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Spurned Columnists Question Selection Process for Obama Meeting

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Did White House Decide Who Represents Trotter Group?

Editor & Publisher Staff Fired

Trotter Group members met Friday with President Obama and senior aide Valerie Jarrett, center, at the White House. Flanking them are Tonyaa Weathersbee, left, DeWayne Wickham and Joe Davidson. (Credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)

Did White House Decide Who Represents Trotter Group?

An attempt by the White House to reach out to the nation's organization of African American columnists has resulted in anger and resentment on the part of those in the group who were ignored or, worse, disinvited. Some lost money when they made travel arrangements to Washington and then were forced to cancel.

The role of the White House in selecting the interviewers, and whether group representatives were complicit in granting the White House such a role, has been called into question.

President Obama met Friday in the Roosevelt Room with 10 members of the Trotter Group as part of his effort to shore up his African American base for the midterm elections next month.

The meeting was fraught with symbolism. The Trotter Group was named after activist Boston editor William Monroe Trotter, a militant figure of the early 20th century. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson explains on the Trotter Group site:

"On November 12, 1914, William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Guardian newspaper, went to the White House to confront President Woodrow Wilson. Trotter had supported Wilson's election, but lynching was flaring up, and segregation was more rigid than ever. Trotter asked Wilson where he stood.

"Wilson replied: 'Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit. ... Your manner offends me.' A 45-minute argument ensued during which Trotter said: 'Two years ago, you were regarded as a second Abraham Lincoln. ... Now we colored leaders [who supported Wilson] are denounced in the colored churches as traitors to our race.

"The argument made the front page of The New York Times."

On Oct. 8, Trotter Group co-founder DeWayne Wickham, a columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, told Trotter members that Obama wanted to meet with the group on Oct. 15.

The group has 40 members, and Wickham, who negotiated the meeting with the White House, told members later in the day, "The White House has just asked me to limit the number of Trotter members taking part in the meeting with President Obama to 16. So I sent to the White House the names of the first 16 Trotter members who responded."

The Journal-isms author, who is in Washington, was among those on the list of 16 and had planned to invite readers to suggest questions. Other columnists on the list made preparations for a trip. On Monday afternoon, however, Wickham messaged, "Unfortunately, the White House has asked us to reduce the number of Trotter members who will attend Friday's meeting with President Obama from 18 to 10 — and to limit it to the founders and newspaper columnists." There was no explanation of how the number had risen to 18.

Wickham and another co-founder, retired Newsday columnist and editor Les Payne, pared the list, Wickham said.

It was unclear how much the White House participated in vetoing or approving certain members. Kevin S. Lewis, who started as White House director of African American media only a week ago, did not respond Monday to questions from Journal-isms.

What was clear, however, was that not all members were involved in the decision and that those who were suddenly cut were disappointed, embarrassed and inconvenienced.

An e-mail from George E. Curry, a veteran journalist who opines for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, which serves black newspapers, and for the Philadelphia Inquirer, indicated that the White House did play a role in shaping which members were invited. That would be contrary to the practice in pool-reporting situations, where the news organization, not the White House, determines who is in the pool.

In an electronic discussion among those who were not invited, Curry said:

"I am also deeply dismayed over how an announced selection process was abandoned in mid-stream, evidently because the names of certain people were not included on the list.

"When DeWayne initially announced that participation would be limited to 18 people and they were selected in the order in which they replied to the invite, I thought it would be unfortunate if all of us could not attend, but that was a fair way of deciding who should attend.

"However, fairness was quickly thrown out of the window when DeWayne said he and Les decided on a list of names that he sent to the White House before even letting us know of their decision. As one of the first to reply, I was pleased that I was on the first list. However, it was no fun learning that I had been deleted from the list because, according to DeWayne, he and Les wanted to make sure the founders were included in the group.

"Like Richard, I did not know there [were] two separate but unequal membership levels in the Trotter Group," Curry continued, referring to this columnist.

"DeWayne first told me I was being eliminated because the White House asked him to 'limit it to the founders and newspaper columnists.' I doubly qualify as a newspaper columnist: 1) As a regular columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and 2) As a columnist for the NNPA, a federation of more than 100 Black newspapers. When I questioned the decision, I received a different explanation: The White House 'expressed a lack of interest in having an NNPA person in our reconstituted group since the president is planning to meet soon with the NNPA and other units of the black press.' It stretches the imagination that a White House that is finally reaching out the Black community would specifically ask that the person whose column is syndicated to more Black newspapers than anyone else in the country should be specifically excluded from participation.

"Furthermore, I do not work for the NNPA and therefore will not be included in any meeting Obama has with the publishers. If in fact that were the case, I still would qualify by virtue of my writing a column for the Inquirer and being among the first to respond."

Others weighed in who agreed to put their e-mailed comments on the record:

Monroe Anderson, another veteran journalist who blogs from Chicago, said:

"I was surprised to discover that the meeting had taken place after the fact since I've known Michelle and Barack longer than any other member of the Trotter [Group] and I would think my long term perspective could have contributed to the meeting. . . . I've known Axelrod since he was an intern at the Tribune in the 70s and Valerie's first TV appearance was on my show, Common Ground, in the early 90s." Anderson referred to White House advisers David Alexrod and Valerie Jarrett, and to the first couple.

David Squires, a columnist at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., wrote:

"I and my editors were certainly disappointed in the process and the result, after gearing up for me to represent all of Tribune newspapers in the meeting. I am certainly a newspaper columnist. The final list included no Tribune rep but at least four from Gannett. It was also particularly disappointing to me because of my trying for several years to join this group and having been tripped up by not getting invited to the Washington meetings — the only way to join, as I was told. I was pleased to finally join the group prior to the Louisville meeting [this year]. I would hope that in future high-end meetings, more of us will get the opportunity to participate. . . . none of us want to be relegated to the second-rung wing of the Trotter Group. (I also had to eat the cost of my accommodations for Thursday night, which could not be canceled.)"

Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune:

"I too would have represented my entire chain, as well as distribution through one of the many syndicates and news services that court me all the time. (Before the final cut, I emailed DeWayne offering similar assistance to any other Trotter.)

"And like at David's paper, we started discussing coverage, only with me it was with my publisher and vice president. Imagine the thrill of having to say 'never mind.' "

Cary Clack, columnist for the San Antonio Express-News:

"My newspaper thought the trip was important enough to send me and I didn't find out I wouldn't be going until after I made my travel arrangements. Frankly, it was embarrassing to have to tell them the trip was off. And as for the meeting being open only to founders and newspaper columnists well, my newspaper pays me to write three columns a week so that should put me in the latter group."

Issac Bailey, Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News:

"I think we have to find a better way to handle these situations. One of the hardest things to do now is to get your editors to see the importance of speaking about national events in your column — even though most of our readers are conservative and boisterous about President Obama and national politics. They were readying to make room for this trip, though.

"I understand that in any such process that there will be difficult choices to be made, and that disappointment simply can not be avoided in such situations. I'm a grown up. All I'm saying is that moving forward, we need to figure out a process we can all agree upon so one day we don't tell our editors we are heading to the White House, then two days later have egg on our faces."

The Trotter Group decided at its 1992 inception that it would have no formal officers or bylaws — a mistake, according to Barbara A. Robinson, a retired columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I remember when I tried to get the organization to function like any responsible organization, bylaws etc, and my ideas were opposed by the founders. The organization has grown tremendously since then," she said. "Without elected officers you will continue to have arbitrary decisions made by the founders who really didn't expect this organization to grow this large."

Wickham has functioned as the group's leader.

Asked a series of questions about who made what decision when, and how much the White House was involved, Wickham asked Journal-isms which members were dissatisfied.

Told that not all were speaking on the record, he replied:

"I'm not going to respond to complaints and charges from unnamed journalists.

"I don't see any point in engaging in a discussion about questions that are being raised by people whose own role in this matter cannot be examined."

The final list of 10 selected columnists included:

Wickham, USA Today; Payne, theRoot.com; Dwight Lewis, Nashville Tennessean; Tonyaa Weathersbee, Florida Times-Union; Rhonda Graham, Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal; Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer; Askia Muhammad, the Washington Informer; Lynne Varner, Seattle Times; Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press and Joe Davidson, Washington Post.

Editor & Publisher Staff Fired

Replacements Named at "Bible of the Newspaper Industry"

The editorial staff of Editor & Publisher, for more than a century considered the "bible of the newspaper industry" — at least until the new millennium's proliferation of media blogs — has been fired by the owner who revived the publication in January.

Editor & Publisher has "got to be the conversation pit," new editor says. "Mark Fitzgerald, Shawn Moynihan and Jim Rosenberg are no longer with the company," Duncan McIntosh, an Irvine, Calif.-based magazine and newspaper publisher, said in a memo dated Friday.

Instead, McIntosh has brought in employees from elsewhere in his business: "Jeff Fleming has assumed the position of Editor in Chief of the magazine, Kristina Ackermann has taken on the duties of managing editor and Deena Nenad has become associate editor."

"It was 10 of the weirdest months of my life," Fitzgerald, who became editor when McIntosh bought the magazine, told Journal-isms on Monday. "It was almost like working with a cult with these people. I got no clear explanation of why we got fired."

The company publishes several boating magazines and newspapers, "including Boating World magazine; Sea Magazine, America's Western Boating Magazine; The Log Newspaper; and FishRap. The company also produces the Newport Boat Show in the spring and the Lido Yacht Expo in the fall. Both shows are held in California," a news release said in January.

Editor & Publisher had gone out of business two weeks before McIntosh bought it. Its editor, Greg Mitchell, and star reporter, Joe Strupp, were not rehired. Strupp joined Media Matters for America, and Mitchell moved to the Nation magazine after the two collaborated on an "E&P in Exile" site while they awaited new jobs.

The revived E&P was a shadow of its former self, at least online. Each of the three editorial staffers worked from home, with Fitzgerald in Chicago and Moynihan and Rosenberg in the New York area. Still, Fitzgerald said, "I'm really proud of what we did . . . We had a good printed product and were were able to keep the website going fast and accurate. We were working 24/7."

Mark Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, an E&P employee for 26 years, did the lion's share of coverage of the black press and Latino issues, and wrote editorials supporting diversity, such as one from 2005 asking, "Newsroom Diversity: Was It Just a 1990s Ideal?" He is co-chair of the resolutions committee of the Inter American Press Association.

He said he did not know what he would do next because "I literally have been working 24/7. I just haven't had a moment to think about it."

Moynihan, managing editor and online editor, added in an e-mail he sent to interested parties on Monday, "I’m extremely proud of the work my team and I have done over the past seven years — especially over the past 10 months, with a downsized staff committed to preserving the editorial quality and integrity that E&P readers have come to expect. And we did just that."

Rosenberg agreed that the staff had been working so much that they hadn't had time to contemplate the future. But, he said, "It's hard to believe there is a future when you're in your 50s, in publishing and in a bad climate." Still, he said, "I'd like to stay in this business."

He and others called attention to this piece from the "new" E&P, "Politicians Spreading 'Swine' Flu," as an example of what we might expect.

McIntosh said in his memo:

"Editor & Publisher magazine will be utilizing more individuals for the print edition who are experts in their individual fields as opposed to reporters who track down experts and put the expert’s story into the writer’s words. Communications are also expected to improve over a department that previously was spread over four states and three time zones.

"E&P is completing a reader research project, results from that study will be available to the editors to assist in determining what subjects are of primary importance to readers and online visitors."

White House Stands by Bloggers

October 15, 2010

Online "Summit" Attendees Criticized for Breaking Rules

Uplifting, Yes, but Were 1,300 Journalists Needed?

O'Reilly's Ratings Rise After Dust-up on "The View"

"Journalist" Calls to Mind White Women, White Men on TV

Reporter, Photographer Injured in Rollover Crash

Talk-Show Host Cristina Now Says Univision Pulled the Plug

Essence.com Spotlights Lesbian Couple in Brides Feature

Esther Cepeda Signs With Washington Post Writers Group

Short Takes

 

President Obama, accompanied by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, stops by the African American online summit on Monday. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House) (Watch the smart-phone video).

Online "Summit" Attendees Accused of Breaking Rules

Except for the posting of a smart-phone video of President Obama greeting black bloggers and journalists — a video that found its way to the Drudge Report — the White House does not believe that ground rules for the Monday session were broken, according to the White House liaison for African American media.

Controversy over the meeting, which had gone virtually unreported in the mainstream media, increased late in the week after a Wednesday blog posting about the session by Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times. It began, "The White House is usually quite good at keeping a muzzle on the media after one of its off-the-record sessions with President Obama and senior members of his administration.

"But not this week."

Providing the meeting further notoriety, the Drudge Report and RealClearPolitics.com posted the blogger's smart-phone video under an identical headline: "Obama: Blacks Probably Don't Watch 'Meet the Press'."

What Obama actually said during his surprise visit to the online "summit" was, "The media is changing so rapidly. It allows us to reach audiences that may not be watching ‘Meet the Press’ — not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Meet the Press.’ I’m just saying that, you know, it might be a different demographic," prompting laughs from the group.

Kevin S. Lewis, director of African American media for the White House, told Journal-isms on Friday that the bloggers did not break the ground rules, save for the posting of the video. Under those rules, as Peters wrote, the first half of the briefings was to be on background, meaning they could report any information they learned but not attribute it to any specific official; the second half was off the record entirely.

But Lewis, defending the bloggers, said of the meeting, "We didn't make it a secret." He noted that the White House posted its own account of the session on Wednesday morning, complete with a list of attendees.

As reported on Monday, the session took place as the Democrats attempt to solidify their African American base for the midterm elections. Among the 20 Web workers who attended were representatives of theRoot.com, Black Entertainment Television, Essence, Jack & Jill Politics, City Limits, Concrete Loop, AOL Black Voices, Black America Web and even the gossipy MediaTakeOut.

The session prompted a range of opinions about its propriety and the choice of invitees.

"Tell anyone who reads MediaTakeout.com that the site was invited to the White House as part of its effort to 'broaden online engagement' with the black community and it will be at least 5 minutes before you can continue the conversation due to the laughter that will ensue," wrote J Danielle, identified as a professional speechwriter and media coach, on her Media Strut site.

"As a black woman and confirmed policy wonk, I can tell you, I don’t look to music and gossip blogs for thought leadership. It’s almost as if the White House decided that any blog or web site that is owned or read by black people would be sufficient."

But Cheryl Contee ("Jill Tubman"), blogging at Jack & Jill Politics, wrote, "Look, if black bloggers and black online media weren’t having a consistent impact in reaching people — if what we are trying to do wasn’t meaningful & important — no one would care what we did, when we did it and whether or not we did it at the White House. Naw mean? You could read this as an attempt to drive a wedge between increasingly effective and powerful black online forces and a new center of power at the White House. We can’t let that happen."

Introducing his observation with, "Oh my people," Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogging for the Atlantic, posted an excerpt from Peters' piece and said, "Insert your favorite line from 'The Poundcake Speech' [by Bill Cosby], 'The Ballot or the Bullet,' Ice Cube or Chris Rock," all of which offer advice on or criticism of some black behavior.

"Can't have an off-the-record convo. Why? Cause bloggers are videoing the president . . ."

On the "barbershop" segment of NPR's "Tell Me More" on Friday, columnist Ruben Navarrette said the president was playing "to the lowest common denominator in terms of the guest list," adding that "the real story" was, "What was the president thinking in reaching out to a bunch of people who are, frankly, probably beneath him and beneath the office?"

Bloggers who attended the session defended themselves — and acted to blunt the criticism.

"I took it upon myself to remove the video, solely due to certain media (who were not present at the Summit) who have publicly misconstrued the facts," Natasha Eubanks of TheYBF.com (for "The Young, Black and Fabulous") celebrity-gossip site wrote in a Twitter posting. "I refuse to give any ammunition in any way to those who have a negative agenda for such a positive event."

Angel Laws, editor of ConcreteLoop.com, another celebrity-gossip site, tweeted of Peters, "i hate the undertone of his article. he is basically saying we can't be trusted." She accused the reporter of not checking his facts and urged others to contact him.

In the comments section under Peters' article, some predictably accused Obama of being "racist" for meeting with black bloggers.

Also in that space, entrepreneurial journalist Mike Green, who is black, said Peters had buried the lead. He said it was this passage:

"The attention the meeting received in the black blogosphere highlighted the vast gap that remained between mainstream media outlets and ones focused at minority groups. Though the meeting occurred on Monday and had been a topic of discussion in black media circles for three days, it received virtually no attention in the mainstream press."

At the White House, Lewis defended the choice of guests, which he said was determined after "a collection of folks got together. We're reaching out to all Americans. People get their information from different places," he said. Lewis added that Peters had not contacted him for his article.

Obama held a session on Friday for members of the Trotter Group of African American columnists. The Journal-isms author, an 18-year member of the group, was disinvited when the White House cut the number of attendees from 18 to 10 and Trotter organizers said attendance would be limited to newspaper columnists and a founder. Thus, there is no firsthand report here.

Luis Urzua, the last of 33 miners to be rescued, left, sings the Chilean national anthem Wednesday with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. One critic calls the story "really just the flavor of the week."

Uplifting, Yes, but Were 1,300 Journalists Needed?

"The Chilean mine rescue was an 'uplifting and exciting' story in contrast to accounts of tragedy and woe that dominate the news, a top television executive said Thursday, explaining a rush to tell the tale in many formats," David Bauder wrote for the Associated Press.

"Already, there's a book deal about the rescue, a reality show about mining and a Discovery Channel special on the saga. Wednesday's quickie ABC News special on the rescue of the 33 miners, who were trapped underground for 69 days, drew the biggest audience the network has gotten in the time slot in 10 months."

There were cautionary voices.

" A big story and a great story, but does 1300 journalists covering the Chilean miners have anything to do with reality?" blogged Jeremy Littau, who teaches at Lehigh University and researches use of new media in journalism.

"The choice to shuttle all these resources to Chile does have an impact on what we cover at home. My former Mizzou colleague Lene Johansen posted a heart-wrenching story earlier this week about poverty in Philadelphia in the wake of the Great Recession. Heart-wrenching because of the details, but more so because this kind of thing isn’t on our radar everyday. Poor people don’t buy newspapers. Significant resources go to cover whatever shiny object the American consumption class will chase these days. The Chile miners story, while interesting and heart-warming, is really just the flavor of the week, another form of reality TV in the eyes of the business executives making the call of what resources to spend where."

In fact, James Robinson and Damian Carrington reported Wednesday in Britain's Guardian newspaper, "The BBC has spent so heavily on its coverage of the Chilean miners rescue it is being forced to reduce its coverage of other major events, including next month's G20 summit in Seoul and the Oscars.

"BBC News has sent 26 people to cover the dramatic rescue of the San José miners, pushing its annual budget far beyond its agreed limit."

"The viewership for Fox News and CNN more than doubled Wednesday night as the final miner was rescued, Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times on Thursday.

"The final rescue happened in prime time, ensuring a big audience. Between 8:16 and 9 p.m., when Fox News Channel pre-empted 'The O’Reilly Factor' for special coverage, the channel had a remarkably high audience, nearly 7.1 million in total.

"About 3 million people are usually watching Fox at that hour. Coverage of the final rescue earned Fox its biggest single audience since Election Day 2008."

O'Reilly's Ratings Rise After Dust-up on "The View"

"Bill O’Reilly regularly hosts the most watched show on cable news. Last night, after his appearance on 'The View,' he did even better than usual. O’Reilly had 1,107,000 viewers in the demo, and 4,165,000 total viewers," Steve Krakauer wrote Friday for Mediaite.

As David Bauder wrote Thursday for the Associated Press, "Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the stage of 'The View' during an argument with Bill O’Reilly over the proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The women objected to the Fox News Channel host saying that 'Muslims killed us on 9/11.'

"Barbara Walters criticized her co-hosts for walking off stage during the live show. But she said O’Reilly should make the distinction that extremists committed the terrorist act.

"Behar and Goldberg returned after O’Reilly said that 'if anyone felt that I was demeaning all Muslims, I apologize.' "

Krakauer added, "HLN had a strong night last night — with Joy Behar recapping her take on the O’Reilly argument. Behar was #2 at 9pmET in the demo."

"Journalist" Calls to Mind White Women, White Men on TV

Journalists of color don't come to mind when members of the public are asked to name the journalist or newsperson they most admire, at least according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Moreover, "Reflecting today’s fragmented news landscape, about half of the public offers no specific answer when asked to name the journalist or newsperson they most admire," the center said on Thursday. "No journalist is named by more than 5% of the public in response to an open-ended question. While individual mentions are few, the most frequently named journalists continue to include both network anchors and cable hosts. However, there are fewer mentions of network news journalists in the latest survey than in 2007, while mentions of cable news hosts and anchors have held about steady.

"Among individual journalists, Diane Sawyer is mentioned by 5%, Katie Couric by 4%, Bill O’Reilly by 3% and Glenn Beck by 3%. The differences in the percentages mentioning these news figures are not statistically significant."

As with the inclusion of O'Reilly and Beck, the rest of the list indicates an elastic definition of "journalist." Next are Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity, Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, Jon Stewart, Brit Hume, Keith Olbermann, Greta Van Susteren, Matt Lauer and "other."

Reporter, Photographer Injured in Rollover Crash

Neki MohanIn Fort Lauderdale, Fla., "Local 10 reporter Neki Mohan and photojournalist David Silver were taken to the hospital Friday when the news van they were riding in was involved in a rollover crash," the journalists' employers, WPLG-TV, reported.

"The crash happened around 9 a.m. on Sixth Street and Third Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

"Police said Silver was attempting to do a U-turn on Sixth Street when an SUV headed east hit the news van's driver's side, flipping it.

" 'It was very, very scary. I didn't see it coming. The truck flipped. I immediately just looked to David and just looked to see if he was OK,' Neki said via phone from the hospital Friday afternoon. 'They had to cut us out through the windshield.'

"The crew was going to cover a story at the time of the crash. . . .

"Silver was cited for the incident."

Talk-Show Host Cristina Now Says Univision Pulled the Plug

Cristina Saralegui"When Spanish-language television network Univisión announced last summer that talk queen Cristina Saralegui's program was ending after 20 years, she said it was 'the perfect time to retire the show.' Now she says it was anything but: Univisión unceremoniously pulled the plug," Bridget Carey reported Wednesday in the Miami Herald.

"Often called 'the Spanish Oprah,' the 62-year-old host and journalist told The Miami Herald she was saddened that she couldn't 'retire with respect' after the network told her they didn't want to continue the show.

" 'It was so very unexpected the way it was handled; it was so nasty,' Saralegui said in an interview Wednesday. 'It has to do with creative control with the show.'

"Saralegui, a 12-time Emmy Award winner and executive producer of the show, announced in August that her final episode would be Nov. 1. That final episode has already been taped, but Saralegui says she didn't expect to be wrapping up production for another three years. She was surprised when Univisión officials told her they wanted her to end it and have her host specials.

" 'I said, "Are you firing me?" They said, "No, we just want to put this show to bed," ' Saralegui said.

"Univisión officials, told of her comments, didn't answer them directly."

Aisha Mills and Danielle Moodie became one of the first same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license in the District of Columbia. (Credit: Craig Paulson Photography)

Essence.com Spotlights Lesbian Couple in Brides Feature

Essence.com showcased its first lesbian couple in the site's "Bridal Bliss" feature on Wednesday. The couple married on Long Island, N.Y., last month.

Aisha Mills, a public affairs consultant, and Danielle Moody, an environmental lobbyist, secured their marriage license in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage became legal this year. Their story began:

"When Aisha's dear friend Rashad accepted a job in NYC, he invited her and another close friend over to help him pack and reflect on his life in Washington D.C. But when Danielle walked through the door, Aisha put down the cardboard boxes and the packing tape and focused on the vision of love in front of her. It was love at first sight.

"Danielle and I sat in Rashad's window sill and talked about our lives for hours," Aisha remembers.

"Six and a half years later, Aisha and Danielle continue their conversation of love."

Esther Cepeda Signs With Washington Post Writers Group

Esther J. CepedaBeing laid off in January 2008 as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times didn't mean that Esther J. Cepeda would stop writing.

She produced "600 Words" even as she took day jobs, and this week it paid off: Cepeda was signed as a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.

"I, for one, think Cepeda can be a game-changer much as Ellen Goodman was when her column first went into national syndication back in the 1970s," James Hill, managing editor of the writers group, wrote on Tuesday.

"Esther is the daughter of immigrants (from Ecuador and Mexico) who took blue-collar jobs to raise their family with the hope for a better life. Her first language was Spanish, yet she self-taught herself English by watching 'Sesame Street' and looking at the many newspapers her parents kept around the house.

"Cepeda is a journalism graduate of Southern Illinois University, and has taken graduate courses at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where she studied in the Integrated Marketing Communications program. She also spent two years as a public school teacher, and holds a master's degree in education.

"In everything she has done, Esther J. Cepeda exemplifies the American experience. She's got a great story to share with her readers, and I think she'll make quite the contribution — in ways that surprise you — to the great American debate. We're excited. Welcome aboard, Esther."

Short Takes

  • Voting ends Sunday in "New U," a Ford Foundation-funded program for journalists of color who want to become entrepreneurs. Sixteen participants attended two-day "boot camps" over the summer to learn business skills and how to pitch ideas to mentors and financial experts. Pitches were video recorded, and Unity: Journalists of Color is asking members to vote (http://unityjournalists.org/NewU) for the best business concept. As of 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Doug Mitchell, co-project director, just under 7,500 total votes had been cast. [The figure rose to 9,300 at 5:15 p.m] The Asian American Journalists Association had the highest number of total votes cast per group. The total cast for Native American Journalists Association entries are slightly lower than those entered for the National Association of Black Journalists, though NABJ has the largest membership base. Winning entries among each group each receive $5,000 in seed money for their business.

  • "Ines Sainz, a reporter for TV Azteca in Mexico, said Thursday that she's ready to go back to work after taking a month off to rebound from the ordeal that led to an NFL investigation," Kevin Armstrong reported Friday for the New York Daily News. "I'm not going into the locker rooms anymore," Sainz said. "It's not a good place right now for me. I don't want to be in there."

  • A poll by the Society for Human Resource Management shows mostly encouraging news about diversity in the workplace despite an economic downturn that forced cuts in many human-resource practices. It showed increases in the percentage of companies that provide training on diversity issues, the number of organizations that have a diverse board of directors and the percentage of organizations that said their diversity practices were very or somewhat effective. "At the same time, the percentage of organizations that have workplace diversity practices — recruiting and retention strategies, and community outreach, among others — declined," the organization said on Thursday, attributing the decrease to budget cuts stemming from the recession.

  • "Reporter Gustavo Martinez reports from the federal courthouse in Scranton, PA that the jury in the hate crime trial against Derrick Donchak, 20, and Brandon Piekarsky, 18, found both young men guilty of a hate crime," Marisa Treviño reported Thursday for her Latina Lista blog. "Donchak was also found guilty of aiding and abetting and conspiring a cover-up after the beating." Treviño was raising funds to help Martinez cover the trial, which involved the unprovoked attack and murder of an immigrant in the country illegally.

  • "CNN's Spanish-language channel CNN en Español, a major television player in Latin America but a laggard in the United States, has announced a programming and marketing makeover aimed at boosting its U.S. audience," Glenn Garvin reported last week for the Miami Herald. "Over the next nine months, CNN en Español will replace almost a third of its programs, remake its on-air look and offer up separate schedules for the United States, Mexico and the rest of Latin America, network executives said at a Miami press conference."

  • Anqoinette Crosby is joining the Washington Post as its Anqoinette Crosbyfirst anchor and on-camera reporter for washingtonpost.com. "She will be leading the launch of Post Now Video Cast that will present latest news and interesting features from the Post multiple times each day. She will also be enhancing our live video coverage and producing original video content for the web," Post editors announced. "Her previous reporting and producing assignments include a 6-year stint as the consumer reporter at PBS' MotorWeek where she created a popular car lifestyles segment called 'Gear.' "

  • CNN has been holding community screenings of "Almighty Debt — A Black in America Special," which debuts Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time. "CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien reports for a 90-minute documentary investigation into the creatively proactive ways an African-American faith community in addressing its challenges during the national economic crisis," CNN says. Screenings were to take place in Houston, New York, Washington and Somerset, N.J., co-sponsored by Comcast, Ford, Houston Style magazine and the Washington Informer.

  • In New York, "Media mogul K. [Rupert] Murdoch on Thursday decried the 'ongoing war against the Jews' and demanded an end to efforts to isolate Israel," Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported. "Accepting an award from the Anti-Defamation League for his support of Israel, Murdoch described the phenomenon of delegitimizing Israel as a 'soft war' which he said has now entered a 'new phase.' " Speech.

  • The second most viewed video in the blogosphere from Oct. 4 to Oct. 8, with more than 958,000 views, was a radio clip of (now former) CNN host Rick Sanchez calling Daily Show host Jon Stewart a bigot during an interview on a SiriusXM talk show, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "The interview, which also included comments perceived by some to be anti-Semitic, eventually led to Sanchez's dismissal at CNN," and an apology from Sanchez to Stewart.

  • In Uganda, "Bwekumbule Frank, a reporter with the Masaka-based Top Radio, has survived being lynched by a mob as he was covering the demolition of a house," the Toronto-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House reported on Wednesday. "There is an escalation of mob justice against journalists in this particular part of the country," according to the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda.

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Comments

Spurned Black Columnists

The hullabaloo within the Trotter Group, seemingly caused by the sudden misdirection of the White House in changing its invitation to the group from 40 to 16 to 18 to 10, appears to have been exacerbated by the collaboration of a couple of cohorts at the top of the Trotter group's leadership.

The chronicle of the events as they played out, and the opinions expressed by the spurned columnists, suggest the leaders in the White House and those in the Trotter Group made decisions based upon ulterior motives. Whether that is true cannot be known, given the secretive manner in which the decisions were made by both sets of leaders.

I find this situation extremely disheartening.

Perhaps the next time I receive an email from "Barack Obama" explaining why I need to send a few dollars to the DNC, I could respond with a check specifically to be used toward a White House renovation that would enable our president to accommodate a meeting of 40 people.

Trotter Group's : Loss of Integrity

I have followed the ugly saga surrounding the meeting of select Black journalists in the Trotter Group who met with President Obama.

It appears the influence of politics and petty envy contributed to the exclusion of some Trotter Group Journalists from meeting President Obama.

I am truly disheartened that some of the most important media interests of the Black community in this perilous era of our nation's history cannot elevate above the pettiness of personality and politics of the white house. By way of disclosure I was personally upset to read that Richard Prince as not on the short list.

There is nothing of value that could come out of this nonsense the entire Black community has not been served by this display of the Trotter Group. The politics of the white house should never be a conduit by any media interests certainly not by Black Journalists given our legacy and reality in AMERICA!!!

Trotter Group Meeting with President Obama

As noted on Facebook, I had to decline the invitation because of the imminent death of my mentor, who did pass away before the meeting. That said, if I had made the initial list (it was first-come, first-serve), I would have been among the disinvited.

I, too, am concerned about the lack of transparency in the selection process. While questions about whether the White House handpicked the participants are troubling, I doubt the co-founders of The Trotter Group would allow themselves to be so compromised.

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