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Unity Smoothly Integrates Gay Journalists

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

NABJ Is Gone, but Some Influence Will Remain

Alejandro Hernández Pacheco, a former cameraman for Televisa in Mexico, speaks to dinner guests at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in June. He was one of three Mexican journalists given the NAHJ President's Award. (Credit: Julian Esquer/Latino Reporter Digital)

NABJ Is Gone, but Some Influence Will Remain

The Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., board of directors met face to face for the first time this weekend without the National Association of Black Journalists as a partner and with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association as a new member.

The group smoothly integrated the NLGJA members into its meeting, and President Joanna Hernandez announced she had named a commission to work on reunification with NABJ, and picked an NABJ member to chair it. Without controversy, the coalition adopted a formula to split the 2012 convention proceeds — one to which NABJ had objected as not giving it a large enough share.

Dissatisfaction with the financial split was one reason NABJ cited in voting in March to leave the Unity coalition.

Meanwhile, board member Cecilia Alvear of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists notified the board of news she received from an attorney representing Mexican journalists seeking asylum. In the words of the El Paso Times, "Immigration authorities have granted political asylum to Mexican cameraman Alejandro Hernández Pacheco, making him the second Mexican journalist to receive the immigration benefit since the beginning of the current wave of drug violence hammering the country."

Hernández Pacheco was one of three Mexican journalists seeking asylum who were honored at June's NAHJ convention in Orlando, receiving the President's Award from NAHJ President Michele Salcedo. Hernández Pacheco's attorney, Carlos Spector, said in August that his client was granted political asylum that month, the Times' Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera reported then. Hernández Pacheco applied for asylum last year after being kidnapped by members of the Sinaloa drug cartel, allegedly tortured, starved and beaten. Unity and NAHJ were among the groups supporting the Mexican journalists, and the grant of asylum to Hernández Pacheco was seen as unusually speedy.

Although NABJ members were gone from the coalition, the Unity board discussions made periodic references to the black journalists group during its three-day meeting at Gannett Co., Inc., headquarters in McLean, Va. However, there was no action on suggestions that NABJ members be enticed to the Aug. 1-4 Las Vegas convention with a special rate. For the time being, the early bird registration fee for members of Unity groups has been set at $325, with $500 for nonmembers.

Hernandez told Journal-isms that Unity might still grant NABJ members a discount.

Hernandez named John Yearwood, one of the final NABJ representatives to Unity, who opposed the NABJ pullout, as chair of a 10-member Unity President's Reunification Commission. It is a counterpart to a commission NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. named to "recommend an effective plan for NABJ's future participation in the alliance." It is chaired by Keith Reed, senior editor of ESPN The Magazine and NABJ's treasurer.

John Yearwood, center, in a morning budget meeting at the Miami Herald. (Credit: David Adams)

Yearwood, world editor of the Miami Herald and a former NABJ treasurer, is to lead a commission comprising mostly journalists who have been Unity representatives: Djibril Diallo, an NABJ member who is senior adviser to the executive director of the United Nations' UNAIDS program; Yvonne Latty, a New York University journalism professor who is a member of NABJ and NAHJ; Javier Aldape, a former Unity treasurer from NAHJ; Alvear; Karen Lincoln Michel, a former Unity president from the Native American Journalists Association; Tom Arviso Jr., a Unity board member from NAJA; Aki Soga, a former Unity vice president from the Asian American Journalists Association; Janet Cho, Unity representative from AAJA; and a 10th person whose appointment has not been confirmed.

In addition, Yearwood remains co-chair of Unity's World Affairs Committee, and Diallo continues as a committee member.

At the August NABJ convention in Philadelphia, NABJ members voted to seek reunification with Unity "as soon as is feasible" but "based on conditions involving the financial and governance structure of Unity that do not conflict with the best interests of NABJ."

Talks on reunification began Sept. 14. Five days later, Unity and NLGJA announced that their boards of directors agreed that NLGJA would join the coalition. NLGJA and Unity each have the right to opt out of their agreement after a year.

The agreement to admit NLGJA did not sit well with those who felt the coalition would lose its focus on journalists of color. The author of the NABJ reunification motion, NABJ co-founder Joe Davidson, said Sept. 28 that "if I had to vote right now on recommending unification, sadly I’d vote no."

Nevertheless, NLGJA members participated fully in their first face-to-face Unity board meeting.

One of NLGJA's Unity delegates is Susan Green, an African American who is broadcast director of the Cronkite News Service and assistant news director in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

"Unity was where I first found out about NLGJA," Green told Journal-isms. She said she saw a panel presented by NLGJA at the Unity '99 convention in Seattle. "The mission of both [groups is] the same in terms of making sure people are dealt with with respect and that coverage is also dealt with in the same manner," she said. The weekend meeting "reaffirmed for all of us that we all are fighting for some of the same reasons, and when you have a louder group of people fighting for the same issues, that voice tends to be heard."

After Alvear reported on her World Affairs Task Force, Green told members she had just returned from Serbia and was "just shocked" when the government canceled a gay-rights parade and a headline quoted the mayor of Jagodina calling it a parade of "shame."

NLGJA President David A. Steinberg was named chairman of Unity's Governance Committee.

Steinberg told Alvear that he knew of an NLGJA member who would be a good candidate for her task force because the member had written about gay life in Arab countries, where gays feel their lives are in danger.

Onica Makwakwa, Unity executive director, explained that when Unity reaches out to community groups in Las Vegas, it will seek not only Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans but African Americans — "part of Unity's legacy"— and now gay and lesbian groups.

Unity will share the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino with the annual Steve Harvey Ford Hoodie Awards, which honor businesses, schools and community leaders, Makwakwa said. The coalition is also seeking appearances from the 2012 presidential candidates.

According to the revenue-sharing formula adopted on Saturday, Unity will receive all nonmember registration revenue plus 20 percent of convention revenue. Unity's share is no longer capped at $750,000. Each alliance partner receives all registration money from its members plus 10 percent of convention revenues. (Accounting for all member registrations and 40 percent of total convention revenue.)

"The remaining 40 percent of convention revenue is divided among the alliance partners in accordance with the percentage of attendees they brought in. UNITY receives nothing from this final pool," according to treasurer Michaela Saunders. "The motion adopted Saturday also directs the finance committee to begin to research alternative revenue sharing solutions for 2016 and beyond."

NABJ unsuccessfully sought a plan that would award the first 25 percent of proceeds to Unity, with NAJA, the smallest group, receiving a 5 percent subsidy. The remaining 70 percent in the general pool would be divided among the associations based on each association’s percentage of its net paid registrants at the Unity convention.

NABJ represented 53.32 percent of the Unity convention paid-member attendance in 2008, with AAJA at 20.4 percent, NAHJ at 22.66 percent and NAJA at 3.61 percent, according to NABJ figures. Makwakwa said that NABJ was 53 percent of member attendees at Unity '08 but 38 percent of all attendees. [NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said Tuesday, "The 38 percent attendee figure is irrelevant to the discussion because it was not a part of the formula."]

NLGJA's membership is only about one-fifth the membership of NABJ, whose board met this weekend in New Orleans, site of the NABJ convention planned for June 20-24. The lesbian and gay group counts about 650 members, and 350 attended its September convention; NABJ had 3,293 members on July 31, with 2,010 people registered for its August convention, NABJ's executive director Maurice Foster told members on Aug. 3. [Lee said on Tuesday, "NABJ finished with 2390 attendees."]

Still, Unity board members said they thought the integration of NLGJA into the group had gone well.

George Kiriyama of the AAJA told Journal-isms, "The spirit of Unity is alive and well in that everyone's getting along just fine. For me, we have this camaraderie already. From the first time they stepped into the room, there was a willingness to work together."

NAJA President Darla Leslie said last week that she had voted against admitting NLGJA "because of the failure of UNITY leaders to follow due process, to consider the policy implications and to present a plan for adding a new member organization." On Sunday, she said, "From this point on, it's time to progress, move forward and prosper." She and Arviso led the group in a Native tradition in which they burned sweetgrass in front of the object of their good wishes, who then spread the smoke up and down the body.

Patty Loew, a NAJA representative acting as secretary, said, "I'm disappointed that NABJ is not with us" but that she was "excited about NLGJA. I think this is a really good fit, and I'm excited to move forward."

Peter Ortiz, a financial writer representing NAHJ, said, "Obviously, I didn't want to lose NABJ. I hope they'll be coming back. We're being more inclusive in terms of diversity. Our focus is and always will be race and ethnicity, but we're broadening that to sexual orientation or gender identity. I don't think that NLGJA lessens Unity's mission. Our mission remains the same. It's just broader now."

Steinberg has said his members wanted the term "journalists of color" stricken from the Unity name, an issue that has been referred to a Unity committee.

The NLGJA president said he was pleased with his first face-to-face Unity board meeting. "I think it was fantastic. Everyone was warm and welcoming. I'm looking forward to working together to do an exciting convention."

Yet Another Black Columnist Bids Farewell

October 7, 2011

Exit of San Antonio's Clack Is Part of "Depressing" Trend

Denmark West, BET's Digital Chief, Leaving Network

Press Freedom Ranks High With 2 Peace Prize Winners

For One Night, NFL's Sanders to Replace Hank Williams Jr.

Washington Post Ombudsman Stands by Perry Story

Stories Question Whiteness of Wall Street Protests

Why Do White House Reporters Avoid Housing Crisis?

Short Takes

Cary Clack, columnist at the San Antonio Express-News since 1994, addresses journalism students. (Credit: Julysa Sosa/Ranger)

Exit of San Antonio's Clack Is Part of "Depressing" Trend

Cary Clack, columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, wrote his farewell column to readers for publication on Sunday, joining at least 10 African American newspaper columnists who stopped writing their columns this year, in most cases leaving the newspaper entirely.

An email to Clack's newspaper address brings this reply: "I'm out of the office for good. After Friday I will no longer be at the Express-News. As my Sunday column will explain I'm leaving (on excellent terms) to become the Communications Director and senior adviser for Joaquin Castro's Congressional campaign."

Clack, 51, has been a columnist for his hometown daily since 1994. His will be one less African American columnist's voice in the nation's dailies:

  • Betty Bayé, editorial writer and columnist at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., was swept up in Gannett Co., Inc.-wide layoffs in June.

  • Rose Russell of the Blade in Toledo went to the features department in the spring after nearly 16 years in the Blade's editorial department.

  • Bob Herbert wrote his final column for the New York Times in March and joined Demos, a policy and research center.

  • Steve Penn was fired from the Kansas City Star in July for running unaltered or barely altered press releases in his column.

  • Elmer Smith announced his retirement from the Philadelphia Daily News in September. Friends are planning a retirement party for him at a downtown Philadelphia hotel on Nov. 11.

  • Dwight Lewis, editorial page editor at the Tennessean in Nashville, retired in September after 40 years at the paper.

  • Cynthia Tucker, one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s highest-profile columnists for more than 20 years and a Pulitzer Prize winner, left the paper in September to become a visiting professor at the University of Georgia’s journalism school.

  • Solomon Jones, a Saturday columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News, left that paper in April and on Tuesday is hosting a book party in Philadelphia to introduce his new crime novel, "The Gravediggers' Ball." 

  • Phillip Morris is on leave as a metro columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, pursuing a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan.

In most of these cases, the columnist has not been replaced by a columnist of color, if replaced at all.

"I'm so sorry about what happened to my other colleagues," Clack told Journal-isms after hearing the roster. "That list is so depressing. . . . It makes me realize how fortunate I am. I could have retired from this newspaper."

Clack's departure is unrelated to recent upheaval at the paper, he said. Robert Rivard, editor and executive vice president, turned in his resignation Sept. 20, effective immediately. The next day, managing editor Brett Thacker announced he was leaving. Then the other Metro columnist, Scott Stroud, gave notice that he was heading to the Tennessean in Nashville. Interim editor Kyrie O'Connor did not respond to an inquiry about Clack's replacement.

"It's the hardest decision I've made," Clack said. "I know eventually I'm going to come back to writing full time." But he said of his new boss, "I really like Joaquin. I like what he stands for."

In the last two years, "I haven't had the latitude on what I can write about as I've had for most of my career. It came from Bob. Writing the column wasn't the same. I couldn't write about politics. I couldn't do humor. Couldn't deal with national issues unless I could connect it locally." Moreover, writing three times a week "can be a grind." Still, he said, Rivard was "the godfather of my career."

Discussing the congressional campaign, Greg Jefferson wrote in Plaza de Armas, a local political online news site, "The Democrat is in a dogfight with veteran U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the new 35th Congressional District, and he clearly hopes that tapping Clack — who grew up on the East Side and writes about it frequently — to head up his campaign communications will give him some advantage in that corner of the district."

Denmark West, BET's Digital Chief, Leaving Network

Denmark West, Denmark Westpresident of the Digital Media Group at Black Entertainment Television, which includes BET.com, is leaving the network, staff members were told on Friday.

A note from Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO, and Scott Mills, president and chief operating officer, did not say what West planned to do next.

"What I'd like to do next is go on vacation!" West told Journal-isms by email.

"After that you may have to follow me on twitter for what's next :)"

The number of BET.com's unique visitors dipped to 2,360,000 in July from 2,551,000 in July 2010, according to the comScore, Inc., research company. That placed it ahead of such sites as Bossip.com (1,667,000), theRoot.com (1,411,000) and BlackVoices (1,379,000) but behind MediaTakeOut.com (3,355,000).

The unit underwent cutbacks in August.

Here is the note from Lee and Mills:

"We wanted to let you know that after more than four years of great, strategic and just brilliant work at BET Networks, Denmark West has decided to leave the company, beginning in November.

"Denmark was instrumental in expanding our digital footprint, which now better reflects all of the incredible energy and passion our audience has for our content.

"He's worked hard building and executing our social media, mobile, games and digital music strategies that have elevated many of our key series and tent poles to historic highs. And of all of his many accomplishments, the cherry on top is the beautiful 106 & Park App and the new and improved BET.com!

"But beyond all of his professional achievements, Denmark has given so much of himself to the BET family. He has the biggest heart, the warmest smile and the heartiest laugh and we will miss that every day. Fortunately, Denmark will always be just a tweet away and he will be working with us on the Digital team's transition through the end of October. '

"Please join us in thanking Denmark for all of his contributions and wishing him well on his next move!"

According to his bio, West joined BET in 2007 from MTV Networks Co., where he was executive vice president of strategy and business development and chief of operations, global digital media. Before that, was chief of staff of the Windows Client Division at Microsoft Corp.

"We are working on our transition plan now and will keep you posted," BET spokeswoman Jeanine Liburd said.

Press Freedom Ranks High With 2 Peace Prize Winners

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Credit: New Statesman) The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to three women, among them a Yemeni activist who leads the group Women Journalists Without Chains and Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who has been praised for expanding press freedom in her country.

The third was Sirleaf's fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee.

The two Liberians were honored for their "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

Yemeni winner Tawakul Karman was praised by Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists, who said Karman's "tenacity, courage and humanity have been deservedly rewarded. This is also the recognition of her remarkable campaign for press freedom in Yemen which the IFJ and our Yemeni affiliate, the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate of which she is a member, have always supported."

The BBC added, Karman "becomes the first Arab woman to win the prize.

"The 32-year-old mother of three founded Women Journalists Without Chains in 2005.

Tawakul Karman "She has been a prominent activist and advocate of human rights and freedom of expression for the last five years, and led regular protests and sit-ins calling for the release of political prisoners."

Last year, the African Editors’ Forum, meeting in Mali, awarded Sirleaf the 2010 “Friend of the Media Africa Award,” making her the first sitting president on the continent to win it, allafrica.com reported then.

"The imperial undercurrent of African leadership culture has often put Africa’s democratic governance on collision course with the media. On this course, the suppression of the media through intimidation and imprisonment of journalists and the enactment of draconian laws to circumvent freedom of speech have become the norm rather than the exception. It has been so since the emergence of independent Africa in the 1960s.

"Now with international relations favoring good governance, the picture is changing: moderate governments are eliminating restraining laws as they enact media friendly laws. Liberia is at the head of that moderate pack, making President Ellen [Johnson Sirleaf] the trailblazer. . ."

For One Night, NFL's Sanders to Replace Hank Williams Jr.

"With ESPN telling Hank Williams Jr. and all his rowdy friends to go home, the Worldwide Leader needed to find someone else to intro 'Monday Night Football.' Their choice for the first broadcast of the MNF era, post-Hank? Barry Sanders," Yahoo Sports reported on Friday.

"He won't be singing a country music song, though. He'll be featured in some other form of video segment that previews the game. From the Detroit Free Press:

" 'Ok, I admit it,' "Barry Sanders tweeted. "I will be at MNF this week and doing the intro.'

"Said ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz, 'This is the format we'll likely use the remainder of the season. We haven't made any decisions beyond that.'"

Krulewitz told Journal-isms that the Detroit Lions Hall of Famer is scheduled for Monday's Lions-Chicago Bears game only.

ESPN and Williams, a country music artist, both announced on Thursday that they had parted ways after controversial comments in which Williams compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler on Monday, Reuters reported.

"ESPN said in a statement that Williams' song 'All My Rowdy Friends,' which has been the opening theme song for ESPN and ABC's 'Monday Night Football' for about 20 years, will no longer used as the opener for the show."

Washington Post Ombudsman Stands by Perry Story

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton said Friday that he had reviewed the Post reporting of the offensive word on a rock outside the hunting camp that Texas Gov. Rick Perry's family once leased.

Pexton concluded that, "at the very least, Perry was insensitive during a time when he carried the public trust of an elected official.

"I covered the Maryland General Assembly during this same period, in the late 1980s. Maryland is not Texas, but it had then, as now, many conservative rural lawmakers — from the lower Eastern Shore and Southern and Western Maryland — some of them Democrats, some Republicans. If it had come out in the late 1980s that a lawmaker was taking colleagues to a duck hunting property off the Chesapeake Bay or a deer hunting camp in Western Maryland with that offensive name, the story would have made both The Post and the Baltimore Sun.

"According to my count, using the online Legislative Reference Library of Texas, about 20 African American lawmakers were serving alongside Perry in the Texas legislature of the late 1980s. And Perry was taking colleagues down to a hunting camp with that unfortunate name."

Meanwhile, the Post's Rachel Weiner reported Friday that Perry denied to Fox News Channel Thursday that "Niggerhead" was visible on the rock, saying it was painted over in 1984. It was his first on-camera television interview since the Post reported the rock's existence over the weekend.

A Puerto Rican flag adds a multicultural touch to Wall Street protests. (Credit: Mincho Jacob)

Stories Question Whiteness of Wall Street Protests

"Late Wednesday night, just as groups of Occupy Wall Street protesters were launching efforts to invade Wall Street, a middle-aged black man stopped and stuck a sign in the wrought iron gate that surrounds a Lower Manhattan church, and then scurried away," Janell Ross wrote for HuffPost BlackVoices. It was one of several pieces questioning the racial composition of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

"The placard left by the man at St. Paul’s Chapel carried an unusual message in a crowd protesting corporate greed and rising income inequality. It was not aimed at corporations or CEOs. It spoke to the protest movement itself: DECOLONIZE WALL STREET – stand up for more BLACK + BROWN LEADERS in this MOVEMENT," the story continued.

"With so many African Americans and Latinos out of work and bearing a disproportionate share of the recession's impact, it would seem that Occupy Wall Street might have particular appeal to people of color. But even Wednesday night, when the Occupy Wall Street movement brought together its original organizers, students and union members who do everything from drive the city’s buses to mop its hospital floors, the crowd remained overwhelmingly white.

" 'Listen, I love these protests,' said Julianne Malveaux, an economist who is also African American and is a self-described progressive and veteran of many movements and political gatherings. Malveaux is the president of Bennett College, a historically black women’s college in North Carolina, and a member of the United Negro College Fund Board. 'Who can’t be mad at Wall Street right now? But I haven’t heard anyone talking about this protest in [an] HBCU (historically-black college and universities), and I think some of us are wondering what these protests are really about.”

Why Do White House Reporters Avoid Housing Crisis?

"Much of President Obama’s press conference earlier today was devoted to the latest partisan fight in DC over the American Jobs Act," Greg Marx wrote Thursday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"But there were also some good, wide-ranging questions asked of the president. ABC’s Jake Tapper, leaping off an earlier query about Occupy Wall Street, pressed him on the decision not to prosecute any bankers in connection with the financial crisis. Matt Spetalnick of Reuters had good questions about China’s currency manipulation and America’s worsening relationship with Pakistan. And Aamer Madhani of USA Today asked about the White House response to the biggest story in the world today, the financial mess in Europe.

"Still, the press conference continued an unfortunate trend: the apparent indifference of the White House press corps to the continuing fall-out from the housing crisis and the government’s response to it. Over the summer, I reviewed the transcript of every full-fledged press conference of the Obama presidency to that point. Among the things I discovered:

"The word 'foreclosure' was also used only once [in reporters’ questions] — on Feb. 9, 2009, when Jake Tapper listed it as one of several criteria that might be used to judge whether the economy had rebounded. The word 'mortgage' has been used twice, and not since April 2009."

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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