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Olmeda to Lead Latino Journalists

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Newsmagazines Paint Hispanics as "Intrusion"

Rafael Olmeda, an assistant city editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel who says that "as long as concerns over diversity and opportunity fail to be adequately addressed, NAHJ will remain opposed to putting the vast power of media in the hands of fewer and fewer people," is poised to become the new president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


Rafael Olmeda

Olmeda, 36, is running unopposed for the office in an election in which members have started voting online. The results are to be announced at the convention next week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Currently vice president for print and chairman of the group's Issues Committee, Olmeda spearheaded a survey of Latino coverage in the nation's three major newsmagazines that he said will be unveiled at the June 14-17 convention. "I'm surprised by them," he told Journal-isms today, speaking of the results, "and not positively. I thought it would be better. The question is not so much how many" Latinos there are, "but what's the tone? Very often we're an intrusion. If all you know about Hispanics is from U.S. newsmagazines, then you don't know a lot about Hispanics."

In addition to issues of media consolidation, Olmeda's platform includes persuading Hispanics working in other fields to become journalists by taking advantage of the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute in Nashville, which trains those who want to change careers and become journalists. He said few Hispanics have done so.

Olmeda, a native New Yorker, also proposed a mentoring program for high school students in which 100 NAHJ members would mentor students from the time they are sophomores until they graduate. "We are not going to achieve parity if we cannot get into college," he said, citing a high Hispanic dropout rate.

Veronica Villafañe, the outgoing NAHJ president, called Olmeda a hard worker. "He's done a great job as vice president/print. I expect for him to work even harder as president of NAHJ. I will demand it," she told Journal-isms.

"My legacy has been giving importance to Spanish-language journalism," Villafañe said, and she said she would announce at the convention a partnership that would assist journalists who want to improve their Spanish-language skills.

"I would certainly encourage him to continue to push for journalists who work in Spanish-language media," said Villafañe, anchor-reporter at the San Jose Mercury News and Channel 11 in that California market.

She also noted the NAHJ board's interest in increasing public access to the Internet and whether rules should be relaxed on cross-ownership of media. She emphasized that "just because I'm stepping down as president, I'm not going to be far away. NAHJ is part of my life."

NAHJ moved toward media-ownership concerns under the presidency of Juan Gonzalez, the New York Daily News columnist who led the organization from 2002 to 2004. Olmeda said he would "build on" the legacies of Gonzalez and Villafañe.

The association begins its convention with about 1,988 members, Executive Director Iván Román said, approximately the same number as the Asian American Journalists Association, which had 2,320 members in 2004 and 1,976 in 2005.

Roman said 1,600 to 2,000 people were expected in Fort Lauderdale, and that Jorge Castañeda, former foreign minister of Mexico, has been added to the program.

Two positions on the ballot are contested. Manuel "Manny" De La Rosa, a reporter at KRGV-TV in the Brownsville, Texas, market, and Luis Cruz, news director at KYMA-TV in Yuma, Ariz., are running for vice president-broadcast; and David Combs of the University of Missouri and Christine Show of Syracuse University are vying for student representative.

Running unopposed are Cindy Rodríguez, Denver Post columnist, vice president/print; Elizabeth Zavala, assistant metro editor, Dallas Morning News, secretary; Sam Diaz, assistant technology editor, Washington Post, financial officer; Lavonne Luquis, Web editor at the National Education Association, at-large member for online; Claudio Alvarez-Dunn, managing editor, Primera Hora, at-large for the Spanish-language press, and Gary Piña, Arlington County bureau chief for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, general at-large representative.

A group known as the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists issued a statement saying, "We consider NAHJ an Oreo Cookie organization and a Tonton Macute meeting," in part because it is not visiting the barrio.

Olmeda told Journal-isms: "The tone of this press release says more than I could say in response to it. I'm disappointed in the lack of professionalism and won't dignify the charges."

Text of Olmeda's platform is at the end of today's posting.

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Nieman Program to Name Suite After Bob Maynard

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University has raised $500,000 to dedicate a suite of rooms in honor of the late Robert C. Maynard, a 1966 Nieman fellow.

The ceremony takes place Saturday, during the 40th anniversary of that fellowship, E. Dolores Johnson, the foundation's development officer, told Journal-isms. The suite of rooms, which will include the conference room and the curator's office, is to be called the Bob Maynard Suite.

Veteran journalist Earl Caldwell, one of the founders of the Maynard Institute, is to be the dinner speaker, and a photo of Maynard, enlarged and framed from a photo supplied by Nancy Hicks Maynard, Maynard's wife and co-publisher at the Oakland Tribune, will be unveiled. A plaque lists some of his accomplishments.

The Philip L. Graham Fund, a private foundation named after the late publisher of the Washington Post, was the lead donor, Johnson said. It was as a Nieman fellow that Maynard impressed the Post's then-managing editor, Ben Bradlee, who was looking to build up the paper, as Bradlee explained in his memoir.

Maynard "stood out in that crowd, not only because he was black in a profession where there were damn few blacks, but because he was confrontational, argumentative, mean, and skeptical, verging on the obnoxious. Much of my ninety minutes with the Niemans was spent arguing with Maynard," Bradlee wrote. Maynard went on to become a reporter, ombudsman and editorial writer at the Post.

The event takes place in conjunction with a class of the Maynard Institute's Media Academy, which begins Saturday and ends June 18.

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Chicago Defender Cover Puts N-Word in Bold Type

"When Roland S. Martin took over as executive editor of the famous black-oriented daily Chicago Defender, the first thing he did was initiate a '50-foot rule' for the tabloid's front page. Graphics and headlines had to be bold enough to grab the attention of a passerby from 50 feet," Mark Fitzgerald wrote today in Editor & Publisher.

"He certainly accomplished that Thursday, when the newspaper ran this headline and subhead:

"'TAKE A STAND. Black America, isn't it about time we made up our mind about the word nigger?'

"At the end of a long workday, Martin said in an interview he thought the headline would finally spark a debate the word in the African-American community, which variously sees it as an especially ugly epithet, a teasing put-down, and even a term of endearment.

"The headline referred to an Associated Press story about a panel discussion in Harlem about the origins and continuing meanings of the word."



The use of the word has been in the news again because of a three-week trial of a white man accused of beating a black man in Queens last summer, which ended yesterday, as the New York Times reported today.

"A main aspect of the trial has been the racial slur" that several witnesses testified that Nicholas Minucci, 20, used while chasing and beating Glenn Moore, 23, a black man wandering with two friends on a darkened street in Howard Beach, a largely Italian neighborhood, Corey Kilgannon reported.

"The defense maintains that Mr. Minucci used the epithet as a benign form of address now commonplace among young people across racial lines."

Martin said today the reaction was "awesome. People were glad we addressed the issue."

"Nobody really complained" about using the n-word. Raising the issue was more important to people than the word," he said. Martin also wrote a column on the subject, "If nigger is wrong, then let's remove it from our vocabulary."

While the New York Times used the words "racial slur" and "epithet" and quoted the prosecutor as saying "the n-word," Editor & Publisher titled its story, "Black Daily Shocks Many With Front-Page 'Nigger' Headline."

"It was my suggested hed, slightly rewritten for space reasons, I'm sure," Fitzgerald told Journal-isms. "(My original was 'Black Daily "Chicago Defender" Shocks Many With Front-Page "Nigger," Headline.') My thinking was that it got right to the point of the story. I also did not want to have to characterize the word as, say, 'Black Daily Displays Racial Slur,' when the point of the Defender's story, and even the headline, was that there are many and shifting interpretations of the word. Also, frankly, I dislike 'N-word' which to me just sounds like baby talk. If 'nigger' is too loaded a word for ordinary newspaper usage, which it probably is, then we need a better neutral reference."

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New Move to Slash Public Broadcasting Funds

"House Republicans yesterday revived their efforts to slash funding for public broadcasting, as a key committee approved a $115 million reduction in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that could force the elimination of some popular PBS and NPR programs," Rick Klein wrote Thursday in the Boston Globe.

"On a party-line vote, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health and education funding approved the cut to the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. It would reduce the corporation's budget by 23 percent next year, to $380 million, in a cut that Republicans said was necessary to rein in government spending."

Last year, when a similar move was proposed, Andi Sporkin, vice president for communications at National Public Radio, said, "The hardest hit will be the weakest." She said those were the 131 public radio stations at historically black colleges and universities, in rural areas and on Indian reservations, which generally do not hold pledge drives as do stations in many large cities. These stations are dependent on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's community service grants to pay for operation and programming costs, she told Journal-isms then.

Columnists See Gay Marriage Issue as Diversion

"President Bush should be ashamed," Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution wrote Wednesday.

"He has treated religious conservatives with more disrespect than Hollywood or the so-called liberal media ever could. He has used their opposition to gay marriage as nothing more than a political prop to be trotted out just as the election season begins, and he apparently believes they are naive enough to fall for his clumsy and half-hearted gestures."

Tucker was not alone in her thinking. Columnists of color who wrote on the subject were almost unanimous in opposing Bush's support of a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, calling it a diversionary tactic.

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CBS Covering Services for Slain Journalists

CBS News is providing pool coverage Monday and Tuesday at funeral services in England for CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan, who died in Iraq on Memorial Day when the U.S. Army unit in which they were embedded was attacked.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which chronicles the death toll for journalists in the war and puts it currently at 73, confirmed today that Douglas was the first journalist of African descent to die in the hostilities.

The reporter accompanying Douglas and Brolan, CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier, arrived in the United States on Wednesday to be treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., CBS said.

Services for Douglas are scheduled for 12:45 p.m. at the Bedford Crematorium, Norse Road Crematorium, 104 Norse Road, Bedford, England. Brolan's will be held the next day at 1:30 p.m. at St. Mary's Brookfield, London.

CBS News will provide the video pool coverage, which will be distributed from London, and the Press Association will have a photographer and print reporter inside the services, the network said.

Douglas and his wife, Linda, had two daughters - Kelly, 29, and Joanne, 26 – and three grandchildren, England's Islington Gazette reported Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Dan Froomkin of Nieman Watchdog reported seven responses from Africa and Oceania after asking 34 current and past Nieman fellows from 23 countries to give "your thoughts about people's main perceptions of America where you live, and how their perceptions have changed in recent years, say since 9/11. His report is headlined: "Even the high regard for the American people is taking a hit."

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Patrick Kennedy "Takes Leap, Becomes Black"

"In one of the most stunning reversals in American political history Patrick Kennedy has become Rhode Island's first black congressman," columnist Cary Clack wrote Thursday in the San Antonio Express-News.

Clack was having fun with Kennedy's statement, after having checked himself into the Mayo Clinic to combat his addiction to painkillers, that should he have another accident he wanted to be treated as if he were a black man in the Anacostia section of Washington.

"Kennedy has written a rap song for himself, 'Treat Me Like a Black Man, Dammit!' that he hopes either Kanye West or Jay-Z will produce," Clack wrote in his column, titled, "Kennedy Takes Leap, Becomes Black."

"He explained that while it will take time for people to get used to him as a black man and that James Brown will always hold the title of Soul Brother No. 1, he hopes to improve on his current ranking as Soul Brother No. 2,317,729."

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Nominate an Educator Who Has Helped J-Diversity

The National Conference of Editorial Writers grants a Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship – actually an award – "in recognition of an educator's outstanding efforts to encourage minority students in the field of journalism." The educator should be at the college or university level.

Nominations, which are now being accepted for the 2006 award, should consist of a statement about why the nominator believes the nominee is deserving.

The final selection will be made by the NCEW Foundation board and will be announced in time for this year's NCEW convention in Pittsburgh Sept. 13-16, when the presentation will be made.

Since 2000, an honorarium of $1,000 has been awarded the recipient, to be used to "further work in progress or begin a new project."

Past winners include James Hawkins of Florida A&M University (1990); Larry Kaggwa of Howard University (1992); Ben Holman of the University of Maryland (1996); Linda Jones, Roosevelt University, Chicago (1998); Ramon Chavez, University of Colorado, Boulder (1999); Erna Smith of San Francisco State (2000); Joseph Selden of Penn State (2001); Cheryl Smith of Paul Quinn College (2002); Rose Richard of Marquette University (2003), Leara D. Rhodes of the University of Georgia (2004); and Denny McAuliffe of the University of Montana (2005).

Nominations may be e-mailed to Vanessa Gallman, editorial page editor, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader,, or they can be faxed to her at (859) 231-3332. The deadline is next Thursday, June 15.

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Short Takes:

  • "A new report by the International Federation of Journalists highlights a worldwide trend of experienced senior staff being replaced by younger graduates who are often employed on a casual or freelance basis and on less pay," Jon Slattery reported in England's Press Gazette today. "The report, entitled The Changing Nature of Work: A Global Survey, polled 41 journalists' organisations in 38 countries."
  • "Award-winning journalist and editor Frank O. Sotomayor has been named a senior fellow of the Institute for Justice and Journalism (IJJ) at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication," a news release announced Thursday. Sotomayor, a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times and a co-founder of the Maynard Institute, took a buyout from the Times late last year.
  • Most of the news accounts of musician Billy Preston's life talked about him being the "'fifth Beatle' because of his masterful keyboard work on many of the Beatles' hit recordings, including Let It Be and Get Back," columnist Bob Ray Sanders wrote in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "But there was one glaring omission from the accounts of his early life that many people remember, including people who, like me, first saw Billy in Fort Worth. . . . I was a youngster when Billy first came to town with the amazing gospel singer, composer and musical director, James Cleveland."
  • "Mike Kellogg of Stillwater, Okla., a member of the Navajo nation and president of the Native American Journalists Association, said Indians are tired of being marginalized and dismissed. 'No culture should have to endure its traditions or heritage being hijacked,' he said, adding that children need to learn that when they are young. 'Those habits will be with them forever.'" Kellogg was quoted in a story in the Dallas Morning News on Thursday by Kristine Hughes on two elementary schools that decided to drop their Indian mascots.
  • "'Bonds on Bonds,' the reality television series on San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, has struck out for the last time," Mike Terry wrote June 3 in the Los Angeles Times. "ESPN and Tollin/Robbins Productions released a brief statement Friday saying there would be no additional episodes of the program, which had been following Bonds' pursuit of the major league home run record held by Hank Aaron."
  • "Given the pressures from Wall Street and the evolving media competition from the Internet and other information sources, private ownership may be a good solution for journalism, say analysts and some in the industry," Betty Lin-Fisher wrote today in the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal as that paper, now owned by Knight Ridder, "is about to fall under private ownership for the first time in three decades."
  • Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist and local TV personality, was one of five people to be honored at the Dr. Marion J. Brooks Living Legend Awards ceremony today at the Fort Worth Club, the Star-Telegram reported Wednesday.
  • U.N. official "Malloch Brown said that although the United States was constructively engaged with the United Nations in many areas, the American public was shielded from knowledge of that by Washington's tolerance of what he called 'too much unchecked U.N.-bashing and stereotyping,' Warren Hoge reported on Wednesday in the New York Times. "Much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News," Brown said.
  • Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni of the Denver Islamic Center noted that most U.S. cartoonists would hesitate to do a stereotypical cartoon about African Americans or Jews. "Why isn't that extended to the Muslim community?" he asked. The occasion was the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Denver, where Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders discussed their concerns with editorial cartoonists, Dave Astor reported today in Editor & Publisher.
  • "Televisa, the Mexican media group, is considering establishing its own US broadcasting network if it fails to acquire Univision Communications, the largest US Spanish-language television and radio group, which is being auctioned for more than $12bn," James Politi reported today in the Financial Times.
  • "The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled that two journalists are to go on trial in Uganda, charged with 'promoting sectarianism' in an article criticizing government persecution of opposition leader Kizza Besigye," the organization reported Thursday.
  • As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares to hold its first elections in more than 40 years on July 30, Journaliste en danger and the Committee to Protect Journalists are warning that a spate of attacks against journalists in recent weeks could foster self-censorship in the media and deprive voters of important information, the Toronto-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House reported on Thursday.
  • Due to a high illiteracy rate and limited newspaper circulation, radio is the top news source for Malawians, according to a recent survey of 13 countries in southern Africa conducted by three journalism organizations, reported In Malawi, 94 percent of women and 98 percent of men responded that radio was their primary news source.

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Rafael Olmeda Statement to NAHJ Members

Dear NAHJ Member:

I have the privilege today of re-introducing myself to you as I seek the presidency of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

My name is Rafael Olmeda, and I'm an assistant city editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. I joined NAHJ in 1996, and won a seat on the board of directors in 2000. In those six years, I organized two Spanish language conferences in Miami, along with various workshops; I represented NAHJ before the American Society of Newspaper Editors; and I helped craft the association's response to countless issues that came to our attention.

It was this passion for advocacy that compelled me to join NAHJ's leadership, and I pledge to continue being an advocate for our members' interests over the next two years.

Our members are interested in making sure that Hispanics are covered fully and fairly in the media. So am I, which is why this year I spearheaded the creation of the first report examining the coverage of Hispanics in the three major national newsmagazines. If you're at the convention next week, you'll be receiving a copy. If not, you'll soon be able to view it online. Time, Newsweek and US News & World Report seek to define and reflect a national agenda, so it's only fitting that they are held accountable for how they portray Hispanics in America.

Over the past years, NAHJ has been faced with some difficult decisions and challenges. One of the most significant was whether we should take a stand on FCC regulations that would allow for further media consolidation. In a constantly changing media landscape, our role at NAHJ is to guard our mission. We need to know whether changes, especially optional changes, will help our hinder the goals of diversity and fair coverage. Former NAHJ President Juan Gonzalez was (and remains) passionate about this issue, but the rest of the board of directors was divided on whether we should take a stand favoring or opposing media consolidation. After more than two years, we took that stand: as long as concerns over diversity and opportunity fail to be adequately addressed, NAHJ will remain opposed to putting the vast power of media in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Honest people may disagree with the stand we took, with the stand I took. I respect that. Now that the FCC is revisiting these rules, you can be assured that NAHJ will have a voice in the debate, and that the core of our interest is in protecting the mission that brought us together in the first place.

One of the key points in the mission of NAHJ is to encourage the study and practice of journalism among Hispanics. To that end, we have provided scholarships and training opportunities to hundreds of students. Perhaps you were one of them. But as we try to achieve parity in U.S. newsrooms by the year 2025, we need to do more. That's what Juan Gonzalez had in mind when he created the Parity Project. It's also what I have in mind when I say NAHJ needs to do more to persuade Hispanics now working in other fields to enter the field of journalism. The Freedom Forum currently has a program that trains minorities to do just that. Sadly, and through no fault of the Freedom Forum, few Hispanics have taken advantage of it. I'm proposing a more active push toward that program, as well as the creation of a new NAHJ initiative that will help accomplish a similar goal.

We also have to think long term. The high school dropout rate among Hispanics remains twice the national average. We'll never achieve parity in newsrooms if we can't even get our next generation into college. That's why within the next two years I am going to volunteer to mentor a high school sophomore in my area. And I'm going to ask you to do it, too. In fact, I want to create an NAHJ 100 mentoring program: I want 100 members to commit to mentoring high school students from the time they are sophomores until they graduate. Will that have an effect on the dropout rate? I don't know. But it will have an effect on lives, and I will be asking you to join me in this effort.

I could go on, but let me get to the point: I need your vote. I know, I'm the only candidate for president on the ballot, so why would I need people to vote for me? To me, it's simple: Your vote in this election is your way of telling me that you want to be a part of what NAHJ is accomplishing in newsrooms, in the industry and in this country. It's your way of telling me that you're going to hold me accountable.

Winning a one-candidate election isn't hard. Deserving to is.

I look forward to working with you over the next two years, and appreciate your support.

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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