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Why "Scandal" Ranks No. 1 With Black Viewers

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Passion, Angst and Pride That a Black Woman Is the Star

. . . Hispanics Choose Novelas Over English-Language Shows

Sharp-Tongued Film Critic Denies Heckling Filmmaker

Min Adds Billboard to Her Hollywood Reporter Portfolio

10 Key Areas for Journalists in the Digital Age

Tamron Hall Sometimes Feels "A Bit of Resentment" on Hair

Mindy Kaling Has No Problem With Elle Cover

Short Takes

Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn in "Scandal" (Credit: Ruven Afanador)

Passion, Angst and Pride That a Black Woman Is the Star

"Scandal," the ABC-TV drama that became a must-discuss item among African Americans in social media, was the most popular prime-time television show among black viewers in 2013, according to Nielsen data compiled for Journal-isms.

Surprisingly, the Nielsen data showed that all of the 25 prime-time ratings winners among Hispanics for the year were Spanish-language telenovelas. The top English-language program was said to be far down the list, despite inroads by those advocating more English-language programming for Latinos. 

"Scandal," with 30 telecasts, averaged 3.6 million African American viewers, according to the Nielsen ranking. It was followed by "NBC Sunday Night Football," with 17 telecasts and 3,344,000 black viewers; the seven-telecast NBA playoff finals on Turner Network Television, 3,277,000 viewers; Fox's "The OT," eight telecasts and 2,520,000 viewers; and Fox's "American Idol-Wednesday," with 18 telecasts and 2,405,000 viewers.

"Best believe, the 10 P.M. hour on Thursday night is pure fandemonium — all gut grip and heart-racing adrenaline," Denene Millner wrote for the November issue of Essence magazine.

"Aw nawl, girl! passion and whodunit angst. Scandal does this to a viewer. After all, on the runaway hit ABC drama, staring Kerry Washington as the complicated, cunning, powerful D.C. 'fixer' Olivia Pope, morals are put to the test. Commandments are broken. Dues are paid. Allegiances are questioned.

"There are lies!

"And there is sex — lots of it!

"Secrets and danger too!

"And, good God, dramatically, hopelessly doomed love, tangled in a web of politics and power and race so gripping that a nation of self-professed Gladiators watch raptly as the spectacle plays itself out in 8.5 million amphitheaters — aka living rooms — at the appointed hour each week.

"That's Scandal time. . . "

While "Scandal" is popular among other demographic groups, it did not make Nielsen's overall "Top 10" lists for the year, except among Twitter users, where it ranked No. 4 in a medium in which African Americans are especially active.

"I think black viewers, especially black female viewers, often respond well to seeing someone who looks like them in a starring role on a TV series," Eric Deggans, a black journalist who is NPR's television critic, told "Journal-isms" by email on Wednesday.

"Because black women make so many purchasing decisions in black households, they are an important group for advertisers to target as well. And because Scandal is considered a mainstream hit, I also think it means a lot to black viewers to see that a show starring a black woman can be successful in the mainstream of show business, outside the specialized world where shows targeted to black viewers often live."

With "Scandal," Washington became the first black actress to headline a primetime network drama series in more than 30 years, Karu F. Daniels has noted in Ebony.

Deggans continued, "Some have groused about the fact that the black female lead character is also defined in part by an affair with a white, married president. But I think the show has outgrown those concerns as it has matured, allowing veteran black actors Joe Morton and Khandi Alexander to shine as parents to Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope. And the show's success also hands more power to the most powerful black executive producer/show runner on TV, Shonda Rhimes.

"Ultimately, Scandal's success is a sign to black viewers that their sensibilities can power a show which is a hit with all audiences. And that's a powerful message in a fragmented media world."

Kevin D. Thompson, a black journalist and staff writer at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post who spent 12 years as its television critic, agreed.

"Black audiences aren't used to seeing such a fierce, take-charge character who looks like them on television," Thompson said in an email. "Olivia Pope is the ideal for so many black women, a successful career woman who not didn't just reach the so-called 'glass ceiling,' but smashed through it. The beauty of Olivia is that Kerry Washington has made her a three-dimensional character, a woman who also has tremendous flaws.

"I think that's another reason why so many black women relate to her and enjoying watching her. Washington has helped make 'Scandal' a guilty-pleasure hoot, a show that makes all viewers — black and white — immediately post comments on Facebook and Twitter while the show is airing live. It's almost like gossiping in the barbershop or beauty salon for black viewers."

Still, "Scandal" has critics among black journalists. Clarence Page, Washington-based columnist for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a New Year's Day column in which he counted "eight fictional TV programs set in Washington's Shakespearean political world." "Scandal" made Page's "2014 Hate-Watchers Guide to Fake D.C. on TV."

" 'Scandal' is one of the highest rated shows on TV precisely because it is so far removed from reality," Page wrote. "I had high hopes when the show, created by Shonda Rhimes, launched star Kerry Washington as a Washington fixer based loosely on the real-life Judy Smith, an adviser to the show. Unfortunately the show's story lines have begun to pile on just about every paranoid fever dream that the Internet ever produced. Needless to say, the audience has mushroomed. . . ."

Completing the top 25 prime-time programs among African Americans were, in order, "Sunday Night NFL Pro-Kick" (NBC); "American Idol —Thursday (Fox); NFL Regular Season (ESPN); "NBA Playoffs Round Two" (Turner Network Television); "Football NT America Pt 3" (NBC); "Blacklist" (NBC); "BET Original Movie" (BET); "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC); "NBA Playoffs — Round 1" (Turner Network Television).

Also, "Ironside" (NBC); "Deception" (NBC); "Thicker Than Water" (Bravo); "Person of Interest" (CBS); "Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC); "NBA Playoffs — 1st Round" (ESPN); "Under the Dome" (CBS); "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" (VH1); "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC); "Love & Hip Hop 4" (VH1); and "The Voice" (NBC).

. . . Hispanics Choose Novelas Over English-Language Shows

No. 1 for Hispanics in prime time

The top 25 prime-time programs of 2013 among Hispanics received scant coverage in the mainstream media. All were Spanish-language telenovelas, with English-language shows far down on the list, according to Nielsen data compiled for Journal-isms.

This surprising revelation comes in a year in which mainstream media companies sought to target programming for Latinos in English as well as Spanish, on the theory that Latinos, like other immigrant groups, would eventually assimilate linguistically into English.

Among that programming was Fusion, a joint television venture of Univision and ABC, and the websites NBCLatino, Fox News Latino and HuffPost LatinoVoices.

All top 25 shows were on the Spanish-language Univision network.

The top four positions were held by the Mexican novela "Amores Verdaderos (True Loves)" in its Tuesday (4,820,000 viewers), Monday (4,788,000), Wednesday (4,756,000) and Thursday (4,734,000) editions. The next three were the Friday, Thursday and Tuesday editions of "Por Ella Soy Eva (For Her, I'm Eva)" another Mexican import.

A summary on of the 2012 box set of "Por Ella Soy Eva" urges, "Join Juan as he transforms himself in to 'Eva', to be close to the woman he loves, Helena, after faking his own death.

"Juan becomes Eva and befriends Helena and sets on a quest to find out proof against the man who has framed him. Meanwhile Helena, thinking that Juan has died in a terrible car accident, has moved on with her life and is planning to marry Plutarco, the man responsible for framing Juan. Will Juan have the courage to tell Helena that he is Eva even if it means that he will hurt her again? Or will he continue to lead a double life in the hopes of seeking justice? You will laugh and cry as you follow the adventures of this very unconventional and hilarious couple."

Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center, told Journal-isms by telephone Wednesday that while a growing number of Hispanics are English-speaking, 75 percent live in a household where Spanish is spoken and that half of Hispanics in the United States are foreign-born.

When Fusion was about to debut in October, those points were among the Pew Research Center's "5 demographic realities behind the creation of Univision/ABC News’ 'Fusion' channel."

To those, Lopez added the observation that because there are fewer Spanish-only channels than English-only ones, Latinos who watch English-language television divide their viewing among more stations, giving networks such as Univision a boost when ratings are compiled.

Telenovelas are so popular that in July, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a self-described "manifesto for the creation of telenovela studies."

Telenovelas "are ubiquitous today not only on prime-time television Monday through Friday and on DVD but also via social media like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter," wrote Ilan Stavans, a professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College. "Few other kinds of stories offer as diverse an introduction to contemporary life among Hispanics everywhere, including in the United States."

The telenovelas, however, have been criticized for ignoring or marginalizing Latinos who are not light-skinned.

Sandra Guzman, a former editor of Latina magazine, wrote in 2011, "I was raised watching Spanish language soaps and as a little girl I wondered why all the stars looked more like my mother and sister, light-skin, freckles and blond by birth, not Clairol, than my oldest sister and me, wooly black hair and African and indigenous features. As the children of a black father and a light skin mother, we lived diversity in our home. It was never lost on my precocious child mind that girls who looked like me or my big sis were never the leading lady. . . . "

Guzman referred to an accompanying article by Arturo Arias-Polo in El Miami Herald, "Is there racism in the telenovelas?"

"To me that question has long been answered, and it's a huge sí señor, sin duda! [yes, sir, no doubt]," Guzman continued. "The bigger and more important question is, what are Telemundo and Univision going to do about it. . . . "

Sharp-Tongued Film Critic Denies Heckling Filmmaker

"On Monday night, at the 69th annual New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Armond White, a well-known film critic for the New York City culture review City Arts and a longtime member and past chairman of the NYFCC, allegedly made disparaging remarks about best director winner Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) as McQueen took the stage," Scott Feinberg wrote Tuesday for the Hollywood Reporter.

"White, who scathingly critiqued 12 Years a Slave in October, has, over the years, written numerous contrarian reviews and occasionally made public remarks that caused many to raise their eyebrows, but the response of outrage to what he is said to have shouted at McQueen, according to Variety — 'You're an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. F— you. Kiss my ass.' — has taken things to a new level.

"NYFCC Chair Joshua Rothkopf has called an emergency meeting to address the incident. It is not clear if NYFCC rules allow the group to expel a member, but sources say that is the desire of many of its members. Today, The Hollywood Reporter offered White an opportunity to provide his full and unedited take on what happened and why. That is what follows.

"The comments that I supposedly made were never uttered by me or anyone within my earshot. I have been libeled by publications that recklessly quoted unnamed sources that made up what I said and to whom I was speaking . . ."

Min Adds Billboard to Her Hollywood Reporter Portfolio

Janice Min

"Guggenheim Media today announced that Janice Min has been tapped to lead Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter as co-president/chief creative officer of the Entertainment Group of Guggenheim Media," the Hollywood Reporter reported Tuesday.

"In her expanded role, which is effective immediately, Min will be responsible for all editorial direction of the iconic entertainment and music brands."

Min said in the story, "The combination of Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter under one editorial voice creates a true entertainment super-brand.

"I'm excited to be at the center of two organizations so influential in driving the conversation in popular culture. The breaking news, personalities and glamour — all wrapped in a sophisticated media environment — that the two brands deliver make for a thrilling combination. . . ."

10 Key Areas for Journalists in the Digital Age

"With ever-evolving opportunities to discover and share stories on digital platforms, the need to keep digital skills up-to-date is vital for journalists," Rachel Bartlett reported Tuesday for

"In order to give journalists an idea of some of the main skills to be working on, we sourced ideas from the newsroom and our Twitter community to compile a list of 10 key areas to consider. . . ."

  • "Validate and verify . . .

  • "Understanding analytics and how to use them . . .

  • "Make the most of your mobile . . .

  • "Enhance the user experience . . .

  • "Master the data basics . . .

  • "Consider content discovery . . .

  • "Be an active part of your social networks . . .

  • "Good digital admin . . .

  • "Online security . . .

  • "Traditional journalism skills . . . "

Meanwhile, Chris Taylor reported Tuesday for Mashable, "One of the country's oldest remaining big city newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle, is set to announce a radical plan to arrest circulation decline and remain relevant in the digital age, Mashable has learned.

"Audrey Cooper, the first female managing editor in the paper's 148-year history, will require all staff to enter what is being described as a startup-style incubator. In a plush off-site office procured from the paper's Food and Wine section, journalists will undergo two months of rigorous training — in effect, a digital and social media boot camp. . . ."

Tamron Hall Sometimes Feels "A Bit of Resentment" on Hair

Tamron Hall (Credit: Twitter)"Tamron Hall is like many Black women who feel the need to manipulate her hair texture to appear 'appropriate' and 'professional' in the workplace," Jazmine Denise Rogers wrote Tuesday for Madame Noire.

"Up until recently, most didn't even know that the MSNBC correspondent was a natural girl, but it looks like she's ready to share her natural hair story with the world. The 20-year industry vet recently shared her story with natural hair blogger Curly Nikki during a trip to South Africa.

" 'Like many Black women on television, straight hair has been her professional life and look… that was until our trip together to South Africa,' Nikki writes. 'After hearing about my hair story and experiencing for herself, the positive and supportive natural hair community, she felt inspired to finally share her curly story with the world.

" 'In a moment of pure honesty, she also shared that she sometimes felt a bit of resentment at her White colleagues who could wake up in the morning and come right in to work, entirely "appropriate" or "professional," but that she'd have to spend hours — that she could've spent resting or preparing — manipulating her hair to meet the straight hair standard of beauty,' she continued. 'Sound familiar any one?' 

" 'Tamron has been natural for a while but most folks wouldn't know.' . . ."

Mindy Kaling Has No Problem With Elle Cover

Mindy Kaling's Elle cover

"Mindy Kaling is being celebrated by Elle magazine as one of four cover subjects for its Women in TV Issue. But some found controversy in the fact that Kaling's black and white cover contrasted with the color covers for actresses Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel and Allison Williams," Kurt Schlosser wrote Tuesday for the "Today" site on

"Kaling's cover shot was also cropped just below her chest, while Poehler, Deschanel and Williams all posed in fuller-body shots cropped at the knees.

"Jezebel was among sites that called out the difference, noting that Kaling, 34, is the lone woman of color in the group who happens to be 'on the record saying she's a size 8, not a size zero.'

"The Gloss summed up its argument, in part, by saying, 'The fact that Kaling is a woman of color and a woman whose size defies the conventions for actresses are two traits that should never be stripped from her when slender, white women are allowed to keep their whiteness and bodies.'

"But Kaling, the star and creator of Fox's 'The Mindy Project,' took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend her look and the magazine. . . ."

The magazine industry is among the whitest parts of the news media, as readers pointed out last year in the New Republic.

Short Takes

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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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Mekeisha Toby on "Scandal"

"African-Americans still like seeing themselves on TV and when the show happens to be about a smart and powerful black woman, written and executive produced by a smart and powerful black woman and based on the real life of a smart and powerful black woman, you can't go wrong. Factor in how popular 'Scandal' is on social media and how attractive the people on this show are, and you have a recipe for success." -- Mekeisha Toby, staff editor at TheWrap, former television critic at the Detroit News.

Cross-Postings From The Root


@princeeditor Factor in also, the fact that this show would not succeed if it were really all black. In other words, an interracial relationship here and, there to please white people and, to demonstrate how desperate we black people are for acceptance.


There something to be said about black women who see value from watching white men make love to black women.

A real African / Black woman is not gay

@blackspeak I had a homosexual professor recommending this show to the black females in the class.

I am quite happy to see the traitors out in the open.


@A real African / Black woman is not gay@blackspeak

Well Said!!

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