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Whiteness at the Top

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sulzberger Voices "Concern" About Online Diversity

Unity Registration Reaches 6,830; Changes Urged

Diversity Rises Among Washington Press Corps

CBS Lags in Diversity Survey of Station Management

'NABJ is. . . encouraged that both ABC and NBC are willing to work with the associations to increase the diversity of their respective staffs,' the organization said. At a time when the news media are "being forced to concentrate on issues of race for the first time since the late 1960s," a survey of news managers at the 61 network-owned television stations found a dearth of people of color, with almost no diversity in the uppermost tier, the National Association of Black Journalists, which conducted the reporting, said on Friday.

"The study, conducted during the last ten months, found that only 16.6% of the managers at stations owned and operated by ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are people of color, and more than a third of the stations have no people of color at all in the managerial ranks," it said.

CBS proved to be the least diverse at the management level, having no general managers or news directors of color, according to the survey, released at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago.

The NABJ announcement comes in the same week that the annual Radio-Television News Directors Association/Hofstra University diversity survey showed journalists of color to be 23.6 percent of local television news staffs.

In the NABJ study, 23 of the stations had no people of color and 17 had only one person of color in management.

"At the general manager level, the highest-ranking position at a television news station, only three of the 57 general managers - 5.2% -- were non-white. All were African American men and worked for ABC, Fox and NBC. CBS had no non-white general managers. There were no Hispanic or Asian general managers, nor were there any women of color," it said.

"Among 58 news directors, 17% were non-white: eight were African American, 1 was Hispanic and 1 was Asian. All the news directors of color worked for NBC or Fox. There were no news directors of color at ABC or CBS."

"I look at the calendar and it reads 2008, but our survey numbers reflect the year 1978. Industry leaders should be embarrassed that diversity has not taken a permanent root in their hiring practices. Diversity is good business and to practice otherwise the business runs the risk of losing the financial support in the diverse community it serves," NABJ president Barbara Ciara said in a news release.

"According to the US Census Bureau, people of color comprise 33 percent of the national population. Of the 367 managers at the stations, only 42, or 11.4%, were African American, 15, or 4%, were Hispanic and 4, or 1%, were Asian. The survey found no Native Americans in managerial positions at any of these stations," NABJ continued.

Of the 53 assistant news directors, 5, or 9.4%, were African American, 1, or 1.8% was Hispanic and 1 was Asian.

There were 45 managing editors, of which 2, or 4.4%, were African American and 3, or 6.6%, were Hispanic.

There are 152 executive producers. 24, or 15.8% were African American, 8, or 5.3%, were Hispanic and 2, or 1.3%, were Asian.

"While this census focused on the major network owned and operated stations, NABJ is also conducting a census of each companies' network newsroom as well," NABJ reported.

"NABJ sent letters to each of the networks asking if they would confirm the information that had been collected. Two companies responded and said corporate policy prohibited them from releasing the figures. While NABJ is disappointed that it is unable to compare numbers, it is encouraged that both ABC and NBC are willing to work with the associations to increase the diversity of their respective staffs."


In a May discussion on MSNBC's "Hardball," during the Democratic primary season, Pat Buchanan accused his colleagues of trying to paint white West Virginians as uneducated racists, and he equated white supporters of Hillary Clinton with African American supporters of Barack Obama. In each case, he said, they simply wanted to support one their own.

Fox, Buchanan, Political Teams Get Thumbs Down

Fox News, columnist Pat Buchanan and news organizations with little to no diversity in their political coverage teams have been named the 2008 recipients of the National Association of Black Journalists' Thumbs Down Award, NABJ announced on Friday.

Said NABJ President Barbara Ciara at a news conference, "If I had to list the atrocities committed by FOX News this election year, we'd be in this room all day. No other network has a worse record of inaccurate portrayals of African-Americans than FOX News," a news release said.

Ciara cited Fox News' characterization of Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama," and in a teaser, Fox's E.D. Hill asking whether Michelle Obama's "fist bump" could be called a "terrorist fist jab."

NABJ also cited Buchanan's March column "A Brief for Whitey," in which he asserted that white Americans were tired of complaints of racism from black people, saying that "America has been the best country on earth for black folks."

Buchanan also wrote that "the Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans" because of a "baby boom among these black and brown peoples" that will bring an end to Western man in the 21st century.

"Exactly what rock is Pat Buchanan living under?" said Ciara at the conference of Asian American, black, Latino, and Native American journalists. "The Western World was born off the backs of black and brown people."

NABJ also panned news organizations across media platforms "that have failed to provide a diverse pool of people covering elections." "This is apparent in print, radio, television and online," said Ciara. "This lack of diversity, especially for African Americans, has allowed far too many miscues and insensitive comments this election season."

As reported in this space, news organizations with scant numbers of African Americans on their coverage teams include the New York Times, Time magazine, the Associated Press, Time magazine, Politico, Gannett News Service and the Los Angeles Times.

Unity Registration Reaches 6,830; Changes Urged

Registration for the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago reached 6,830 on Friday, approaching the figure reached in 2004, the organization said.

That figure was reported as 8,158 then and as 7,273 on Friday.

With Sen. Barack Obama's appearance scheduled for Sunday and one-day attendance permitted, it is possible that despite adverse economic times, Unity could match the 2004 event in both revenue and registration. The convention began Wednesday.

Separately, Will Sutton and Juan Gonzalez, two journalists who helped create Unity in the 1980s, proposed that the coalition:

  • "Find a way to fund an education and research position on the UNITY staff to start producing proactive public policy positions.
  • "Create a UNITY publishing incubator funded by venture capitalists to provide our coalition association members with opportunities to launch smaller media outlets to compete with the media companies that have failed to hire, promote and retain enough of us as we continue to work with the media companies that are serious about diversity.

  • "Reduce the size of the UNITY board of directors and add non-association media stakeholder representatives.

  • "Hold UNITY conventions every two years to provide more association members with the opportunity to attend UNITY conventions at a lower cost as the conventions occur more frequently and rotate among more geographic locations across the country while ensuring that more media companies will continue to work with us as a coalition since too many media companies no longer attend and participate in each of our four individual association conventions."

Diversity Rises Among Washington Press Corps

The Washington press corps has shrunk by 13.8 percent in the past four years. (ABC News) "Journalists of color make up 13.1 percent of the 495 reporters, correspondents, columnists and editors in the Washington daily newspaper press corps. That's an improvement over the last census four years ago, when just under 10.5 percent of the press corps consisted of minority journalists," according to a study released Thursday from Unity: Journalists of Color and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

"The improvement, however, is as much one of proportion as it is of number. The number of minority journalists rose somewhat at a time when the press corps as a whole is declining."

The study was released during the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago.

It also found:

  • The Washington press corps has shrunk by 13.8 percent in the past four years.
  • "The proportion of minority journalists in the Washington press corps is comparable to the proportion of reporters, editors and supervisors of color in daily newspaper newsrooms around the country.
  • "The representation of journalists of color is lowest in top leadership positions in Washington bureaus. While there were three bureau chiefs of color -- or their equivalents -- in 2004 heading major news operations in the nation's capital, there is just one in 2008, and minority journalists comprise barely 12 percent of those in editing positions.
  • "Retention of minority journalists continues to be a challenge. More than half of the journalists of color identified in the 2004 study are no longer part of the Washington press corps today.
  • "Since 2004 Asian American journalists have made the most progress proportionally in the Washington press corps, going from 1.9 percent to 3.2 percent of the total. Latino representation improved by almost a percentage point, and African-American representation remains about the same. There is one Native American journalist covering Washington for daily newspapers.
  • "Nearly 80 percent of the newspapers with their own staffs in Washington have no journalists of color working for them as reporters, editors, correspondents or bureau chiefs. Many of those are staffs consisting of one person.
  • "News bureaus run by newspaper chains, including Newhouse News Service and Gannett News Service, have among the most diverse newsrooms in Washington. But other chain bureaus, including Scripps Newspapers, Hearst, Media General and Copley News Service, have among the least diverse newsrooms in Washington.
  • "A number of newspaper organizations declined to provide staff lists and/or other information about their Washington staffs for the UNITY study, despite UNITY leadership's call for transparency following the 2004 study.
  • "More than three-quarters of the journalists of color in Washington newspaper bureaus say the capital press corps does a fair or good job covering race-related issues. But none rate the coverage excellent, and few rate it even very good.
  • "Journalists say they believe readers are interested in both Washington news and in stories related to race. Yet they describe the Washington press corps as being out of touch with audiences back home, and they attribute that, at least in part, to the lack of diversity in the Washington press corps.
  • "Journalists of color say they have limited influence over the coverage of race-related stories in their bureaus."

It's Official‚ McCain Not Coming to Unity

A Berlin daily covers the Obama visit After months of holding out hope that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would attend its convention in Chicago this week, Unity: Journalists of Color officially acknowledged on Thursday that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee isn't coming.

"UNITY also asked Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, to speak at the conference. The McCain campaign declined the invitation, citing scheduling conflicts," Unity said in a news release.

The release offered details about Sen. Barack Obama's scheduled address to Unity on Sunday morning, which is now planned for 11 a.m. Chicago time, after Obama returns from his trip to the Mideast and Europe.

"Obama will take questions from a panel of journalists moderated by Suzanne Malveaux, CNN anchor, and Romesh Ratnesar, world editor, TIME magazine. The panel of questioners include[s] John Yang, White House correspondent, NBC News, representing the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA); Leonard Pitts, Jr., columnist, The Miami Herald, representing the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ); Dianne Solis, senior writer, The Dallas Morning News, and representing the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ); and Brian Bull, assistant news director, Wisconsin Public Radio, representing the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)," according to the organization.

Although Obama and McCain will not appear together in Unity's now-scrapped "presidential candidates forum," CNN will pair the two in its Sunday broadcast.

The network plans to air Obama's speech to Unity at 11 a.m. Central time, preceded by a taped interview with McCain conducted with anchor Wolf Blitzer from Denver on Friday, a CNN spokeswoman told Journal-isms.

Media coverage of the Obama trip continued to generate commentary.

"After saying little in public during a weekend in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama met with traveling reporters near Jordan's Temple of Hercules, a gladiator standing his ground against the media hordes," Howard Kurtz wrote Friday in the Washington Post.

"But even as the likes of NBC's Andrea Mitchell and ABC's Jake Tapper rose to press the Democratic candidate on Tuesday, television viewers back home heard nothing but faint voices in the wind. The journalists weren't miked; only Obama's answers came through loud and clear.

"That may have been unintentional, but it underscored the degree to which Obama has controlled the message -- and, more important, the pictures -- during his exhaustively chronicled trek across the Middle East and Europe. Obama meeting the troops, meeting the generals, meeting prime ministers and kings, drawing a huge crowd in Berlin yesterday -- the images trump whatever journalists write and say.

"In short, though Obamapalooza was not quite the lovefest that some expected, news outlets provided a spotlight so bright that their own people were left in the shadows."

In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley wrote this on Wednesday: "It wasn't a television blackout of John McCain; it was worse: split-screen contrasts that at times made it seem as if Barack Obama was on a state visit while back home his opponent chafed at the perks and privileges of an incumbent commander in chief.

"All three cable news networks carried Mr. Obama's news conference live and in full. They showed only parts of Mr. McCain's forum and focused mostly on his reaction to Mr. Obama's statements. Even Fox News broke away from Mr. McCain midevent to cover the rescue of a bear cub wounded in a California fire and nicknamed Lil' Smokey.

"But it's not pro-Obama bias in the news media that's driving the effusion of coverage, it's the news: Mr. Obama's weeklong tour of war zones and foreign capitals is noteworthy because it is so unusual to see a presidential candidate act so presidential overseas. Mr. Obama looks supremely confident and at home talking to generals and heads of state, so much so that some viewers may find the pose presumptuous — as if Mr. Obama believes that not only is his official nomination at the Democratic convention in August a mere formality, so is the November election."

Bloggers of Color Meeting Separately in Atlanta

While journalists of color meet in Chicago and discuss the need to become more adept in the digital world, bloggers of color are meeting Friday through Sunday in Atlanta.

"We did not find out about the date conflict until several months after we had signed the contracts. But yes, i was aware," Gina McCauley, organizer of the "Blogging While Brown" conference, told Journal-isms via e-mail. "SOME journalists are bloggers, but most bloggers do not consider themselves journalists. My conference will be dominated by entrepreneurs, writers, and activists. Few if any are tied to any large corporate interest.

"We are new media, the NABJ is mainly old media. I suspect the makeup of my conference will also skew younger. We're [in a] building stage, they are already fully developed.

"two completely separate groups of people. Journalists work full time, most Black bloggers are part-timers the distinctions go on. In a way it is good that there is a conflict so that we can find our own voice. new voices for new media," she continued in the e-mail. 

McCauley, an Austin, Texas, personal injury attorney, is founder of www.whataboutourdaughters.blogspot.com and received widespread attention after she crusaded last year against BET's planned show showing African Americans at their worst, "Hot Ghetto Mess." BET then retitled the show and eventually dropped it.

Sulzberger Voices "Concern" About Online Diversity

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, said at the Unity conference that "the full range of digital talent" is not represented in the online world. "Among minority organizations, it's heavily accented Asian . . . that's a concern," he said.

"Unity reminds us of the enormous wealth of talent we have in our industry," he said at a breakfast session Thursday sponsored by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. "The need for diversity has grown, not shrunk."

Attendees at conventions of the Online News Association have said they saw few people of color, particularly African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

Interviewed at the breakfast by Maynard board member Dorothy Gilliam, Sulzberger urged newspapers to "start looking at your digital numbers." The Times found that while print readers spend 35 minutes daily with its newspaper, Web viewers spent only 35 minutes a month with the Times Web site. "We have to grow that number," he said. He also urged schools to prepare their students to perform in a multimedia world.

"I think there will still be newspapers" when the Maynard Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary, Sulzberger said at the forum commemorating the organization's 30th. "Our mission hasn't changed. Our mission is to cover the society as it is. The only way we will not survive this difficult transition we're in is if we lose or mission; if we decide we're no longer going to cover our community the way it needs to be covered.

"As we have a more diverse nation, a nation of color, it will become more important, not less important."

Sulzberger also agreed with a sentiment expressed at a two-day pre-Unity discussion of digital journalism sponsored by the Poynter Institute. "We were the locus of information," he said of newspapers. "That world is gone or quickly going. Now the (thrust) is how to integrate ourselves" into the Internet world. "How often are you linked? How often do they blog about you? These things are going to help us make the transition," he said.

Laid-Off, Bought-Out NABJ Members Plan Strategy

Recently unemployed members of the National Association of Black Journalists -- and those who feared they could be -- gathered at the Unity convention in Chicago on Thursday to strategize and share with those who have already weathered such experiences, as Charly Edsitty reported for Unity News, the student convention newspaper.

"The meeting was spurred by an NABJ listserv post by Tina A. Brown, which drew an overwhelming response. She has been a staff writer at The Hartford Courant for 16 years and wrote that she took a buyout from the newspaper and would be out of a job by July 31," she wrote.

"'People are feeling kind of panicked,' said Jackie Jones, an NABJ member who helped coordinate the impromptu gathering of affected members attending the convention. "They don't know where the industry is going.'

"NABJ offered financial assistance to recently laid-off members to enable them to attend the convention."

NABJ President Barbara Ciara empathized with the group of about 30, which included some younger people who said they were thinking of their own futures. Ciara said she wanted to continue the members' initiative and asked whether the organization should offer more financial, entrepreneurial or other advice.

"The problem is many of us are working for people," she said. "We're not used to working for ourselves.

"I want some of the first things we do to roll out in September, October, November," she said.

Ranks of Asian American Male Anchors Rise

The number of on-air Asian American men in the top 25 markets rose from 22 to 38 (Poynter.org). In 2002, AAJA commissioned a study documenting the lack of Asian American men on the air on newscasts in the top 25 markets in the country.

"In 2004, AAJA released a DVD showcasing the talent of 60 Asian American male anchors, reporters and other newscasters," Randall Yip, chairman of the AAJA Male Broadcaster Initiative, told Journal-isms. " In 2006, AAJA released a DVD highlighting a day in the life of 6 Asian American broadcasters. Its goal was to encourage more Asians to enter the field of broadcast journalism.

"This month, we did a follow up to both the 2002 survey and the 2004 DVD. The results are encouraging for those who support our efforts. The number of Asian American men on the air in the top 25 markets has increased by 73 percent. There were 22 Asian American men on the air in the top 25 markets in 2002. There are now 38.

"At the same time, the number of Asian American women has also increased in these markets, 84 in 2002 compared to 129 in 2008, an increase of 54%.

"The ratio of Asian American women to men in these markets has also improved. In 2002, the ratio was 3.82 to 1. In 2008, the ratio is 3.39 to 1.

"We also surveyed the 60 men featured in the 'Men of AAJA' DVD released in 2004.

"Of the 60 men on the DVD, 56 responded to our survey. 87 percent of those men remain in journalism. 50 percent of those men polled told us they thought the DVD had a positive impact on Asian American men in broadcasting. 33 percent said the DVD had no impact and 16 percent said they weren't sure. None of those survey felt the DVD had a negative impact.

"In addition, 71% of the men featured in the DVD have either been given a promotion (defined as a change in job title or a market jump of at least 10 markets) or made a lateral move (including those still in the same position.)"

Short Takes

  • "According to Nielsen Media Research data, CNN's second installment of the groundbreaking documentary 'Black in America' surpassed the impressive ratings performance of the night before," CNN announced on Friday. "On Thursday, July 24, 'Black in America: The Black Man' dominated its cable news competition during the 9-11 pm time period and ranked as the 2nd most watched program across all cable networks among adults 25-54."
  • "The controversial July 21 cover of The New Yorker portraying Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a Muslim has been a virtual sellout on newsstands," Keith Kelly reported Friday in the New York Post. "In fact, the demand has completely overwhelmed Cond?© Nast's ability to fill requests for additional copies. The issue went off sale on Monday and preliminary estimates show single-copy sales surged 80 percent over average weekly newsstand sales, or around 75,000 copies, compared with average newsstand sales of around 43,000."
  • "Just a couple of months after WCBS/Ch. 2 correspondent Pablo Guzman cheated death in a car crash, he's now recovering from a heart attack," Richard Huff reported in the New York Daily News. "Guzman, 57, suffered the coronary Tuesday at his home in Westchester County and underwent angioplasty."
  • "A man protesting Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade was assaulted and physically removed from the McCormick Convention Center during Wade's address to the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention," Dioni L. Wise reported Friday in the Unity convention online newspaper. Monique Bond, director of news affairs for the Chicago Police Department, said no arrests were made." Violence broke¬† between supporters and opponents of Wade just before he was to speak, Mark Fitzgerald wrote in Editor & Publisher.¬†¬†"Beating up journalists, locking up journalists -- that is his game," a Wade protester Joe Sall said. "When he's home he acts like a real despot. When he's in the West, he acts like he's a democrat, talking about human rights."

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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