Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

What Do News Execs of Color Owe Their Communities?

Send by email
Monday, November 5, 2012

As With Obama, Expectations Come With the Territory

Romney Losing in State Where He Was Governor

Romney Charging Journalists to Enter Campaign HQ

64% of Latinos for Obama, 8% Lean Toward Him in Poll

N.Y. Post Demands That Christie Praise Romney

Sudanese Journalist Found Tortured, Head Shaved

Short Takes

The Congressional Black Caucus held its first full caucus meeting with President

As With Obama, Expectations Come With the Territory

President Obama is expected to receive upwards of 90 percent of the African American vote in Tuesday's election, despite a phenomenon not unknown to other people of color in executive positions, even in the news business: muted disappointment by some that he has not done enough for his own.

The latest writer to make this point is Gary Younge, the black British U.S. correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, who in analyzing "Barack Obama and the paradox behind his black support base," included this line Saturday: ". . . the ascent of America's first black president has coincided with the one of the steepest descents of the economic fortunes of black Americans since the second world war both in real terms and relative to whites."

Becoming the first person of color in an executive position in a mainstream institution brings expectations — and fears — that the new executive will be more sensitive to one's own ethnic group, the way others have been to theirs. Sometimes that's true, sometimes not. Some African Americans complain that their African American bosses have gone out of their way to "be mean" to them, as one journalist said. But as the late Gerald R. Boyd, the first African American managing editor of the New York Times, discovered, the stance taken is no protection from charges of favoritism.

After the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal of 2003, Boyd told the in-house Siegal Committee investigating the Blair scandal: ". . . I incurred some criticism from journalists of color who felt I was not looking out for them. My view was that it was competitive and a matter of merit." Yet Boyd was portrayed in the news media as Blair's protector and mentor. Both were black.

As with the president, community members also have expectations. Their efforts resulted in the desegregation of newsrooms.

Six people of color with ties to the news business responded by email Monday to a request to discuss these aspects of leadership. Most were members of the now-defunct National Association of Minority Media Executives (NAMME), later National Association of Multicultural Media Executives.

Ronald B. Brown, president, Banks Brown, consultant to journalist of color organizations:

Ronald B. Brown. . . As more black people ascend to CEO and heads of major institutions, their priorities dramatically expand. They are compelled to focus on the broader health of the enterprise. Most of these people have been able to place trusted surrogates in valued positions and address specific black issues within the context of overall goals, i.e. lifting the middle class (very important to the African American community and its institutions. ref: Eugene Robinson's book ["Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America"]). Many blacks, without an understanding of the realities and limits of power, can become frustrated with this shift in focus.

The truth is that African Americans, throughout the first four years [of the Obama administration], have not asked for anything specific. Other groups, particularly the gay and lesbian community, have pressed their concerns, DADT ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell"], the Defense of Marriage Act, marriage, etc. On the whole, many African Americans seem content to bask in the glory of a Black President and defend him against vulnerability. On the other hand, there are some people who are willing to spend their efforts to judge, carp or criticize.

The symbolic and actual power of an African American president and first lady should stand as a high value standard that offers a U.S. and world platform for African Americans to make inroads, at all levels. Their visibility should be exploited as a competitive advantage. Under the banner of the Black leader of the free world, African Americans should be "running for daylight" to capture every edge we can create. We could be participating in the redevelopment of black neighborhoods with a focus on creating jobs or insinuating ourselves into ownership stakes in the public-private partnerships that will emerge in the next four years, thereby creating more jobs. If, after eight years with a African American president and first lady, African Americans are unable to build some important advantages, then we have to answer some critical questions. Was it him or us?

In truth. we are in a intense, competitive fight with other forces (i.e. tea party, etc.) for power to gain attention, focus and secure our interests. Our issues are broad and wide, all over the place and diffused. As a community, we lack a shared strategy (esp. an economic strategy) to gain our power objectives and collaborative leaders moving in 2-3 big priority directions.

Dinah Eng, founder, Executive Leadership Program, Asian American Journalists Association:

Dinah EngYes, I believe it is true that people of color often criticize "their own" who are the first to lead organizations for not doing enough to help minorities. In the case of AAJA's Executive Leadership Program, there were certainly conversations around cultural perspective and how it impacts decision-making.

Since all conversations in the training program must remain confidential, I cannot comment on specific names and situations. In general, there were discussions around everything from "Editor A" uses being Asian to advance her own career, but doesn't help other Asians in the newsroom because she doesn't want the competition, to "Editor B" doesn't see himself as Asian and has not experienced the kind of racism others have because he's half-white, so he doesn't have the kind of commitment and passion needed to help others.

Neil Foote, final chairman, National Association of Multicultural Media Executives:

Neil FooteOur philosophy at NAMME was always to encourage our members to be the best possible leaders, but to acknowledge that sometimes race and gender may put them in situations where their leadership skills, acumen and potential might be questioned.

At the end of the day, NAMME's membership always represented members in key decision making [positions] at some of the largest media companies in the world (e.g. Gannett, NYTimes, AOL/Time Warner, McClatchy, CBS, Hearst, etc), which told me that these individuals were truly the best in the business — regardless of race — and that those companies chose these individuals because they were the best what they do.

For President Obama, he has had to deal with the "burden of race" whether he wanted to acknowledge it publicly or not. It's ironic that there are some pundits out there saying that there's a larger racial divide under his administration than ever in this country's history. Of course there is. The country's never had a Black president! With America becoming increasing diverse, then the notion of an African American — or soon enough a Hispanic — in the White House — will send chills up the spines of everybody. Yes, even Blacks, who want this person to only deliver for them. The President has delivered lots for Blacks in the country that may not be directly tangible. Sadly so, when he's out of office, those "intangibles" will become that much more real when there are few, if any, who may have diverse folks in their minds.

Wanda Lloyd, executive editor, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser:

Wanda LloydWe always walk a thin line between being top news executives and being people of color. I remember the discussions we had back in the '80s (Milton Coleman, I believe) about whether we are black first or journalists first. As a woman, I get the same question: Have I seen discrimination more as a woman or as a person of color?

As professionals, we must constantly explain to readers that we make decisions based on the value of news, based on facts and based on our many years of ethics training.

As for your question, yes, I have encountered cases where we've been accused by African Americans of negative, even racist coverage about black people and black issues. With older black readers, I fear that some of it may be a holdover from the days of the black press, where some black newspapers were indeed the conscience of the community and advocates for racial injustice.

I feel it is my responsibility as an editor — who happens to be African American — to be sure my entire staff thinks about balance and fairness. As the top editor, I've had to explain that to readers, either in phone calls or through columns. One example is how we portray local suspects in local violent crimes (most of whom, statistically, are African American). On the other hand, it is our responsibility to be sure people of color are used as expert sources in news stories or features to accurately portray our community as one that is diverse in all walks of life.

Karen Lincoln Michel, executive editor, Advertiser Media Network, Lafayette, La., and former president, Native American Journalists Association and Unity: Journalists of Color:

Karen Lincoln MichelSo far I haven't been called out for not doing enough for people of color. But then I've been executive editor for just seven months. Give it time.

When it comes to judging whether my newspaper accurately reflects communities of color, I am probably my harshest critic. I want our coverage to reflect the rich diversity in southern Louisiana and we are making strides in that area. We recently hired a food & culture editor who writes about Cajun and Creole influences in food, music and culture. And as much as this editor — who is African American and speaks Cajun French — has raised our features coverage to a new level, I want to see more throughout the entire newspaper.

I am a firm believer in building news staffs that reflect the community. When I started in March at The Daily Advertiser, there were two people of color in the newsroom (not including myself). Since then, I have hired seven people and promoted five. Of the new hires, four are African American, one is Asian American and one is of Native American descent. Of the promotions, one is African American and the other is a Latina. Although Cajuns aren't considered people of color, they definitely contribute to the area's cultural diversity. One of the staffers who was promoted is a Cajun female.

There are many stories The Daily Advertiser could be covering in local communities of color, and I have plans to pursue some of them in 2013. If people accused me now of not doing enough in terms of covering communities of color, I would have to agree. But I would also tell them about the plan I have to address it.

Virgil Smith, vice president/talent acquisition and diversity, Gannett Co., Inc., and former NAMME president:

Virgil SmithI am not one who supports the concept that the President did not do much for African-Americans or other ethnic groups. Evaluate the policies he has put in place that benefited all Americans and especially those who received the payroll tax cuts. Look at the Dodd-Frank bill and saving the car industry, which has a large black population working in Detroit and other cities. Look at the Affordable Health Care Act and more. The U.S. population has benefited from these policies, which means they have benefited people of color.

When I was the first African-American publisher in North Carolina, specifically Asheville, there was great pride from blacks in the community and high expectations. Some of the expectations were filled by hiring a diverse workforce, putting in place policies that created a level playing field for how crime stories and photos of minorities were placed in the newspaper, including the daily lives of people of color in coverage, and ensuring that columnists espoused the views of minorities as well as the majority.

The point is, yes there are high expectations from people who look like you; however at the end of the day the President, editor, publisher, you name it, has the role to serve all of the people and that is what all of us [being queried] have done and it is what the President has done. He has appointed a diverse slate of people to his administration along with appointing the first Latina to the Supreme Court. Yes, he has lifted all of us in spirit, pride and with his deeds. He has given our children the dream that you can be President of the United States; his role will serve people for generations to come.

Comedian Chris Rock's "Message for White Voters," delivered on ABC's "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" Friday, went viral over the weekend. (Video)

Romney Losing in State Where He Was Governor

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is losing in his home state to President Obama, 42 percent to 57 percent, and Democrat Elizabeth Warren is leading Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican, by six percentage points, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, Noah Bierman reported Saturday for the Boston Globe.

The Globe, the state's largest newspaper, has endorsed Obama.

"Somewhere in the Republican presidential nominee is the sensible, data-driven moderate that the Bay State knew as governor," the Globe's editorial board wrote last month, Matt Viser reported for boston.com.

"But it may also be that Massachusetts didn't know Mitt Romney very well, after all. Stuck in a party far to his right, Romney made a fateful bargain to adopt sharply conservative positions, and then start clawing back. Now, voters have no way of knowing what kind of president he'd be."

Viser pointed out that, "Since its first presidential endorsement – for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 – the Globe's editorial page has always supported the Democrat running for president. . . . Even when Romney was facing fellow Republicans, the Globe's editorial board opted against Romney. It backed John McCain in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, and Jon Huntsman during the 2012 Republican presidential primary."

Romney Charging Journalists to Enter Campaign HQ

"The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears to be setting a precedent this election year in charging journalists and news organizations for any access to a presidential campaign headquarters on the night of the election," Robert Rizzuto reported Monday for the Republican in Springfield, Mass.

"Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is locked in a tight race with Democratic President Barack Obama, will be holding his election night gathering at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, where access costs anywhere from $75 for a chair in the ballroom to $1,020 for permission to use the media filing center. Broadcast news organizations will be paying up to $6,500 for workspace.

"Obama's campaign party will be held at McCormick Place, in Chicago, and although his campaign is charging for premiums, credentialed reporters are granted access, which includes a workstation, electrical power and a wireless Internet connection, at no cost. . . . "

64% of Latinos for Obama, 8% Lean Toward Him

If the Latino vote is high, President Obama will carry the swing states of Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida, Latino Decisions, a Latino political opinion research firm, reported on Monday.

"impreMedia & Latino Decisions today released the last in a series of 11 weekly tracking polls with results suggesting President Obama is poised to win a record high share of the Latino vote, and in turn likely to win key swing states and enough electoral college votes to retain the presidency. . . .

"The President's support continued its steady climb with 64% saying they are certain to vote for him on election day and another 8% leaning towards him. Romney's supporters also remained consistent, but overall he was unable to make significant inroads with Latino voters. Week 11 polling found 22% said they were certain to or might vote for Romney, compared to 24% during Week 1 polling."

N.Y. Post Demands That Christie Praise Romney

"In a remarkable lead editorial in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post today, the newspaper demands that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie inject presidential politics into the cleanup effort under way in the wake of Hurricane Sandy," Eric Boehlert reported Sunday for Media Matters for America. "The Post insists he do so immediately or run the risk of being a labeled a traitor within the Republican Party.

"Murdoch's Post, at this very late state of the election run, demands Christie politicize the hurricane relief effort by basically campaigning for Mitt Romney in the context of the killer storm. (Christie hosted President Obama on Wednesday to survey the state's historic damage.) And if Christie does not, the Post warns, 'the Republican Party will never forgive him.' "

The Post said of Christie, ". . . true bipartisanship includes the need to make clear his belief that the incumbent's vigorous response to the disaster would have been more than matched by Mitt Romney had he been president."

Sudanese Journalist Found Tortured, Head Shaved

Somaya Ibrahim Ismail Hundosa"A critical Sudanese freelance journalist was found on the side of a road in Khartoum on Friday after being reported missing on October 29, according to news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Monday. "Somaya Ibrahim Ismail Hundosa had been tortured and her head shaved while she was held captive, the reports said.

"Hundosa was found in a remote area of the capital, news reports said. Her family said that she had been subjected to 'physical torture and beating with whips' and that she had been told her head was shaved because 'it looked like the hair of Arabs while she belonged to the slaves in Darfur,' according to the pro-democracy group Grifina (We Are Fed Up). The journalist is now recovering at home with her family. . . . "

Short Takes

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter @princeeditor

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact journal-isms-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and tell us who you are.

Special thanks to The McCormick Foundation for its generous support of the Journal-isms column.

 

Comments

What Do News Execs of Color Owe Their Communities?

From Mark Russell, editor, Orlando Sentinel:

Like others who've already commented, I view my role and responsibility as an editor as an advocate for good journalism, a fair and balanced report and to make decisions that make the Orlando Sentinel a stronger business.

Part of that is making sure we reflect the whole community and that we tackle subjects that may upset some readers but are central to the role of a vital newsroom. For the Sentinel, I have tried to ensure that we approached the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman story with a wide-angle lens, looking for ways to describe how this complicated story has played out in multi-cultural Central Florida. We just published an eight-part series, "In the Shadow of Race," that looks at the issues of racial identity, the history of racism in Sanford and what it's like to be a minority in a majority environment.

Sometimes, readers, especially older ones (and not just African Americans) question the attention we give to sensitive subjects, like race. And, yes, I've been criticized by some readers for focusing too much on race. Yet I think it's important that we cover those issues, when relevant, to spark conversations because the problems are not going away.

On the staff, I've also pushed for coverage that shows the richness of our community's diversity. And, in Central Florida, that is way more than a black-white issue. Hispanics constitute the largest minority in our region, and there are growing numbers of Asians and people from the Caribbean here. And, of course, it is important to make sure we are using people of color as sources in enterprise and feature stories.

 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.