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Unity Closes Its Board Meetings

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Coalition Made Little-Known Decision in April

Jose Vargas Arrested for Driving Without License

Journalists of Color Not in Ratings-Winning Coverage

. . . Obama Answers Questions from Indian Country

. . . Lehrer Defends "Backing Off" During Debate

. . . Romney Threat to Lay Off Big Bird Is Most TiVo'd

. . . Making a Brief for the Angry Black Person

New Brides Editor Called Right Person at Right Time

McCormick Foundation Gives $6 Million for News Literacy

Short Takes

At the Unity '12 convention in Las Vegas in August, student journalist Nadia Khan interviews board member Rebecca  Aguilar of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists before being evicted. (Credit: Storify by NABJ Digital)

Coalition Made Little-Known Decision in April

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists reversed itself over the summer after its president ruled that a student journalist could not tweet from its board meetings. But Unity Journalists, the alliance of Hispanic, Asian American, Native American and lesbian and gay journalists, is no longer allowing such a student even to attend its meetings. Nor can members of the Unity groups.

As the Unity board prepared to meet this weekend at Gannett Co. headquarters in McLean, Va., Joanna Hernandez, Unity board president, disclosed that Unity had taken the action earlier this year.

"At the April 2012 UNITY board meeting, the board voted to close board meetings, unless the UNITY board votes to open the meeting. This was done because members of the alliances have a right to hear the outcome of the meeting before it is reported publicly," Hernandez said by email.

There was no announcement in April of the new policy, which permits only board members, staff and officers of Unity and the alliance groups to attend unless the board votes otherwise. [Hernandez messaged on Saturday morning, "the UNITY board did not vote to open the meeting."]

Hernandez did not disclose the vote on the April motion, which she said was made by David Steinberg, then-president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, who headed Unity's governance committee.

NAHJ faced significant blowback in August when its board asked a reporter for the student convention news operation to stop reporting its board meeting and leave the room. The UNITY News reporter had been assigned to live tweet the board's discussions, held in Las Vegas at the Unity Journalists conference. Media blogger Jim Romenesko began a report on the eviction with, "This is incredible."

Then-president Michele Salcedo told members the board was justified in banning reporters from tweeting from its meeting because "we're not a government entity" and "we're not required to be open to the public."

"We are happy to have members present, but having reporters present is a whole different ball of wax," Salcedo said.

However, Salcedo was in the last days of her term, and on its first day on the job, the new NAHJ board voted 6-5 to reverse the previous board's policy.

At a board meeting the same day of the Asian American Journalists Association, AAJA National President Doris Truong was asked if live tweeting were permitted. "Of course we allow live tweeting," Truong responded. "We're not in China."

The National Association of Black Journalists has allowed — even encouraged — tweeting and reporting from its board meetings. Benét J. Wilson of NABJ noted on Twitter that she began tweeting from the NABJ board meetings in October 2010, and board members have attempted to use Skype to expand the audience for the meetings.

Unity reversed itself last year after it decided to keep secret the votes of board members to admit the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association to the coalition. NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. called that decision "a prime example" of the lack of accountability that helped drive NABJ away from Unity.

"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."

On the Unity board's agenda is the election of officers who, some of the candidates say, plan to make the return of NABJ to Unity their top priority. Unlike with the individual associations, Unity board members are appointed by the association presidents, not elected by members.

Jose Antonio Vargas' crusade on behalf of immigrants in the country illegally la

Jose Vargas Arrested for Driving Without License

"Reporter Jose [Antonio] Vargas was arrested Friday morning by Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Police and charged with driving without a valid driver's license, a misdemeanor," Beth Hawkins reported Friday for MinnPost.

"A native of the Philippines, Vargas is best known for his June 2011 New York Times essay, 'My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,' in which he described the steps he is forced to take to work in the United States, where he has lived since 1993, when he was 12.

". . . It's unclear why Vargas was stopped. He is scheduled to appear in Hennepin County District Court Oct. 18.

"His arrest here on a traffic violation is newsworthy because the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, which operates the county jail, participates in Secure Communities, a Bush administration initiative to secure local law enforcement cooperation in reporting undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. . . .

"In marked contrast to the way most undocumented immigrants have been handled during Sheriff Rich Stanek's tenure, Vargas was released at 1:34 Friday afternoon.

"Among the steps Vargas enumerated in his Times piece were his efforts to secure a valid driver's license, something he eventually managed to do in Oregon."

However, Washington state canceled Vargas' license in July 2011 "because he could not prove that he lived in the state when he obtained it, as required by law," Lornet Turnbull reported then for the Seattle Times. ". . . He obtained a Washington driver's license weeks before his Oregon license was to expire on his 30th birthday earlier this year."

Vargas wrote at the time on his Define American website, ". . . Last night I learned that my driver's license from the state of Washington is being revoked. It's not unexpected, given how I laid out in detail how I've been able to live, work and survive as an undocumented immigrant in our country. Still, it's a sad feeling. In some ways, my driver's license has been my life line.

". . . I am sorry that I broke our laws in order to get a driver's license. As parents tell their children, "a license is a privilege." Losing that privilege is part of my facing up to what I've done. However, I believe it is a small price to pay relative to the big things we're going to do, together."

Vargas tweeted Friday night, "Thank you to everyone for your support. I am fine."

Journalists of Color Not in Ratings-Winning Coverage

"Final Nielsen ratings are in for Wednesday's many broadcasts of the first presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney — and not only do they reveal a new winner, gross viewership broke a 32-year record," Michael O'Connell reported Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter.

The New Yorker released a sneak preview of next week’s cover, 'One on One,' by BHowever, journalists of color were not part of the coverage that gathered all of those eyeballs, although analysts of color such as Al Sharpton on MSNBC, Van Jones on CNN and Donna Brazile on ABC were.

Juan Williams of Fox News appeared later Wednesday on Sean Hannity's "Hannity" but was not part of the special debate coverage. Roland Martin of CNN was on the  morning show "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien." Eugene Robinson, the Washington Post columnist who appears on MSNBC, told Journal-isms by email, "I was on at 5 pm and again doing post-debate at midnight. I was in Denver with the Chris Matthews/Hardball crew, which does pre-event and post-event commentary, generally. At least, that has been the pattern with the conventions and the first debate. I was not involved in the New York-based coverage that began at 7 pm and ended at midnight."

Gwen Ifill, a black journalist, co-anchored PBS' coverage of the debate with Judy Woodruff, but the noncommercial PBS is not part of the ratings report. The reports did not include the Spanish-language networks.

O'Connell's story continued, "Across broadcast and cable networks carrying the 90-minute debate, Nielsen reports that 67.2 million viewers watched the debate in homes. No first round debate has hit that high of a number since President Jimmy Carter went up against Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980 for 80.6 million viewers. (Subsequent second and third round debates have topped last night's haul.)

"Despite initial bragging rights to NBC News and this afternoon's cable returns from Fox News Channel, the biggest take among total viewers and the adults 25-54 demo goes to ABC. ABC News' coverage of the debate pulled 11.25 million viewers, 4.65 million of which were in the key demo. All three of the broadcast networks' — ABC, NBC, CBS — final numbers eclipse their cable competition (CNN and MSNBC), where FNC still maintains its healthy win."

Meanwhile, commentators and other debate watchers weighed in on Obama's lackluster performance and Romney's aggressive one, but fact-checkers were also at work. Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS was criticized as ineffectual and failing to ask questions of particular concern to people of color.

. . . Obama Answers Questions from Indian Country

"Claiming that his record shows he is more committed than his opponent in the upcoming presidential election to serving Indian country, President Barack Obama has answered questions about some of the major issues facing American Indian citizens and tribes today," Rob Capriccioso reported Thursday for the Indian Country Today Media Network.

" '[With me] as president, you have a voice in the White House,' he tells Indian Country Today Media Network. 'We're moving forward, but there's more work to do. But we are seeing a turning point in the relationship between our nations, and ultimately our relationship is not just a matter of legislation or a matter of policy. It's a matter of whether we're going to live up to our basic values.'

"Not only is this the first time President Obama has done a Q&A with the American Indian press, it is believed to be the first time a sitting president of the United States has conducted such an interview with Native media. It's a first that aligns with the image Obama has worked hard to cultivate in Indian country.

"Adopted as 'One Who Helps People Throughout the Land' when he was campaigning for president on the Crow Nation reservation in May 2008, he has since hired several Native American staffers, held three annual tribal summits and taken administrative action on multiple long-standing trust and water settlements. He has also supported and signed pro-tribal legislation, including the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership [HEARTH] Act. His record has pleased many tribal leaders; some hail him as one of the best presidents for Indian country in recent history. . . ."

. . . Lehrer Defends "Backing Off" During Debate

Debate moderator Jim Lehrer, the object of criticism for letting the presidential candidates "roll over" him on Wednesday, answered back Friday in a series of interviews.

"Everybody is welcome to criticize my questions, or anything else I did," Lehrer, 78, told Gail Shister of TVNewser. "I have no problem with that. I knew, going in, this was not going to be easy. What the hell. … The next debate, people will tweet, tweet, tweet all over again. That's terrific."

Shister wrote, "Despite being constantly interrupted and talked over, Lehrer pronounced the new debate format — featuring 15-minute, wide-open segments for the candidates to directly address each other – a success.

" 'The format worked,' he says. 'These guys were really talking to each other. Presidential candidates had never done that before. People, including the candidates, and including me, were used to a more controlled format, with two-minute answers. . . ."

Lehrer told Paul Farhi of the Washington Post, "It was frustrating as it began happening, when they didn't answer the questions directly and they went over time. But I kept reminding myself: 'Hey, wait a minute. Waaait a minute. This isn't about rules. This is about the reality of the exchange of the two candidates.' So I just backed off. ... I had no problem doing that. Yes, there were times when I pushed them, and sometimes they ran over and ignored me and all that sort of stuff. So what? I mean, it isn't about my power, my control or whatever. It was about what the candidates were doing, what they were talking about and what impression they were leaving with the voters. That's what this is about. It's not about how I felt about things. . . ."

Mike McCurry, the Democratic co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told Tracie Powell of the Poynter Institute, "I think Jim had a good idea on the segments that he wanted to divide up, but clearly you have to kind of discipline the candidates to keep moving through the subjects without taking up too much time on their answers. A firmer hand on the tiller will probably be needed. But we'll see. It's a little too early to make a complete evaluation."

. . . Romney Threat to Lay Off Big Bird Is Most TiVo'd

". . . TiVo measures 'top moments' during the debate based on how often viewers recorded, rewound and rewatched certain moments," George Winslow wrote Thursday for Broadcasting & Cable.

Gwen Ifill of PBS' 'The NewsHour' and 'Washington Week' with the bird of the hou"By that measure, the top moment across all networks was [Mitt] Romney's comments about pulling funding for PBS and Big Bird. This ranked as the No. 1 moment on NBC, Fox News and CNN and No. 3 on MSNBC."

Cartoons with Big Bird as the focus — sometimes with Romney serving the character as Thanksgiving dinner — flooded social media.

PBS CEO Paula Kerger appeared on CNN Thursday morning, where she said Romney's comment "was not about the budget, this has to be about politics," Alex Weprin reported for TVNewser.

"With the enormous problems facing the country, the fact that we are the focus is unbelievable to me," Kerger said. "We are America's biggest classroom, we touch children across the country in every home."

Jim Naureckas of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting wrote, "I think I speak for everyone when I say that Big Bird would be a much bigger loss than Jim Lehrer. But it's a disturbing spectacle when a journalist moderating a debate between two politicians is reminded by one of them that he has the power to cut off the journalist's funding. Politicians should not be able to pull the plug on the public's media — PBS needs a dedicated trust fund that can't be used as a political prop by candidates."

. . . Making a Brief for the Angry Black Person

". . . So why did the President avoid a heavy counter-attack of Mitt Romney?" Kelly Virella asked Thursday on HuffPost BlackVoices. "A lot of black people in social media are saying it's because the President has to avoid looking like an angry black man. No one (and by no one, they mean white people) wants the specter of a black man threatening or sassing the good, smart white businessman who only wants what's best for us. Sigh."

". . . How long will we allow this type of fear to control us? When will be the right time for us to speak our minds on our jobs, in our Presidential debates?

"If your answer is never, that’s a problem."

Karen E. Quinones MillerMeanwhile, reporter-turned-novelist Karen E. Quinones Miller of Philadelphia has titled her latest "An Angry-Ass Black Woman," Jenice Armstrong reported Wednesday in her Philadelphia Daily News column.

". . . In the book, Miller points to an incident that happened at this newspaper that led her to completely changing her life. She was working as a secretary in the Daily News' circulation department and was outraged that a rally in Washington, D.C., supporting affirmative action hadn't made it into the paper. Miller confronted an editor who told her, among other things, 'It's very easy for someone not qualified to write a news story to criticize someone who is.'

"She walked away furious. But that moment turned out to be a turning point; that very day, Miller decided to quit her job and enroll at Temple University to study journalism. Never mind that she'd dropped out of school in the eighth grade and had spent much of her youth running the streets of New York City. After graduating with honors from Temple, she launched a successful career as a reporter at a number of major news outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"If I hadn't gotten so angry, I might still be a secretary," Miller said."

New Brides Editor Called Right Person at Right Time

Keija Minor might have made magazine history as the new editor in chief of Brides, the first African American woman to lead one of Conde Nast's 18 consumer magazines in the 103 years of the company’s existence.

But Conde Nast was not acting because it saw a need for more diversity.

"Keija wasn’t selected because of the color of her skin, she was picked because she is the right editor for the job at the right time," said Thomas Wallace, editorial director at Condé Nast, according to Deena Campbell, writing Thursday in the New York Times. "She knows the magazine, her staff, and more importantly, she has the will to succeed."

Amy DuBois Barnett, a former managing editor of Teen People, who became the first African American woman to head a mainstream consumer magazine at Time Inc. in 2003, offered a different perspective.

"Magazines are supposed to be reflective of society at large," said Barnett, who now leads Ebony magazine. "I don't think you can have a mainstream magazine right now that doesn't address a diverse demographic." According to the Times story, "Brides currently has 5.1 million readers, and 38 percent of its audience is non-white, according to Ms. Minor."

Minor said she believes the largest challenge top editors face is the lack of mentors at the top. "There aren't a ton of women at this level, and especially black women."

McCormick Foundation Gives $6 Million for News Literacy

"Recognizing the need to help educate the next generation of news consumers, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation announced plans for a three-year, $6 million initiative, called 'Why News Matters,' to expand innovative approaches to improving news literacy, the foundation announced Thursday.

"The initial $1 million of these grants were announced today by Foundation CEO David Hiller at the City Club of Chicago. In addition, the Foundation is continuing to provide funding for initiatives supporting youth journalism, quality reporting and protection of press freedoms. The Foundation announced nearly $4 million in total journalism grants.

". . . The Journalism Program has an annual grantmaking budget of $5.5 million. The program has invested more than $106 million in journalism since its founding in 1993." Among the latest recipients is the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, awarded $35,000 for audience research and for this column.

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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Unity closes its board meetings (From Unity's Facebook page)

From Unity's Facebook page: Write something...

@Rene I would say yes! I am a

@Rene I would say yes! I am a member of NAHJ as well as NABJ.

UNITY closes its board meetings

Mr. Prince, has anyone asked David Steinberg why he introduced the motion to close the meetings in the first place? 

For Michele Salcedo to say, "We're not a government entity" misses the point entirely.  UNITY is a journalistic entity and for them to close their meetings to their own members is an act of supreme arrogance.   How clueless do you have to be to not see the rank hypocrisy of journalists supporting restrictions on their own members right to know?  

Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Salcedo should explain their reasons for putting the UNITY board meetings off-limits and the next board should junk this ridiculous resolution with the quickness.

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