Oprah's New Network Lays Historic Marker
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Updated Jan. 1, 2011
A board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists sent an "open letter" to NAHJ members on New Year's Day, criticizing the organization's leadership for "working against transparency and accountability" and asserting that "a fiscal crisis has now turned into 'thug tactics' to silence the voice of those of us speaking on behalf of our membership."
Patricio G. Espinoza, the board's online officer, sent "A Time for Change, Open Letter to NAHJ" in the wake of a projected $240,000 deficit for the organization and a sharply worded letter to this columnist from the organization's president, Michele Salcedo.
He called for "a new era of financial responsibility, transparency, accountability, forward thinking and a new generation of leadership at NAHJ."
"The open letter went to friends, associates and members of NAHJ and http://www.facebook.com/NAHJ.Online," he told Journal-isms. Salcedo did not respond to an invitation to comment.
"It sounds very chaotic and confusing," said Sandra Gonzalez, a digital journalist at WGO-TV in New Orleans and a longtime NAHJ member who received the message. "A risky move by Patricio, but I appreciate his courage to go against the grain.
"I sure hope these financial issues and other problems get resolved, so NAHJ can move forward. The organization has been wonderful over the years, as I've lasted more than 20 years in this industry."
In this New York Times video, the Times' David Carr and Brian Stelter discuss OWN, Oprah Winfrey's new "feel-good" cable network. "A lot of people have lost a lot of money betting against Oprah Winfrey," Carr said. (Credit: New York Times) (Video)
When a flick of the switch Saturday activates OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, making it available in 85 million homes, another marker will be laid in the quest for media ownership by people of color.
The new lifestyle channel — called the most-watched experiment in the television industry — will be available in both standard and high-definition on what is now the Discovery Health channel.
Discovery will retain 50 percent ownership of OWN, while Winfrey's production company, Harpo, will control the other 50 percent, according to theStreet.com.
As the Project for Excellence in Journalism noted in its 2009 report, "the State of the Media," "black ownership of television still has some considerable distance to go.
"Advertising Age reported in April that out of 1,379 commercial TV stations, only eight stations are owned by African Americans. . . .
"One study, by Free Press, a non-profit that promotes diversity in media ownership, found that African Americans comprised 13% of the U.S. population but only owned 1.3% of its TV stations in 2006. Furthermore, the study found that there had been no improvement in the level of minority ownership in television since 1998."
The scarcity of black ownership on cable pushed activists to pressure Comcast to add more black-owned networks to its system as a price for supporting its pending acquisition of NBCU. They met with limited success.
"The top three owners of African-American-targeted cable channels are TV One and media behemoths Time Warner and Viacom, who both own three such channels [apiece]," Pharoh Martin of the National Newspaper Publishers Association wrote in May, quoting the Pew study.
Unlike BET, TV One or the defunct Black Family Channel, OWN is aiming for a general audience, very much like other Winfrey ventures.
"Not specifically religious, but vaguely spiritual and faith-filled, the new Oprah Winfrey Network is — like its namesake — all about uplift," Joanne Ostrow wrote Friday in the Denver Post.
"Uplifting advice, uplifting household tips, uplifting examples from celebrity lives. The new channel is a thematically unified effort at self-improvement, heaving us, hoisting us to a better place, 24/7 on cable television."
Like BET and TV One, however, Winfrey could not crack the world of cable television without an inside partner. In this case, he was David Zaslav, chief executive of Discovery Communications.
"OWN’s three-year gestation has been unusually arduous," Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times on Dec. 18, reconstructing OWN's creation. "Early on, Ms. Winfrey’s partner in the joint venture, Discovery Communications, grew frustrated, and as boardroom tensions boiled over early last year she considered backing out altogether. The relationship has improved markedly since then. But as recently as late November, some producers working with OWN still doubted that the channel would actually come to life in January. . . ."
Stelter wrote that Zaslav, then Discovery's new chief executive, "surveyed the dozen channels that Discovery owned — he liked to call it beachfront real estate — for areas of growth" in the winter of 2007. "He concluded that the Discovery Health Channel should be first in line for remodeling. . . .
"Mr. Zaslav’s epiphany for an Oprah-branded channel came at his suburban New York home, while he was flipping through his wife’s copy of O: The Oprah Magazine, the hugely successful joint venture between Ms. Winfrey and Hearst. His wife, Pam, had a habit of attaching Post-it notes to its pages, which got Mr. Zaslav thinking about Ms. Winfrey’s enduring brand.
" 'Oprah and her magazine stand for this idea — a shared idea we all have — a shared hope we all have,' he says, 'of living your best life.' He could think of no equivalent on cable television. After barely three months on the job, he requested a meeting with Ms. Winfrey through her agents at the Creative Artists Agency.
"For the 50-50 joint venture with Ms. Winfrey, which was announced in January 2008, Discovery proffered its health channel and $100 million in start-up cash. Ms. Winfrey contributed her brand name, her 25-year library and her Web site, Oprah.com. . . ."
Negotiations and discussions of such cable-specific issues as carriage rates and subscription fees followed.
OWN's own "best life" includes profitability.
"David Miller of Caris & Co., an equity research firm, predicts that OWN will operate at a loss in 2011 and 2012, and will break even by mid-2013." Theresa McCabe wrote for theStreet.com. "He forecasts that the network will pull in $100 million from advertisements in 2011, but that it will spend $85 million on programming and another $40 million on marketing."
Stelter wrote, "Ms. Winfrey is taking an enormous risk by ending her 25-year-old broadcast talk show in 2011 and moving to cable, hoping that her viewers will move with her. Whether they watch or not, they’ll be paying for it: OWN is expected to eventually earn 25 cents a month in subscriber fees from each of the 85 million households it will serve."
- Eric Deggans, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Oprah Winfrey Network: Is the world ready for her message around the clock?
- Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel: Can the Queen of All Media rule cable as well?
- Lynne Elber, Associated Press: Media blitz preps viewers for Oprah OWN channel
- Meg James, Los Angeles Times: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network launches with high expectations
- Jennifer E. Mabry, theRoot.com: Oprah's OWN Missed Opportunity
- Brian Stelter, New York Times: Shaping a Network With Oprah’s View
- StopBigMedia.org: Out of The Picture: Minority & Female TV Station Ownership in the United States (PDF) (2006)
- Miki Turner, Jet: Oprah still OWN audience loyalty?
The National Association of Multicultural Media Executives, "the only organization of managers and executives of color working in both news and business operations, across all media-related fields, uniting diverse leaders across departments and across cultures," was reported on life support in this space a year ago.
Now it plans to dissolve, its chairman, Neil Foote, told Journal-isms on Friday.
The organization was founded in 1990 as the National Association of Minority Media Executives and hosted movers and shakers in the news business at its annual awards dinners and skill-development workshops. One of its awards, the Robert C. Maynard Legend, was named after the namesake of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
"We won't be officially dissolved until we work through all our business matters with attorneys and accountants sometime next year," Foote said.
He prepared this statement for Journal-isms readers:
"NAMME is continuing to work with its attorneys and accountants to resolve all outstanding matters.
"There are two critical issues that have greatly impacted the dissolution of NAMME:
- "Dwindling membership. Media companies and individuals cut back underwriting fees for multiple media organizations. For many companies and many individuals, they chose to focus on memberships to specific organizations related to their areas of expertise or completely eliminated dollars for memberships. Much of NAMME's core membership was concentrated in the newspaper industry. NAMME aggressively diversified its board leadership and strategy to become more attractive to the broadcast industry and digital media, but that was all taking place as media companies faced a rapidly changing business model and tumultuous economic times.
- "Competitive advantage. For nearly 20 years, NAMME played a critical role in providing leadership skills for nearly 400 young and mid-career diverse media executives. In 1988, NAMME was serving a key niche in offering programs specifically directed at diverse media executives. The other minority journalists organizations focused on newsroom functions, and very little, if at all, on leadership development.
"The McCormick Fellows and the Albert Fitzpatrick Leadership Development Institute were hugely successful for NAMME, but the organization could not sustain funding from industry foundations or media companies' sponsorship. Why? Several factors; some media companies cut back or eliminated funds for training and development; others created their own internal development programs (e.g. Gannett and New York Times); UNITY and some of diverse media groups, e.g. NABJ, raised money for their leadership development programs. At the same time, API, Poynter and Maynard continued their efforts to attract registrants for their courses," he said, referring to the American Press Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists.
"NAMME no longer has a national office, but continues to welcome on-going discussions about media issues on its LinkedIn page.
"NAMME thanks the support of so many over the years.
"I'll continue to be an advocate of developing future diverse leaders. I'm hoping NAMME's legacy will live on in the successes of so many diverse media executives who are currently working in the industry. I'm chairing the NABJ's Entrepreneurship Committee, hoping to develop future diverse media leaders."
Despite the NAMME setback, other journalism associations are emerging from the recession in the black, with leaders of the American Society of News Editors, Unity: Journalists of Color, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Conference of Editorial Writers reporting to Journal-isms this week that they are on financially solid ground.
"We had a much better year than many organizations, much of it thanks to proactive measures our new executive director put in place," said Hagit Limor, president of SPJ. "As a result, while other organizations had to cut back this year, SPJ finished ahead of budget and in the black.
"We credit our performance to improvements in our awards programs, membership initiatives and the SDX Foundation.
"Due to these measures, we were actually able to expand training this year without cutting any other programs or services to our members."
Milton Coleman, president of the American Society of News Editors, which canceled its 2009 convention and presented it online, said ASNE finished 2010 in the black, bolstered by a series of foundation grants.
Dan Radmacher, president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, said, "Thanks to a very successful convention in Dallas, I think we're ending the year at nearly a break-even point — though I haven't seen the final tally."
As previously reported, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association is ending the year with "a small but significant surplus," the Asian American Journalists Association has turned a $207,000 deficit to a $399,000 surplus and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is projecting a $240,000 deficit for the year. The National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association, partners with AAJA and NAHJ in Unity: Journalists of Color, have yet to report.
However, the umbrella organization "is on budget ending the year 2010," Barbara Ciara, whose term as president of Unity ended Friday, told Journal-isms. Ciara said by e-mail that according to her executive director, "we raised approx. 300 thousand in new programming funding over the last two years. a percentage of that goes to operating which helps protect our bottom line.
"With only two employees, low overhead, board and advocacy meetings twice a year, programming support, and limited membership service — our expenditures are low compared to the alliance partners.
"That is the good news!
"However, the challenge moving forward will be fund raising for operating expenses without competing for the same funds being sought after by the 4 main journalism associations that make up UNITY. As the alliance partners are considering a new financial split for UNITY 2012 — favoring more revenue for the alliance partners — UNITY will need to consider new funding streams to pay for itself."
TV One ran its "Unsung" episode on Teena Marie three times this week. She had said, "Overall my race hasn't been a problem. I'm a black artist with white skin. At the end of the day, you have to sing what's in your own soul."
If there was any doubt that the white R&B singer Teena Marie was beloved by many blacks, TV One, the cable network that targets African American adults, has rebroadcast its "Unsung" episode on Marie three times since she died on Sunday at age 54: Twice on Tuesday and again on Thursday.
In that series, pop music historian Nelson George said he had never met a white person who mentioned Marie. That anomaly — a white performer more popular among blacks than whites — provided a man-bites-dog angle that prompted both challenging analyses and misunderstandings.
Some misunderstandings were attributed to the complexion of the news business. One journalist said in a Facebook comment, "Media coverage really is based upon who is working that day and whether or not they connected with that celebrity in some way." Another replied, "it's about who's important to the editors. Folks famous in the Black community die and it's like, 'Who is that?' "
Among the misunderstandings was that Marie was Motown's first white act, an incorrect statement in an early version of the Associated Press obituary that was later amended. Many did not know that Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., who started his company in 1959, saw the potential of the white market long before Marie arrived there in 1975.
Another was that Marie's race was not material to a news story, a notion advanced by an NPR listener but rejected in a column by NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard.
A third was the confusion caused by a nickname, the "Ivory Queen of Soul." It "confused many into thinking that the 'Queen of Soul,' Aretha Franklin, had died. The news persisted on social networks, especially Twitter," Susan Whitall reported in the Detroit News.
But there were also thoughtful reflections on the role of race. Many agreed with the Los Angeles Times' Reed Johnson, who went back to Marie's roots in Oakwood, a working-class slice of Southern California, and compared her impact with that of Michael Jackson:
"Perhaps the surest sign of Marie's impact, and that of bigger crossover stars such as Jackson, is that in today's pop universe it would be a fool's errand to typecast artists by their ethnicity," he wrote. "Teena Marie was a brief, bright light streaking across that firmament. . . ."
- Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Indomitable Blackness of Teena Marie
- Javier E. David, theGrio.com: Why Teena Marie was our 'Ivory Queen of Soul'
- Paul Devlin, theRoot.com: Teena Marie: The Godmother of Hip-Hop
- Arlene Edmonds and Johann Calhoun, Philadelphia Tribune: R&B singer Teena Marie respected, adored by Black community
- Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Ebony: Remembering Teena Marie:
- Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com: A Black Woman in a White Body
- Mark Anthony Neal, theLoop21.com: Teena Marie and #BlackTwitter
- Reuters blog: Aretha Franklin is alive, and Twitter is growing up .
- Alicia Shepard, NPR: Teena Marie's Race: Does It Matter?
- Mario Tarradell, Dallas Morning News: Musically Speaking: R&B artist Teena Marie was a unique trailblazer
- Lynne K. Varner, Seattle Times: America: a nation still stumbling over race relations
- Susan Whitall, the Detroit News: Internet buzz mistakes Teena Marie's death for Aretha Franklin
- Jamesetta Walker, Virginian Pilot, Norfolk: Among boxed talent, Teena Marie was free, ahead of her time
- Ben Wener, Orange County (Calif.) Register: RIP: Teena Marie, 1956-2010
The plight of the Scott sisters, two black Mississippi women who they said had been framed and unjustly imprisoned over an $11 robbery, headed the list of underreported stories for 2010 on BlackAmericaWeb.com, posted before Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour suspended their sentences later in the day.
However, as Susan Donaldson James reported Friday for ABC News, "As jubilant supporters await the release of Gladys and Jamie Scott, who brokered a bargain with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to get early prison release by undergoing an organ transplant, medical ethicists are crying foul.
"Ethicists say suspending a prison sentence on the condition that one sister give the other a kidney is a 'quid pro quo' and threatens the ethical underpinnings of living donation laws."
Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist who helped bring the case to national attention, told readers, "I got a call on New Year’s Eve from Gladys Scott, which was a terrific way for 2010 to end."
"I’ve waited so long for this day to come," Scott told Herbert.
Other stories on the list, compiled by Jackie Jones, were Georgia's inmate protests, the debacle involving the unjust firing of Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod, drug sentencing disparities, the foreclosure crisis, black Republican victories, terrorists' inroads in Africa and rape as a war tactic.
Year's end saw other assessments:
- Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Remembering those who got to me, and to you, this year
- Michael Calderone, Yahoo News: Top five media launches for 2011
- Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Top 10 TV and media stories of 2010, Part 1: The war for control of your TV screen
- Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Top 10 media stories of 2010 Part II: Rise of the individual as a media brand
- Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated: Honoring best, worst from TV, radio, print, online
- Editorial, La Opinión, Los Angeles: A Mixed Year for Latinos
- Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting: Smell Something Rotten? 2010 P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize the worst of U.S. journalism
- Jackie Jones and Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com: What a Year: Scandals That Shocked, Rocked 2010
- Jerry Large, Seattle Times: A year full of good people
- Sophia A. Nelson, theGrio.com: Why Gov. Barbour had to free Scott sisters
- Sepia Mutiny blog (South Asian Americans): Top Fifteen of 2010
- E.R. Shipp, theRoot.com: Let's Not Give Haley Barbour Too Much Praise
Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson frowned on "the idea that the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs." (Video)
"The Eagles are more worried about Michael Vick's injured leg than another attack on his dogfighting past," ESPN.com reported, crediting news services.
"Carlson was guest hosting for Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Channel on Tuesday night when he made the remarks. He led a panel discussion about President Barack Obama commending the owner of the Eagles for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring."
- Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News: Reignited Vick controversy just another excuse to slam Obama
- Deron Snyder, theRoot.com: Michael Vick's Lucky Second Chance
"With the Ivory Coast now said to be 'on the brink of genocide', journalists trying to work in the country are coming under increasing pressure," Roy Greenslade wrote Thursday for Britain's the Guardian.
"The publication of newspapers has been obstructed, local retransmission of certain foreign radio and TV stations has been blocked and there has been a disturbing decline in the security of journalists, creating a climate of fear and intimidation for the media.
"At least 10 foreign journalists have been arrested in the past month. Troops loyal to the president, Laurent Gbagbo, turned their Kalashnikovs on a France 2 crew, while live rounds were used to disperse a France 3 crew. None were injured.
"Gbagbo is holding on to power despite his rival, Alassane [Outtara], being internationally accepted as the winner of the recent presidential election.
"Now the nation's press is split into pro-Gbagbo and pro-Outtara factions, with the former attacking foreign, particularly French, coverage of the presidential election fallout."
The year saw a "major increase in kidnappings of journalists," the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday. "There were 29 cases in 2008, 33 in 2009 and 51 in 2010. Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers. Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected.
"Abductions of journalists are becoming more and more frequent and are taking place in more countries." Reporters Without Borders said. "For the first time, no continent escaped this evil in 2010. Journalists are turning into bargaining chips. Kidnappers take hostages in order to finance their criminal activities, make governments comply with their demands, and send a message to the public. Abduction provides them with a form of publicity. Here again, governments must do more to identify them and bring them to justice. Otherwise reporters — national or foreign — will no longer venture into certain regions and will abandon the local population to their sad fate."
The group also said, "Fifty-seven journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2010, 25% fewer than in 2009, when the total was 76. The number of journalists killed in war zones has fallen in recent years. Significantly, it is becoming more and more difficult to identify those responsible in cases in which journalists were killed by criminal gangs, armed groups, religious organizations or state agents."
- International Federation of Journalists: IFJ Reports Heavy Media Loss to Violence after 97 Journalists Died in 2010
"It's been a couple of weeks since Tim O'Reilly's News Foo rolled into the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, and while I truly enjoyed thinking big thoughts with big thinkers about the direction of our industry, I couldn't help but notice how lacking in diversity the invitation-only gathering was," veteran online journalist Retha Hill wrote Tuesday for the PBS Idea Lab.
"The same thing could be said for the Online News Association conference held in Washington, D.C., the end of October. True, there were a lot more brown faces at this last gathering than six or seven years ago when Ju-Don Roberts, then a senior editor at [Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive], and I were the only African Americans in the room. The lack of diversity at ONA '10 was the subject of a brief but heated conversation between some National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) members, a few of whom wanted to 'do something' about it, like call ONA's leadership out.
". . . I'm not one to see problems without thinking of solutions, so in light of a new year coming upon us, let's collectively make some resolutions when it comes to diversity in this new media that we are building:
- "When planning conferences and panels, resolve to expand beyond your trusted go-to group of presenters to a more diverse set. If you don't know whom to invite, ask and I'll make sure I give you some names. . . .
- "Go young: BET.com, MTV.com, Allhiphop.com to name a few are a wonderful source for millennials who have experience in interactive content and news. I am happy to see ONA launching a youth initiative as a tribute to one of its founding members, MJ Bear, who passed away in December. It was one of her last wishes.
- "NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA, let's make sure this summer's conventions are steeped in innovation and new media training for our members. It's nearly 2011 and media are evolving and we need to make sure we evolve with it." The references are to the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.
- "Site managers please look at your staffs. If they are all white, resolve to diversify whether by hiring experienced persons of color or growing your own. I had to build an entire staff of culturally aware content producers in 1999 when BET.com launched at a time when the number of African Americans in new media was woefully small. So I trained black and Latino hip-hop magazine writers, BET television producers and young people straight out of Howard and Hampton universities in new media. Many of them are now leaders at new media companies across the country."
In a stream of vigorous online responses, Christine Montgomery, president of the Online News Association, thanked Hill for her suggestions, said "board member Katharine Fong is leading a committee to help us figure out how to make the organization more diverse in meaningful ways," and that "we know we have work to do."
- The Emma Bowen Foundation at CBS says it is "looking for minority high school seniors who plan to attend a four year college, have at least a 3.0 GPA and an interest in media, business, computer science, engineering or technology" and are interested in a paid internship to work in these locations: Atlanta; Bristol, Conn.; Greensboro, N.C.; New York/New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Silver Spring, Md.; Philadelphia; Horsham, Pa.; and Miami. More information at www.emmabowenfoundation.com. The deadline is Jan. 14.
- DeWayne Wickham, columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, is commemorating 25 years as a columnist, with remembrances on his blog and in USA Today. "I ate dinner with Fidel Castro in Havana's Palace of the Revolution; had lunch with L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, in a room where Confederate President Jefferson Davis used to eat his meals; and I sat in the Cabinet room of the White House sipping soda and nibbling low-calorie cookies with President Bill Clinton," he wrote Tuesday in USA Today.
- In South Carolina, Gov.-elect Nikki Haley won't give Susan Smith a chance to tell Oprah Winfrey's nearly 6 million viewers what life is like behind bars for killing her two young sons," Yvonne Wenger reported Thursday for the Post and Courier in Charleston. "Haley today said she wouldn't grant Winfrey access to Smith, continuing the state Department of Corrections' long-standing policy of barring inmates from giving interviews. . . . Smith, who is white, first told police that she had been carjacked by a black man who kidnapped the boys, causing a manhunt, but she had killed her sons by rolling her car into a lake."
- Fred Cantu's last day at Austin CBS affiliate KEYE was to have been Thursday, Dale Roe of the Austin American-Statesman wrote. "The newscaster, who has endeared himself to Austinites while anchoring local television newscasts since 1995 at KVUE, KEYE and KEYE's Spanish-language Telemundo affiliate, stresses that he's not retiring and he hopes to anchor somewhere else."
- "In contrast to last year’s tribal summit with the president, the White House didn’t want complete transparency involving the day’s events, which were sometimes filled with pointed messages from tribal leaders to Obama administration officials," Rob Capriccioso reported Thursday for Indian Country Today. "In early December, the White House announced that a large chunk of the day would be closed to press, and would not be broadcast online. . . . The official explanation for the clamp down was that the White House wanted to make tribal leaders feel comfortable to talk freely, without fear."
- "Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal," Leo E. Laurence of the Society of Professional Journalists argues in the Diversity Toolbox column in the organization's publication Quill, discussing the terms "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien." A clarifying note says Laurence has written "an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of SPJ, its membership or its Diversity Committee. The committee itself has taken no official initiative on the use of the phrase 'illegal immigrant.' "
- In Atlanta, "Morning host Suchita Vadlamani, rumored to be leaving 'Good Day Atlanta' earlier this month, has actually left the building for good on her own volition, her attorney Mark Trigg told me today," Rodney Ho reported Monday for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- In Honduras, "radio reporter and cable news presenter Henry Suazo was shot to death Tuesday morning as he was leaving his home in La Masica, a town in Atlántida province, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Honduran authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the killing," the committee said on Thursday.
- Christopher Crommett, who has been speaking, consulting and working on music projects since he stepped down in 2009 as senior vice president of CNN en Español, CNN's Spanish-language division, has recorded an album "celebrating the rich Christmas traditions and customs of Puerto Rico, where I grew up. My departure from CNN provided me the change of pace which allowed me finally to tackle this project in earnest with my friend and genius (and Grammy Award winning) arranger/orchestrator, Gary Anderson," Crommett, an accomplished classical singer, told Journal-isms. "Navidad de mi Niñez" includes five self-penned originals, "five popular Puerto Rican Christmas songs and five universal favorites." He produced a limited run for distribution to friends, colleagues and business associates, and plans a commercial release next Christmas. Anyone interested may contact Crommett at crommettchris27 (at) gmail.com.
- In Baltimore, "former television reporter Dennis Edwards was arrested Wednesday on charges of assaulting his wife, a city police spokesman said," Liz F. Kay reported Thursday in the Baltimore Sun. ". . . Edwards, 54, was charged with second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, according to court records. He was released Thursday after posting $25,000 bond. Lisa Edwards filed a protective order against him, and he was ordered to stay away from her until a hearing set for Tuesday, according to court records."
- "Not many years ago, newspapers occasionally would write about the lack of minority coaches for college teams. Sometimes a newspaper would run half a page of individual pictures to make the point, which was that there seemed to be inequity in having sports that carried a large number of minority players coached almost entirely by non-minorities," Joe Grimm wrote Thursday for the Poynter Institute. Grimm noted this column's observation that Garry D. Howard, who moved from assistant managing editor/sports at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to editor-in-chief at the Sporting News, was "the last remaining African-American editing the sports section of a mainstream daily newspaper" and concluded, "Rather than challenge college football programs on their diversity, it now seems the news media should try to emulate them."
- In China, "the death of Sun Hongjie, a senior reporter at the Northern Xinjiang Morning Post, must be fully investigated by regional authorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and by central authorities in Beijing," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Tuesday. "Sun died in a hospital in Kuitun today, 10 days after being beaten by several men at a construction site, international news reports said."
"A Time for Change, Open Letter to NAHJ"
January 1, 2011
Open Letter to NAHJ & Michele Salcedo, President:
I have been a member of the Board of Directors for three years. I have attended 98% of all board meetings, and have been involved with NAHJ for almost 20 years. I was recruited by Ricardo Pimentel, and appointed to join the board in 2008 as NAHJ Spanish Language Officer. In 2010, I decided to run for office, after Rebecca Aguilar, I received the second highest percentage of votes, and I was elected as NAHJ Online Officer. [source]
The following is an open letter. It does not intend, reflect, nor speak on behalf of NAHJ’s Board of Directors. It is my independent voice, and an open call for change long overdue at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Quotes included here have been published in the media.
To be clear, I only speak on my behalf based on thoughts and opinions of the membership I represent, and in what I believe to be an act of transparency for the benefit of all members of NAHJ. I share this with you, and call for the strength of your voice to demand in 2011 a new era of financial responsibility, transparency, accountability, forward thinking and a new generation of leadership at NAHJ.
As you know, some of us ran on a platform of change, but almost half a year later we find our organization in even deeper trouble, and change is yet to come.
Today NAHJ projects a $240,000 deficit, yet most, if not all concerns from those of us seeking fiscally responsible changes continue to be ignored. Most recently, at least four board members, including myself, on the record, have opposed and have voted against "robbing Peter to pay Paul", or in this case, the misguided strategy to keep on taking money from our endowment, to in great part, just continue to cover payroll NAHJ clearly cannot afford without tangible results and return on investment.
Jessica Durkin, NAHJ Region 3 Director: "This is a fiscal crisis that simply cannot be tolerated, and in my opinion, fundamental changes to the organization are not only needed, but long overdue. That's why I voted against another loan — a band-aid — to continue with the status quo." [source: http://facebook.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=11af3f05623fb86628f0ba117&id=23f09165fe&e=4af1d5c8ad] To make matters worse, a fiscal crisis has now turned into "thug tactics" to silence the voice of those of us speaking on behalf of our membership and in practice inhibiting our ability as elected members of the board to do our job.
In an email Michele Salcedo, NAHJ President sent to Richard Prince, on 12/23/10, copied to the board with a warning to "not distribute", Salcedo goes as far as accusing Prince's reporting on NAHJ [in] "Journal-ism, The Maynard Institute", to have an agenda, and goes on to suggest, by name, board members like myself are providing information for his reports.
For the record, I have not spoken to Mr. Prince on behalf of NAHJ. That said, last we checked, this is a democracy, and democracies are built upon freedom of speech and access to information. Myself, and anyone in the board and the NAHJ membership, have the right to freely express our personal points of view. We don’t have the right, however, to use intimidation tactics to silence nor bully anyone’s voice. A journalism organization should promote and encourage transparency not hamper it.
A few months ago Rebecca Aguilar was in fact falsely accused of talking to Richard Prince, and most recently, Jessica Durkin was reprimanded for her statement to her regional membership regarding our fiscal deficit (above). Earlier this year, a student representative was bullied and humiliated in public as she was ousted for no fault of her own [source]. And now NAHJ Financial Officer, Russell Contreras, is actively seeking my removal arguing without base lack of participation, and talking to the media.
Despite these misguided efforts, let me assure you that our voice of concern and calls for change will not be silenced as long as NAHJ seems to be managed as a third world country where "[cliques]" rule, freedom is censored, and the interest of the greater good is forgotten.
Actions speak louder than words, and thus far NAHJ under current leadership seems only interested in working against transparency and accountability. Informing our membership is punished, and statements more appropriate for a neighborhood bully than a representative of a journalists organization are ignored.
Russell Contreras, NAHJ Financial Officer: “This ain't wikileaking inform about the war in Iraq..." "…where I come from, snitches get stitches” [source: http://mije.org/richardprince/nahj-projects-240000-deficit-year] But the fact is the NAHJ Online committee, under my direction, has repeatedly suggested such information should be readily available in our website, shared and consulted with the membership BEFORE any actions affecting our organization are taken, and NOT AFTER THE FACT, and then in a very subtle way in generic holiday greetings:
Richard Prince reports: " ….the opening paragraph was,"The holidays are hard upon us. Many of us are rushing around buying last minute gifts, sending out holiday cards to those we hold dear but don’t see as often as we’d like, getting ready for feasts and fiestas." In the sixth paragraph, the message said "The board approved in a conference call on Dec. 18 another bridge loan to be taken from the stock fund, this one for $25,000. The same terms apply as the one taken in August: It is to be repaid by June 1 at 3 percent simple interest. The vote was 8-4." [source: http://mije.org/richardprince/nahj-projects-240000-deficit-year] One third of the board has voted against such loans, not to mention the many emails some of our board members have received since repudiating borrowing money to pay salaries of a staff clearly overwhelmed and unable to make a change. This, while other organizations have in fact taken steps we are yet to even consider.
Sharon Pian Chan, AAJA, President: "We changed executive directors and we are now headed into AAJA's 30th year…” “We are projected to end 2010 with a $399,000 surplus, compared to a $207,000 deficit last year.” [source: http://facebook.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=11af3f05623fb86628f0ba117&id=3dbc809b29&e=4af1d5c8ad] Below is a summary of my actions that I believe are consistent with the wishes of our constituents:
Yes, I have been outspoken in sharing our membership concerns about NAHJ's deficit, staff, loans, programs, fundraising and reluctance to change.
Yes, I voted NO to the last two loans of borrowing first $50k and then $25k from our endowment funds.
Yes, I believe strong changes are needed in NAHJ staff and leadership. We can't continue to raise funds to keep up covering salaries with no return on investment while NAHJ’s deficit goes deeper into debt, and while hundreds of our fellow journalists are still unemployed.
Yes, I missed the last convention, and I missed our first board meeting this past Oct. in Atlanta, because having been unemployed in both occasions, I could not afford the economic impact on my family associated with a 4-5 day trip for a one-day board meeting. But more importantly, aside from the personal hardship, I could not in principle be a part of spending precious NAHJ’s funds for meetings that could be conducted for free.
Yes, I am against expensive out of town board meetings with money we don't have and therefore increasing NAHJ’s deficit. It seems highly inappropriate and fiscally irresponsible. This practice needs to stop now. We must meet using today’s web technology available for free or at very little cost rather than keep on asking our membership for donations to cover expenses:
Michele Salcedo: "At the October board meeting in Atlanta, we set a goal for the board to raise $36,000 by the end of the year. We are nowhere near meeting that goal. That shortfall, coupled with outstanding pledges, corporate contributions, and sponsorships, has put NAHJ’s current cash flow at dangerously low levels." [source: http://mije.org/richardprince/nahj-projects-240000-deficit-year]
Without a doubt, traveling and board meeting expenses contribute to those "dangerous low levels". Just do the math, round trip airfare for staff and some board members, five star hotels, meals, and consultants among other expenses. Certainly there must be a better, more efficient way to tackle administrative meetings and related expenses.
As NAHJ Online Officer, I have in many occasions suggested alternate, more effective methods to meet, as well as fundraising using today's online resources, yet most, if not all, of our Online Committee suggestions have been ignored to the point we have basically become a committee in title only. The fact is that in an era of new media and web applications we have not been allowed to provide the expertise desperately needed by the organization. In one way or another the same challenges, in my opinion, face other board members and NAHJ committees calling for change.
In closing, as we enter a New Year and our 2011 convention "Un Nuevo Amanecer – A New Day for Our Story" approaches, I hope this open letter encourages in fact a new dawn of growth and changes for NAHJ. To that end, I will continue to speak on behalf of our membership, Latino journalists and for transparency and accountability.
It is not about Who, How, When or If… It is about here and now. And it is up to you NAHJ to watch it go by, and crumble away, stand by for more or... Take action today!
Patricio G. Espinoza, NAHJ, Online Officer
patricio.g.espinoza (at) gmail.com
Happy New Year!
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, 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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