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St. Louis Teen's Killing Raises Newsroom Diversity Issue

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Editor Says Inclusion Could Increase Community Contacts

13 Editors Go on Record About Diversity in Their Newsrooms

Do Latinos Dance in Costume to the Polls?


Jesse Jackson Defends Rights Groups on Net Neutrality

Don't Know Much About . . . Geography


NFL's Kansas City Chiefs Reach Out to Tribes

 
After 49 Years, S. African's Remains to Return Home

Lester Holt Jams With the Roots on "The Tonight Show"


Short Takes

Mike Brown Sr., in "No Justice" T-shirt, told Sharon Reed of KMOV-TV that the world was just getting to know his son, a child he raised alongside Michael’s mother, Leslie McSpadden, in foreground. (video)

Editor Says Inclusion Could Increase Community Contacts

The fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man in a St. Louis suburb, followed by looting and burning by angry protesters, led to a national social media campaign protesting the media images of black men, a quickly published editorial by the city's black newspaper and an acknowledgement by an editor at the city's major daily that more diversity on the staff could help the paper cover what he called a "huge story."

"We're pretty much doing blanket coverage. The biggest difficulty for us is trying to cover the investigation itself and the bigger issues out there and what it means and the violence," Adam Goodman, a deputy managing editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told Journal-isms by telephone. The looting and the police response to anger at the killing of Michael Brown, put the paper to the test. They happened between editions on Sunday, he said.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

"For us," Goodman added, "the next thing is to try to get to the bottom of exactly what happened" to cause Brown's death. Police and a friend who accompanied Brown have offered conflicting accounts.

The Post-Dispatch has deployed 12 to 15 reporters, plus at least an additional half-dozen photographers and videographers on the story, Goodman said.

Readers have at least 16 or 17 "different entry points" to it, he said, and the front page for Tuesday, as the one Monday, is to be completely be given over to the story of Brown's killing and its aftermath, save for some referrals to stories inside.

Goodman said two of the reporters are black journalists: Denise Hollinshed, who was covering police on Saturday night, when the shooting occurred, and Koran Addo, who normally covers higher education. According to the annual diversity census by the American Society of News Editors, the Post-Dispatch newsroom is 7.1 percent black, while U.S. Census figures put the city of St. Louis at 49.29 percent black and St. Louis County at 23.7 percent black.

Two white journalists, reporter Steve Giegerich and photographer David Carson, were assaulted by a predominantly black crowd, Carson as he was photographing looters.

Goodman is supervising the newsroom while top editor Gilbert Bailon is away, driving back from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in San Antonio.

Goodman said he would not attribute the attacks to race, noting that police did not like journalists, either. But, he said, "Certainly, it is unfortunate that our numbers are not higher in that regard." Asked to elaborate, he said, "In terms of sourcing and getting out in the community and talking to people. It was a dangerous scene last night. It doesn't matter who it was. Unfortunately it was pretty unpredictable." But having more black journalists might mean "better ideas on following up, and just in terms of ideas and coverage."

He said the newsroom has been hiring about two people a month through the summer to fill vacancies. In May, Columbia Journalism Review reported that the Post-Dispatch has sustained more than 230 buyouts or layoffs since 2008, according to Paper Cuts, a website tracking newspaper layoffs which is run by former P-D staffer Erica Smith.

The Post-Dispatch has not had a black local-news columnist since 2009, when Sylvester Brown Jr. was fired. Brown succeeded the late and popular Gregory Freeman, who died in 2002. Brown wrote about the shooting on his blog.

Goodman spoke as KSDK-TV, the NBC affiliate, was broadcasting live one of several news conferences relating to the events. The stations' websites posted video of appearances by police officials, family representatives and community members and live streamed police activity.

As Jim Shur and David A. Lieb reported Monday for the Associated Press:

"A black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer had his hands raised when the officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly, according to two men who said they witnessed the shooting that sparked two nights of unrest in suburban St. Louis.

"The FBI opened an investigation Monday into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after being confronted by an officer in Ferguson, a suburb of 21,000 that's nearly 70 percent black.

"Authorities in Ferguson used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse a large crowd Monday night that had gathered at the site of a burned-out convenience store damaged a night earlier, when many businesses in the area were looted.. . ."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, leader of the National Action Network who is also the host of MSNBC's "PoliticsNation," announced that the family had asked him to come to the area to help them in the investigation of Brown's death. He said he would do so.

The St. Louis American, an award-winning black weekly, posted an editorial Monday that said, "Our reporter Bridjes O'Neil reports from the streets the immediately relevant fact that the riot last night was partly incited by outsiders. We believe the public attention being turned away from the police shooting an unarmed teen toward an angry community boiling over was in part manipulated by people who do not have the best interests of our community at heart."

The editorial also said, "In North St. Louis County, it also must be said, decades of disinvestment have left many youth with a feeling of hopelessness and an absence of opportunities. The ugly image of teens looting local stores is an all-too-familiar image that results when high-tension crisis meets grinding poverty.

The newspaper urged the community "to channel its anger more productively than what transpired on the streets last night. However many frustrated teens and ill-willed opportunists may have turned to senseless violence last night, we know that the majority of our community wants justice, not more violence.

"While we believe agitators are partly responsible for making a matter of justice into a racially charged crisis, our community remains deeply convinced that Michael Brown is dead today because he was African American. . . ."

Chris King, the American's editorial director, told Journal-isms by telephone that he believed the outsiders included some white people "who would like it to be a story of black people tearing up their own community" instead of a black teenager killed by police. He attributed the agitation to both the far left and the far right.

King said he had asked several community members to write pieces for the American to augment its relatively small reporting staff. The paper was also making use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media to give the American's reports immediacy, and he and other staff members were being interviewed by the national media.

In June, the American won the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm/Senstacke Trophy for general excellence for the third consecutive year.

The Post-Dispatch also spoke to black complaints. Under the headline, "Michael Brown and the disparity of due process," the daily editorialized, "In Ferguson, the city where Michael died, the police in 2013 pulled over blacks at a 37 percent higher rate than whites compared to their relative populations. Black drivers were twice as likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested compared to white drivers.

"Those statistics don't prove racial profiling.

"But those numbers plus a dead young man in the street make a strong case for deserving a closer look."

Nationally, African Americans on social media used the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown to demonstrate how they said the news media portrays black men in the worst light.

"Black users shared pictures of themselves at their best — in uniforms or caps and gowns — juxtaposed with images that would garner less sympathy and perhaps paint more tawdry pictures of their lives," Soraya Nadia McDonald wrote Monday for the Washington Post.

Citing Geraldo Rivera's 2012 statement that "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was," McDonald wrote, "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown isn't just demanding that people like Geraldo see past clothing. It's questioning if it's possible for people, especially young black men, to live their lives online without worry that an innocent photo of them gettin' gully at a party will somehow become re-appropriated as evidence of black thuggery. . . .

"The entire nation may now judge whether a victim was a good kid or deserved to be shot. The hashtag asks if black teens have the same right as others to make mistakes — to do dumb things and post about it on Facebook or clown around with their friends — without becoming branded in perpetuity."

BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, right, interviews Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,

13 Editors Go on Record About Diversity in Their Newsrooms

Asked "What do you consider 'diversity'," Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, replied, "I think I've been persuaded of a definition by my colleague Shani Hilton: It's important to hire in a way that doesn't oblige people to represent their own identity internally or externally. Ideally, that means that you have enough, say, black or Hispanic or Mormon staff writers that, far from representing some monolithic viewpoint, they can disagree with one another about any given thing. Conversely, we do try to have a newsroom where people can choose to write about their identities in a direct way, and where the subjects of identity and diversity aren't taboo."

Smith was one of 13 top editors asked by his publication how they think about diversity in their newsrooms. The answers were reported Monday by BuzzFeed staffers Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton.

To the question "How is the issue of diversity in the newsroom addressed by your publication or by you specifically?" Julia Turner, editor-in-chief of Slate, replied, "We’re addressing the issue head-on. We convened a working group on the issue last fall that resulted in a big shift: We began paying all of our interns. This required some adjustments to the budget, but we thought it was important to be able to attract candidates who couldn't afford to take a free internship.

"We've also over the past few months initiated a review of our hiring practices. At one meeting on the subject, the staffers present went around the room and explained how they'd come to Slate. Of those present, all of the white staffers had found out about their positions through their networks: friends, connections, forwarded email listings. All of the people of color had seen a public listing posted on our site, a job board, or social media. That was striking to us, and has caused us to rethink how we are writing job listings and where we are posting them."

The article explained, "We reached out to the editors at some of the top publications — magazines, newspapers, and websites — and asked them six questions concerning their handling of racial diversity in their newsrooms. This is the second part of a two-part project, the first of which focused on journalists of color.

"Of the 33 publications we reached out to, we received responses from 13, including BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief, Ben Smith: The Guardian, The New York Observer, Politico, New York Magazine, Vice, The New Republic, Vox, the Washington Post, Slate, ThinkProgress, The New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times."

BuzzFeed was honored Saturday for its diversity work at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention.

The New York Times’ Upshot blog

Do Latinos Dance in Costume to the Polls?

"Just when we thought we would stop bringing up the fact that The New York Times' Upshot blog has a serious 'Latino problem' when it comes to presenting stories about U.S. Latinos, along comes this," the Latino Rebels site reported on Monday.

Referring to the accompanying photo of Latinos in costume for the annual Hispanic Day parade Latino Rebels also said, "That image, taken last year in October, is the only photo included in a political analysis piece by Lynn Vavreck entitled, 'It's Not Too Late for Republicans to Win Latino Votes.' Vavreck's piece is somewhat serious and her conclusion is nothing shocking (Republicans are not that popular with U.S. Latinos), but the photo of people dancing and laughing in traditional Colombian folkloric costumes sends the same old stale and insulting message the mainstream media continues to perpetuate: U.S. Latinos are 'foreign,' 'exotic' and live in some surreal Carmen Miranda alternative universe.

"And you HAVE to love the caption:

"The Hispanic Day parade last October in New York. The political clout of Latino voters in the United States, although weaker on the congressional level than raw numbers would suggest, is increasing.

"Talk about a non sequitur. . . ."

Jesse Jackson Defends Rights Groups on Net Neutrality

"Over the last few weeks, almost all of the nation's leading national civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, National Urban League, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), LULAC and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, have been unfairly attacked by progressive and conservative media outlets for their stance on the Federal Communications Commission's open Internet proceeding," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a statement on Monday.

"One blog post went as far as to suggest that national civil rights organizations are acting as 'shills' and 'sell outs' to the interests of large corporations. As a leader of one of the civil rights groups under attack, I find these labels to be highly offensive, inciting and creating deeper divisions between social justice groups and advocates who are working toward the same goals of social justice. . . ."

John Eggerton explained for Multichannel News, "Various civil rights groups have come out in support of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to use existing authority to advance universal broadband service (so-called Sec. 706 authority) to justify new network neutrality regulations. That is the position advocated by most [Internet service providers], at least as a preferable to the alternative.

"That has prompted some of the most passionate advocates of that alternative — reclassifying Internet access under some Title II common carrier authority — to suggest those diversity groups are simply parroting the big media line.

"Those groups argue that Sec. 706 is a way to get the rules returned without discouraging the innovation and investment that could benefit minority and small businesses. . . ."

Don't Know Much About . . . Geography

"On Wednesday, Twitter users started posting pictures of a mislabeled map that was broadcast by CNN. The network, attempting to portray the countries that had cases of Ebola, had mistaken Niger for Nigeria," Rick Noack wrote Aug. 6 for the Washington Post.

Noack also wrote, "While CNN's on-air mislabeling sparked a major backlash on Twitter, many Americans might not have noticed the flawed map. On Friday, in honor of the U.S.-African Leaders Summit taking place in D.C. this week, The Washington Post published a quiz that asked readers to find countries from the African continent on a map.

"According to data from more than 40,000 respondents, the countries were identified correctly less than half of the time. . . ."

NFL's Kansas City Chiefs Reach Out to Tribes

"The fight is approaching in the distance, and the Chiefs have found a friend," Sam Mellinger reported Thursday for the Kansas City Star, referring to his city's NFL team. "This is smart business, and with the right breaks can be something more important."

Last week, Mellinger reported, John Learned, president and CEO of the American Indian Center of the Great Plains in Kansas City, and Gena Timberman, an advisory member of Learned’s group, were among those who met or spoke via conference call with Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan and senior vice president of business operations Bill Chapin at Arrowhead Stadium. 

" 'We're looking at this as a way to make it a better experience for everybody,' Donovan says.

"At the risk of oversimplifying a complicated and sensitive issue, there's a worthwhile example with the war drum used by the Chiefs at home games.

"There's a chance you haven't given that drum a second thought. The Chiefs brought it back when 'opening' the renovated stadium four years ago as part of a challenge from Donovan to reconnect with some old traditions. As it turned out, they found the actual drum used at Municipal Stadium. They've had celebrities like George Brett and Tom Watson bang the drum to get fans going on game day.

"Well, the war drum represents something very different than crowd hype to a lot of American Indians. The Chiefs didn't mean to offend anyone with this, of course. They just didn't know. They could have used some guidance, and this is one of the points Learned made to Donovan and Chapin.

" 'I told Mark, "I could've helped you with this," ' Learned says.

"Learned suggested the Chiefs go to a local tribe, with respect, and ask for a real drum to be made. Bring that drum to Arrowhead. Have a blessing. Show your fans this is something very sacred to Indians. Help them understand why you're doing this. Have men from the tribe come in and play a real hymn and sing.

" 'I think a lot of Natives would embrace that, because you came to us and asked a good way of doing it and your fans would learn something,' Learned says. 'We would like to teach about our culture. The Chiefs have the opportunity to teach this, and everybody wins. … The Chiefs are making money off Native American icons. So, yes, it's a two-way street.' . . ."

South African journalist Nat Nakasa, a prolific young black voice, exposed the d

After 49 Years, S. African's Remains to Return Home

"On a July morning nearly half a century ago, Nat Nakasa, a black South African living in exile in New York, plummeted from a seventh-story window on Central Park West and 102nd Street in Manhattan, suffering multiple fractures and internal injuries," Daniel Massey wrote in a 3,100-word reconstruction of Nakasa's odyssey for the Sunday New York Times. "He was pronounced dead on arrival at Knickerbocker Hospital in Harlem. Mr. Nakasa was 28 years old.

"Just 10 months earlier, he had left his home country to take a Nieman journalism fellowship at Harvard University. Because he wrote articles the apartheid government abhorred, officials denied him a passport. They offered an exit permit — a one-way ticket out of the country — daring him to renounce his South African citizenship.

" 'If I shall leave this country and decide not to come back,' he wrote in 1964, 'it will be because of a desire to avoid perishing in my own bitterness — a bitterness born of being reduced to a second-class citizen.'

"With key leaders of the liberation movement, including Nelson Mandela, sent to prison, and the government cracking down on writers, Mr. Nakasa chose the exit permit. In his final column for The Rand Daily Mail, 'A Native of Nowhere,' he wrote of 'taking a grave step' and becoming 'a stateless person, a wanderer.'

"Less than a year later, he was dead.

"The apartheid government wouldn't allow his body to return home, so Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, the South African musicians then living in the New York area, and the photographer Peter Magubane collected funds from South African exiles and buried Mr. Nakasa at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., just feet from where Malcolm X had been laid to rest five months earlier.

"In the decades since, apartheid fell and Mr. Mandela became South Africa's first black president. As the country has struggled to heal vast social and economic scars left by minority rule, a reminder of that wretched past remains buried in the soil in New York.

"Over the years, journalists and Mr. Nakasa's family have tried to bring his remains back to South Africa, but bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of funds have stymied them. Now, with the country celebrating its 20th anniversary of freedom, with the 50th anniversary of Mr. Nakasa's death approaching, and with a 2013 biography generating renewed interest in his story, he is finally headed home. . . ."

Lester Holt, in foreground, performs with the Roots on the Aug. 6 edition of "Th

Lester Holt Jams With the Roots on "The Tonight Show"

"I can't tell you how many times I've walked down the 6th floor hallway of 30 Rock and heard The Roots rehearsing behind closed doors just outside 'The Tonight Show' studio, wishing I could muster the nerve to walk in, hang out and watch," Lester Holt, weekend NBC News anchor, wrote Thursday for the network. "Or maybe (dare I dream) even jam with them.

"Well, Wednesday night was that night and a whole lot more. It began last week with an email saying: 'The Roots would love to have you sit-in with them during a taping of 'The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.' My reply was an emphatic YES!

"As many of our viewers know, my other passion aside from news is music. I’ve played the bass, both guitar and upright, since I was a kid, and from time to time I have been able to combine my passions. Most recently I was invited to perform a few impromptu songs on stage at The Newport Jazz Festival while I was doing a story on its 60th anniversary for 'Nightly News.'

"Performing with The Roots, however, was something entirely different. . . ."

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 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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