID NOT DIE… THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS CONTINUED.. INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO ACCESS TO MASS MEDIA.

THE STATION THAT GAVE EVERS SUCH A HARD TIME WAS THE LATER THE SUBJECT OF A LAWSUIT… FILED BY THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST AND THE REVEREND EVERETT PARKER… THE CASE LED TO A LANDMARK DECISION – WHEN A FEDERAL COURT ORDERED THE F.C.C. TO RESCIND THE LICENSE FROM WLBT BECAUSE OF DISCRIMINATORY BROADCASTING. THE CASE CITE IS UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST VERSUS FCC.

WHEN THAT HAPPENED, STATIONS AROUND THE COUNTRY SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT THEY HAD TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT COVERING ISSUES OF INTEREST TO THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY … AND TO HIRE PEOPLE WHO CAME FROM THOSE COMMUNITIES… WHEN THE RIOTS HAPPENED IN THE LATE SIXTIES, THERE WAS ANOTHER REASON THAT NEWSROOMS SAW FIT TO HAVE RACIAL DIVERSITY ON THEIR STAFFS… IT WAS EASIER AND OFTEN SAFER, FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN REPORTERS TO GO INTO HOT SPOTS..

BECAUSE OF MEDGAR AND REVEREND EVERETT PARKER AND A GROUP OF OTHER BRAVE MISSISSIPPIANS, THAT LITTLE STATION IN JACKSON , MISSISSIPPI BECAME A LEADER IN RACIAL DIVERSITY… HIRING THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN GENERAL MANAGER OF COMMERCIAL T.V. STATION IN THE STATES.

IT WAS ALSO ONE OF THE FIRST STATIONS TO HAVE A BLACK ANCHOR OF ITS MAIN NEWSCAST…. VIEWERS VOTED WITH THEIR RATINGS BOOKS… GIVING THE STATION ITS HIGHEST RATING EVER. YOU CAN CHECK THE SOURCE CITE IN KAY MILLS' BOOK, CHANGING CHANNELS. IT HAPPENED IN 1974 AND YOUR HONOREE WAS THE ANCHOR WHO ACHIEVED THOSE RATINGS.

I DID NOT KNOW, AT THAT TIME, THE SACRIFICE THAT MEDGAR EVERS HAD MADE TO GAIN ACCESS FOR ME AND OTHERS OF MY GENERATION. I DID NOT KNOW OF THE HARD WORK OF REVEREND EVERETT PARKER AND AARON HENRY AND MARGARET WALKER ALEXANDER AND JOHN PEOPLES AND OTHERS WHO WORKED TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES.

IN LATER YEARS, AS I UNDERSTOOD WHAT IT TOOK TO PROVIDE ME WITH AN OPPORTUNITY, I WORKED EVEN HARDER, IGNORING THE SLINGS AND ARROWS AND ROADBLOCKS OF VARIOUS SORTS THAT ARE PART OF ANY CAREER PATH.

I KNEW THAT PEOPLE – NOT ONLY MEDGAR EVERS , BUT AN ARMY OF CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS, TEACHERS, NEIGHBORS AND, OF COURSE, FAMILY HAD RISKED THEIR WELL BEING TO CREATE OPPORTUNITY FOR ME. IN MY MIND, I  OWED A DUTY TO THEM TO PERFORM WITH EXCELLENCE – TO MAKE MY PERFORMANCE WORTHY OF THEIR SACRIFICE.

FORTUNATELY, MOST OF YOU DID NOT EXPERIENCE, EVEN INDIRECTLY, SUCH A DIFFICULT PATH TO JOURNALISM … BUT I SUBMIT THAT YOU SHOULD REFLECT ON THE FACT THAT, EVEN ON A BAD DAY, DOING JOURNALISM IS A PRETTY GOOD JOB… THAT BY VIRTUE OF YOUR PROFESSION, YOU HAVE AN .OPPORTUNITY TO BE NOSY – AND GET INTO OTHER PEOPLE'S BUSINESS… A CHANCE TO PROBE TOPICS AND SHARE INFORMATION – TO SHINE THE DISINFECTANT LIGHT OF TRUTH IN DARK CORNERS OF OUR SOCIETY… IN THE HOPES OF EXPOSING PROBLEMS AND COUNTING ON FORCES OF GOOD TO CORRECT THOSE PROBLEMS. .

WE TELL STORIES… AND WHEN WE DO THOSE STORIES WELL, WE CONNECT WITH VIEWERS AND READERS… IT’S SERIOUS BUSINESS.. ABOUT MORE THAN MONEY AND FAME AND GLORY… JOURNALISM IS REALLY ABOUT THE FABRIC THAT HELPS MAKE OUR DEMOCRACY WORK BETTER… AND CORRECTS IT WHEN IT MALFUNCTIONS.

NEXT TUESDAY, I WILL SIGN OFF FROM CBS AFTER 33 YEARS, 3 MONTHS AND 3 DAYS. AS I BEGIN NEXT CHAPTER IN MY LIFE, I WILL BE READING AND WATCHING THE STORIES THAT YOU WILL PRODUCE …I AM WISHING YOU MUCH SUCCESS , AWARDS, PROMOTIONS, RAISES, AND IF YOU’RE LUCKY, A NEW YORK CITY TAXI DRIVER WHO KNOWS YOUR NAME…

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Randall Pinkston

Randall's delivery of that speech at our NYABJ Event was heart-warming, and quite touching. Was great to see it so well-illustrated and even more powerful on the following Sunday CBS Evening News Show.

Another class act, another truly outstanding black male professional journalist makes his exit from National TV News. And even as the country gets more and more melanin-inflected, does CBS, or NBC, or ABC (forget Fox, CNN or MSNBC) have any others in their ranks, being groomed, or on some distant horizon? Don't hold your breath.

Great job, Randall, you will be missed. Can't wait for your next chapter.

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