Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

NABJ President Blasts Unity's Secrecy on Vote

Send by email
Friday, September 30, 2011

NLGJA Wants "Journalists of Color" Out of Coalition Name

White Population Declines in 15 States

Obama to Latinos Online: "I Can't Change Laws Unilaterally"

After Knee to the Groin, Blacks Joined White House Press

Schools Failing to Teach Civil Rights Movement

"Comics Journalism" Offers Perspective on Haiti's Problems

Latina Asks, What's "Hispanic" Got to Do With It?

NABJ Picks Five to Add to Its Hall of Fame

Short Takes

From left: Gregory H. Lee Jr., David Steinberg, Tom Arviso Jr., and Joanna Hernandez

NLGJA Wants "Journalists of Color" Out of Coalition Name

The decision by Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., not to release the votes of its board members to admit the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association is "a prime example" of the lack of accountability that helped drive the National Association of Black Journalists away from the coalition, NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. told Journal-isms on Friday.

"Now people can see what NABJ was talking about," Lee said. "Look at NABJ's action when we voted to leave Unity. We had a number." That vote was 12 to 1. "It gets to the point of governance."

While NABJ will continue to examine reuniting with Unity, "there's more work to do" with another group at the table, Lee said. "This has everything to do with adding another body." The financial split was problematic for NABJ with four partners and the Unity organization sharing the revenues. "Now there's a sixth mouth to feed," Lee said. "It does have an impact."

Meanwhile, David A. Steinberg, national president of the predominantly white NLGJA, said his members wanted the term "journalists of color" stricken from the Unity name.

"NLGJA members have expressed concerns about the term 'Journalists of Color,' Steinberg said by email. ”UNITY anticipates reviewing the term as part of its upcoming strategic planning, and NLGJA representatives look forward to participating in that conversation as full UNITY members."

One Unity board member told Journal-isms privately that NLGJA wanted "journalists of color" changed before it would join but that a motion to accept NLGJA would not have passed with that as a condition.

As it was, the motion passed with a majority of the 12 voting members, but none of the associations — the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association — voted unanimously in favor of NLGJA's entry, sources said.

Steinberg did not deny that he pushed for a name change before the vote. "I think that with the addition of NLGJA, by definition, UNITY is no longer just journalists of color. I think it is important that the name be accurate. I look forward to that discussion," he said by email.

Unity President Joanna Hernandez said Thursday that she had decided to keep secret the votes of the Unity board members in order "to allow the board members a level of anonymity in their vote so [as] to prompt honest and open discussion."

She added, "But that does not stop board members or presidents from discussing their positions, if they choose to do so, and I encourage members who have concerns to contact their presidents and UNITY board members from their organizations directly."

However, none of the Unity members has explained publicly to constituents how he or she voted, although Tom Arviso Jr., publisher of the Navajo Times in Arizona and a representative of NAJA, discussed his position with Journal-isms on Friday.

The departure of NABJ and the Unity invitation to NLGJA prompted reflection that "really opened my eyes up to what Unity" could be and moves it "to another level" given "the new era that we're in now," Arviso said. ". . . . We're more united now. We can advocate for each other. There's not a lot of diversity in the national news forums. We're excited by what Unity has done."

The Unity board members' vote was said to have been taken anonymously by email and confirmed by telephone. Unity invited NLGJA to join and pushed its members for a quick decision before NLGJA chose a site for its 2012 convention, one member said. Unity already plans to be in Las Vegas Aug. 1-4.

Among the material before the group was a Sept. 15 email from Joe Davidson, the NABJ cofounder who said this week that "NLGJA's inclusion in Unity changes the mission of Unity" and that "if I had to vote right now on recommending unification, sadly I’d vote no."

"Unity was formed as an organization to promote the common interests of journalists of color, as the name of the organization clearly indicates. Perhaps names can easily change, but is that true of the mission of an organization?" Davidson wrote, according to an email obtained by Journal-isms.

Davidson, who was not Journal-isms' source for the email, explained Friday, "I didn't expect to have much influence with Unity board members, as their decision to include NLGJA demonstrates. But I did want them to understand the potential ramifications of that decision on the prospects for reunification with NABJ."

Arviso said of Davidson's email, "That's one guy's opinion. For every person that's taken that view, I've heard five that didn't. He's got some valid points," Arviso conceded. He added, "NABJ's got a huge membership. If there was another vote, I think they'd want to come back."

Unity announced its decision to include NLGJA on Sept. 19, saying the boards of directors of both organizations had agreed to the partnership the previous week. The reconstituted Unity board plans its first face-to-face meeting at Gannett Co., Inc., headquarters in McLean, Va., next weekend.

White Population Declines in 15 States

"Non-Hispanic whites are a dwindling share of the U.S. population, with their numbers dropping in the Northeast and Midwest and growing only modestly in the South and West, the Census Bureau said Thursday," Carol Morello reported Friday in the Washington Post.

"Whites declined in 15 states, almost all in the industrial and farming states from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, and from Kansas to Ohio. They also declined in California and three Southern states, including Maryland.

" . . .The census also reported that the black population grew by 12 percent. African Americans now make up almost 13 percent of the population, a small increase over the decade. More than half, 57 percent, live in the South, up from 55 percent a decade ago. And six out of 10 blacks live in 10 states, including Virginia and Maryland.

"The census analysis of the nation’s white and black population underscores the transformative nature of growth in the 21st century. The number of Hispanics and Asians is soaring, the number of blacks is growing slowly and whites are almost at a standstill."

The report on blacks also found, "Among places with populations of 100,000 or more, the highest percentage of blacks alone-or-in-combination was found in Detroit (84 percent), followed by Jackson, Miss. (80 percent), Miami Gardens, Fla. (78 percent) and Birmingham, Ala. (74 percent). These four places also had the highest percentage of the black alone population."

President Obama hears from Latinos in an "Open for Questions" Hispanic live stream roundtable in the Map Room of the White House on Wednesday. Participants include, from left, moderator Jose Siade, Yahoo! en Español; Karine Medina, MSN Latino; and Gabriel Lerner, AOL Latino/Huffington Post LatinoVoices. (Credit: Lawrence Jackson/White House) (Video)

Obama to Latinos Online: "I Can't Change Laws Unilaterally"

President Obama said this to a group of Latino journalists Wednesday about the stalled DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young people who entered the United States illegally:

"I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there's been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It's just not true."

Gabriel Lerner, senior news editor of AOL Latino and HuffPost LatinoVoices, wrote after the session, "A few hours ago, HuffPost LatinoVoices and AOL Latino interviewed President Obama during the first roundtable of its kind made available to digital media. 

"More than any declaration, the mere organization of a roundtable meeting with President Obama for Hispanic media was a confirmation of a shift for this Administration.

"The event, which took place during Hispanic Heritage Month, was evidence that the Obama Administration intends to [recapture] the support of the Latino community.

". . . Mr. Obama answered a total of 15 questions, asked by myself and by representatives from MSN Latino and Yahoo! [en] Español. All questions were sent by readers from our sites, in Spanish and English, from Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of questions, observations, critiques, statements, comments, requests and even blessings and curses were submitted. HuffPost LatinoVoices and AOL Latino selected questions that were relevant and authentic, representing some of the most crucial interests of Hispanics in the United States.

"Joining me at the roundtable, were Karine Medina, Executive Producer at MSN Latino, who came from Seattle, Washington, and Jose Siade," Yahoo Latin America editor, from Miami.

Reporter Harry McAlpin showing his press credentials to White House guards in March 1944. (Credit: George Skadding/Life magazine)

After Knee to the Groin, Blacks Joined White House Press

Randall Kennedy's new book on race and the Obama White House, "The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency," includes a footnote describing how the first black reporter gained entry to the White House press corps.

It was during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

Donald A. Ritchie wrote in his 2005 book, "Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps":

"Black reporters could not get admitted to government press conferences or even get on the distribution lists for agency press releases. . . . During the New Deal, black reporters could turn to the Black Cabinet, a small circle of high-ranking black government officials that included Mary McLeod Bethune, William Hastie, Ralph Bunche, and Robert Weaver, who offered the most reliable pipeline of federal news.

"Other tips came from government secretaries and custodians, who passed along overheard conversations or documents retrieved from mimeograph machines. Occasionally, a sympathetic white official might offer information, but black reporters often could only find out what was going on by reading the New York Times."

Kennedy gives a CliffsNotes version of the rest of Ritchie's narrative:

"The exclusion, though racial, was done indirectly. The White House Correspondents' Association issued press credentials for presidential news conferences only to reporters for daily newspapers. None of the black newspapers were dailies; they were weeklies or semimonthlies. White papers offered no employment to black reporters. Although President Roosevelt's press secretary, Steve Early, claimed that he and the administration had no say over the matter of eligibility for covering press conferences, they did intercede on behalf of white journalists when doing so suited their purposes.

"On a trip through Harlem during FDR's reelection campaign in 1940, Early got in a scuffle with a black police officer. He was photographed kneeing the officer in the groin. When Republicans publicized the incident, the officer announced that he still intended to vote for Roosevelt. Grateful and chastened, Early worked to obtain accreditation for a black reporter. In February 1944, Harry McAlpin broke a journalistic color bar by becoming the first black reporter to join the White House press corps for a news conference in the Oval Office."

Schools Failing to Teach Civil Rights Movement

"Though the civil rights movement is one of the defining elements of U.S. history, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says most states deserve a failing grade when it comes to teaching the movement to students," the Tri-State Defender in Memphis reported on Thursday.

" 'For too many students, their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr. King and "I have a dream," ’ said Maureen Costello, SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance director.

" 'When 43 states adopted Common Core Standards in English and math, they affirmed that rigorous standards were necessary for achievement. By having weak or non-existent standards for history, particularly for the civil rights movement, they are saying loud and clear that it isn’t something students need learn.'

"The SPLC, in a first-of-its-kind study, 'Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States 2011,' examined state standards and curriculum requirements related to the study of the modern civil rights movement for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study was released Wednesday."

(Credit: © Matt Boors, reprinted by permission.)

"Comics Journalism" Offers Perspective on Haiti's Problems

"In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated its capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure, including the Presidential Palace and Parliament," Rob Tornoe wrote Monday for Editor & Publisher.

"Suddenly, the impoverished country, which ranks number five on the Failed State index, became the darling of the news media, which flocked to its dilapidated shores to cover the next disaster story. But it didn’t take long for them to get bored, pack up, and leave, forgetting the human suffering and poverty left behind.

"Leave it to the cartoonists to save the day.

"The editorial team of Cartoon Movement — American cartoonist Matt Boors (syndicated by Universal Uclick) and Dutch cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards — joined by video journalist Caroline Bins, traveled to Haiti on a monthlong trip to explore the problems facing the country, told from the point of view of the Haitian people.

"The method they’ve chosen is comics journalism, an emerging form of reporting using cartoons as the primary medium to tell the story. They found a Haitian cartoonist and paired him with a couple of Haitian journalists and aim to produce 75 pages of comics journalism, offering an inside perspective on the multitude of problems facing Haiti."

Latina Asks, What's "Hispanic" Got to Do With It?

Each Black History Month, some contrarians complain that the month is outdated and unnecessary. Now at least one Latina is scoffing at Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

"The yearly celebration known as Hispanic Heritage Month is well under way and I guess I should be embarrassed to say that I don’t really care too much for it," Roxana A. Soto wrote Monday for Fox News Latino. "But I am not.

"I mean, for all intents and purposes, I am Hispanic – or at least that’s what I’ve been told since I arrived in the land of opportunity 24 years ago. So why wouldn’t I be proud to celebrate my heritage, right?

"For starters, I take issue with the word Hispanic. I really don’t even know what it means. And I know I’m not the only 'Hispanic' who feels that way. The debate on what we should be called is alive and well and, while I feel a bit more comfortable with the term Latina, the truth is it doesn’t really encompass all of me."

NABJ Picks Five to Add to Its Hall of Fame

Gwen Ifill, Pat Harvey, Johnathan Rodgers, Ruth Allen Ollison and the late Wallace Terry will be inducted Jan. 26 into its Hall of Fame, the National Association of Black Journalists announced on Friday.

The ceremony is to be held at the Newseum in downtown Washington. Proceeds of the gala benefit fellowship programs.

Ifill is moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour." She is also the author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

Harvey, a broadcast journalist at KCBS/KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, was named co-anchor of the KCBS 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts in April 2010 after a 20-year run in primetime news on sister station KCAL.

Ollison dedicated much of her professional career to Texas radio and television in news reporting, anchoring and management. After two decades in the broadcasting industry, Ollison bought a crack house in one of the most notorious areas of the city and started a ministry.

Rodgers retired in June as TV One president and CEO after close to 50 years in the media business. In the NABJ convention in August, Rodgers received the President's Award from then-NABJ President Kathy Y. Times. The network serves nearly 53 million adults.

In 1967, Terry became deputy bureau chief for Time magazine in Saigon. His two years of Vietnam War reporting included coverage of the Tet offensive and scores of combat missions with American and South Vietnamese pilots and led to "Bloods," a 1984 book of oral histories of African American soldiers. Terry wrote for USA Today and Parade magazine before he died on May 29, 2003.

Short Takes

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



NLGJA and Unity

What is clear to me from the reportage thus far is NLGJA is not looking to join and empower an existing organization of journalists as much as to assume its assets much in the way one business buys another and changes the mission. Unity is powerful as a concept and a brand. To drop Journalists of Color from the name clearly states, to me anyway, that what NLGJA is after is acquisition of a powerful platform for its own issues. It makes perfect sense for them and absolute nonsense for the African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American founders of Unity, Journalists of Color.

If NLGJA wants to form an org or caucus to support their issues on sexism, they should go ahead like everyone else and create one. It's difficult enough to focus on the issues of race which have barred Black folks from all sectors just by showing up with brown and black skin. That was the reason Unity, Journalists of Color formed and that's the mission it should retain. Otherwise, get ready to be co-opted because that is exactly what happens when one person in the conversation loses focus and the other person is completely focused on their goal, their eyes on the prize. One gets what one focus on.


Unity nonsense

The Unity organization has effectively shot itself in the foot. It was foolish in the first place to alienate NABJ and reject its concerns. Surely we all embrace what NLGJA stands for but, quite simply, this is a forced fit. It's a shame that money, and not mission, is driving Unity. In my humble opinion, NABJ should stand firm and go about its business. To be honest, we're out there alone on issues that matter to us anyway. So why do we need Unity? It definitely is not for political clout. It has none. My two cents.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.