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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lack of Outreach Said to Limit Journalists of Color

Tannette Johnson-ElieFor her Tuesday business-section column, Tannette Johnson-Elie of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel told small business owners they need to network. "Getting out, meeting people and building relationships is a good way to be actively seeking new business instead of obsessing on the ailing economy," she instructed.

It was another Johnson-Elie column tying into the world's biggest continuing story, one likely to remain so for months. But as a black business columnist in the mainstream media, Johnson-Elie is a rarity.

"Business is usually the last frontier for African-Americans and journalists of color," Johnson-Elie told Journal-isms. "We typically want to be on the front page and that often means working on the metro desk. Those of us that write opinion, we are primarily concentrated in the Editorial departments of newspapers.

"Look at me, I'm the only columnist in business among the Trotter Group" of African American columnists, "and other than Michelle Singletary," who writes a syndicated personal finance column for the Washington Post, "you're not going to find many black women penning columns in the business section of a major daily paper.

"It's probably not even possible for there to be a large number of journalists of color reporting on the economic crisis, because our numbers tend to be few in business news."

That there are "few" in the mainstream media doesn't mean "none." And some business journalists of color are indeed visible and high-ranking. But when the meltdown of the financial markets exploded this month, leading to a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, the journalists of color were generally not the ones out front.

Terri Thompson, director of Columbia University's Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism, spoke of business journalists and the heightened interest in financial journalism. "We needed these people before; now they're panicking," she told Journal-isms.  "People gave up on it when it was 'uninteresting.' The unfortunate thing is it was always an important story."

No one seems to be formally keeping track of the number of business journalists of color. The Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2002 commissioned a survey of 21 large newspapers and found that people of color comprised 22.7 percent of business-news staffs: 7.9 percent were Asian American, 7.6 percent Hispanic and 7 percent African American.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors found then that 12.07 percent of all newsroom staff came from minority groups, but ASNE includes many smaller papers that have no people of color at all.

Anecdotally, several names come to mind when those in the field are asked to list them.

Jacqueline Simmons, who is African American, reports from Paris about investment banking for Bloomberg News; Mary Irby-Jones, African American, is business editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News; Betty Wong is the global head of editorial operations at Thomson Reuters, said to be the highest ranking Asian woman in all of journalism.

Jesse Lewis, a black journalist, is managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, "playing a leading editorial role covering the financial crisis and anchoring our coverage from Europe. His contribution is critically important given that Europe is a big part of the economic crisis story," Wall Street Journal spokesman Robert Christie said.

Rick Christie is assistant managing editor for business at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and Trevor Delaney is personal finance editor at the Associated Press. Sharon Epperson is at CNBC and USA Weekend magazine. At the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Andre Jackson oversees business coverage as senior editor, Gertha Coffee is an assistant business editor, Tammy Joyner writes about business and Peralte Paul and Leon Stafford are business beat writers. "Any of them could write stories about the crisis," James Mallory, senior managing editor, said. All are black journalists.

Latinos include Carl Quintanilla at CNBC, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera of CNBC, Bertha Coombs Sague at CNBC and Beatrice Garcia at the Miami Herald. Among Asian Americans, Sandra Sugarawa is assistant managing editor for business news at the Washington Post; Shirley Leung is the business editor at the Boston Globe, Patrick Chu is a managing editor for Bloomberg News in San Francisco, Vikas Bajaj has been covering the fallout for the New York Times and Edward Iwata writes for USA Today's Money section. Yoki Noguchi reports for National Public Radio.

For those who have gotten a piece of the story, it has been thrilling.

Keith Reed (credit: PBS)Keith Reed, business reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, told Journal-isms last week, "I wrote our A1 centerpiece last Monday about how retirees have been battered by the crisis. I was also on NPR's 'News & Notes' discussing it the same day. In the past few weeks, I've gotten so many emails to my blog on bet.com that I'm dedicating this entire week to answering the questions of worried young professionals who are mainly concerned about their 401(k) accounts and I've even started a Facebook group aimed at that same audience. In less than a week, more than 130 young professionals joined and many of them asked me questions about the crisis over the weekend."

"As international business editor, I've been very involved in our coverage, though not a tenth of what our Wall St./financial team has been doing. They have been extraordinary, working 6 and 7 day weeks for going on two months now," the New York Times' Marcus Mabry, who appeared this month on National Public Radio, CNN and PBS, said last week. "My piece is the international piece, which was a late comer to the crisis, which most Europeans insisted was American for the longest. And my Asian reporters only started feeling it last week. But our reporter in Tokyo pissed off the [Wall Street] Journal by scooping them on Japan's sudden mood change."

""It's been exhilarating," agreed Ronald A. Taylor, one of three copy editors at the Daily Report for Executives, published by the Washington-based Bureau of National Affairs. "For BNA, this was a huge story complicated by timing outside the usual 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Washington window. It has meant pushing daily deadlines a bit and some weekend work to keep up with developments that often weren't released until after the markets closed. At the same time, we needed to keep up with a steady stream of news; we publish to an audience of lobbyists, congressional staffers, financial regulators, and administrative officials -- in and outside the federal government.

"But the arcane language of securities markets and financial institutions is pretty common around here, so it was mostly a matter of staying ahead of normally casual reporters who were suddenly energized by the swirling events of an economic meltdown."

More journalists of color are involved than are listed here. But why isn't the number larger?

"It's supply and demand," said one black editor who did not want to be named because he didn't have his company's authorization to speak. "Many of us are attracted to journalism because we're interested in the community and policy. For old-timers like us, it's an extension of activism. We didn't focus in on business.

"We didn't grow up reading the Wall Street Journal, and if we discovered it, it was late in the game.

"But from a journalistic standpoint, it's the biggest story in the world. This is the biggest financial calamity in seven decades. Who wouldn't want a piece of that?"

He added, "one way to increase your worth is to have a specialty, and if you understand markets and business, you're more valuable. Money is the one thing that cuts across all bias."

Johnson-Elie agrees with some of that. But she adds, "the news industry finds itself in this situation because there wasn't enough effort put into filling the pipeline with enough people who could cover business news. Since business news is not on the radar of many minority journalists, it becomes incumbent on news organizations to seek them out and encourage them to be part of their staffs.

"I'm in business news mainly because I was recruited by the senior business editor who saw the need to diversify a staff that had no minorities. We later went on to have several other African-American business reporters on staff. Today, I'm the lone person once again. I think there has to be acknowledgement of the problem on the part of management and then there has to be a concerted effort to recruit journalists of color."

Wall St. Journal Won't Say Why It Ran This Photo

Newspaper published this photo with no caption. (Credit: Fox News)The Wall Street Journal used a photo of Colin L. Powell with what appear to be two black rappers to illustrate an opinion piece criticizing Powell for his endorsement Sunday of Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The opinion piece, by Bret Stephens, had nothing to do with rap music or rappers. The picture had no caption.

Then why use such a photo?

"We don't discuss our editing decisions," replied Robert Christie, Wall Street Journal spokesman. "Actually," he added, "it is a long held policy here."

Others were not so closed-mouthed.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words," one reader wrote on the Journal Web site. "The picture accompanying Stephens's op-ed piece certainly 'helps' readers evaluate Powell's endorsement of Obama, offering an image of Powell flanked by two rappers. The picture suggests (1) that he is, first and foremost, a black man rather than a statesman (cf. [Rush] Limbaugh's criticism of the endorsement); (2) that he is a ridiculous has-been; (3) that he hangs out with gangstas.

"Needless to say, the photo is not from Powell's appearance on Meet the Press or his interviews afterwards. It's from an African festival event at Royal Albert Hall in London.

"I'm a Democrat who reads WSJ online regularly to get a reasoned conservative point of view. This sort of stunt belongs on Fox News, not in the Wall Street Journal."

Actually, Fox News did use the photo. In an Oct. 15 story, Fox captioned it, "Colin Powell has his dancing shoes on, fueling speculation that he's gearing up to do the Obama Two-Step.

"The normally staid former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff performed an impromptu hip-hop dance alongside well-known rap stars Tuesday following a speech at a festival in London celebrating African-American music and fashion.

"Powell -- who has yet to back a candidate -- told the audience: 'I stand before you as an African-American. Many people have said to me you became secretary of state of the USA, is it still necessary to say that you are an African American or that you are black? And I say yes, so that we can remind our children.'"

Powell said on Sunday that if he had wanted to endorse Obama simply because both men are black, he would have done that months ago.

Survey Finds Black Identification With GOP Drops 60%

"Exactly two weeks before Americans select the next President of the United States, a new survey of African Americans' political attitudes confirms that support for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) among black voters is at near record levels for a Democratic nominee, while black identification with the Republican Party has dropped by 60 percent since 2004. In addition, the poll found that both former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have retained their high favorability ratings among black voters," the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reported on Tuesday.

"The poll also found a significant change in party identification among African American voters, with 73 percent identifying themselves as Democrats, up from 63 percent in 2004, and black Republicans in the survey declining to four percent, down from 10 percent four years ago. The percentage of black Independents declined from 23 percent to 19 percent over the same four year period."

In addition:

  • Sen. John McCain "is viewed unfavorably by African Americans and his black support on Election Day is likely to be in record low territory."

  • "A majority of African Americans (55 percent) said their financial status was worse than it was in the previous year. Only eight percent of respondents said their financial situation improved over the past year."

  • On the Clintons, the report said, "during the heated Democratic presidential primaries, there was a great deal of commentary that Senator Hillary R. Clinton and former president¬†Bill Clinton had damaged their elevated standings among African Americans because of their conduct toward Senator Obama during the campaign. Either those views of the Clintons were incorrect, or all has been forgiven . . ."

  • President Bush's tally among African Americans were "the lowest approval and highest disapproval numbers ever recorded in a Joint Center Survey."

  • Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's favorable ratings were lower than those of McCain, 18 percent to McCain's 22.8 percent, though 29.6 percent said they didn't know enough about her.

. . . Louder Chorus Tries to Debunk "Bradley Effect" 

David BositisAsked what the news media could take away from his survey of African American political attitudes, David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said reporters could stop talking about the so-called "Bradley effect." "Senator Obama is going to do better among white voters probably than any Democratic candidate going back to Jimmy Carter," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

In 1982, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American, lost the California gubernatorial election. It was suggested that his race cost him the election despite polls that showed him with a substantial lead.

But Bositis, who has supervised the Joint Center's polling, said the effect "has been amplified with the purpose of trying to give some hope to the McCain supporters."

None of those discussing the effect quote those who have dealt with racial voting, as he has done in the issue of redistricting to take account of race, Bositis said.

Moreover, whites have elected black candidates in such states as Colorado and Illinois.

On ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said, "First of all, I don't think there was a Bradley effect. I think that was an excuse by Melvin Field because his poll was entirely wrong."

"He missed absentee voters. Right," said host George Stephanopoulos.

"Well, and he missed rural voters in a year when he had a gun control initiative on the ballot. I had lunch with one of Wilson's deputies this week who pointed out Wilson beat Brown coming from behind exactly the same week that Deukmejian beat Bradley." Referring to state Attorney General George Deukmejian and California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.'s Senate race against San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, Gingrich said, "Brown of course is white and is now the attorney general. But so let me just start and say, the most you can find in California is 2% or 3% difference between Deukmejian and Wilson. So it's very hard to argue there was a Bradley effect in the first place."

In Poll, Voters Say Media Are Pulling for Obama

"Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election. By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4. Another 8% say journalists don't favor either candidate, and 13% say they don't know which candidate most reporters support," according to the News Coverage Index conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

"In recent presidential campaigns, voters repeatedly have said they thought journalists favored the Democratic candidate over the Republican. But this year's margin is particularly wide," the Pew Center said on Wednesday. "In the current campaign, Republicans, Democrats and independents all feel that the media wants to see Obama win the election."

It also said, "For its part, the national media devoted more newshole [to] the campaign (51% of all coverage) than to any other story, including the nation's financial crisis."

In a separate study, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reported Tuesday, "The media coverage of the race for president has not so much cast Barack Obama in a favorable light as it has portrayed John McCain in a substantially negative one, according to a new study of the media since the two national political conventions ended.

"In the six weeks following the conventions through the final debate, unfavorable stories about McCain outweighed favorable ones by a factor of more than three to one—the most unfavorable of all four candidates—according to the study."

Chicago's Warner Saunders Readying Final Sign-off

Warner Saunders "WMAQ-Ch. 5 lead newscaster Warner Saunders, who's been part of Chicago's television landscape for 40 years, expects to leave the station he has called home since 1980, retiring at the end of May from the 10 p.m. newscast he has co-anchored for 11 1/2 years," Phil Rosenthal reported Wednesday for the Chicago Tribune.

"Although WMAQ has yet to make any formal announcement, Saunders, who turns 74 in January, said by e-mail that he signed a brief contract extension that smooths out the transition for the NBC-owned station's newscasts.

"Saunders intends to move off the station's 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts with the new year, while remaining on Channel 5's marquee 10 p.m. broadcast alongside Allison Rosati for another five months. Barring something unexpected, Saunders indicated he looks to retire June 1."

 

Jane Velez-Mitchell Replacing Glenn Beck on CNN

Jane Velez-Mitchell"She replaced provocative talk show host Glenn Beck on Headline News Friday night. On Monday, her show got an official name," Kristi E. Swartz reported Tuesday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"'Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell' is Headline News' answer — at least for now — to fill the void left by Beck. He wrapped up his 7 p.m. weekday show last Thursday and is headed for archrival Fox News Channel.

"Beck debuted on Headline News in May 2006 and was part of the network's prime-time makeover, which included legal talker Nancy Grace and Showbiz Tonight. He also was arguably the network's most conservative political voice and stirred up both controversy and better ratings in his time slot.

"His commentaries have upset Hispanic groups, Arab-American organizations and the liberal Media Matters for America.

"Velez-Mitchell, a true-crime author, has been a popular fill-in anchor for Nancy Grace and on other Headline News' shows. Her show is supposed to be personality-driven, topical and opinionated, according to an internal staff memo."

Short Takes

  • The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has received a spike in Web site traffic, responses from Gov. Charlie Crist and editorials¬†seeking action after an Oct. 12 story reported, "More than 30,000 Florida felons who by law should have been stripped of their right to vote remain registered to cast ballots in this presidential battleground state, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found. Many are faithful voters, with at least 4,900 turning out in past elections. Another 5,600 are not likely to vote Nov. 4 ‚Äî they're still in prison." Reporter Sally Kestin, who worked on the story, told Journal-isms the reporting team was looking at the final voter rolls. The Oct. 12 story was based on the rolls as they existed in late August.

  • In New York, Darlene Rodriguez"WNBC/Ch. 4 is shaking up its weekend news roster by pulling veterans Carol Anne Riddell and Carolyn Gusoff either completely or partially from their anchor slots," Richard Huff reported¬†Wednesday for the New York Daily News. "Riddell, who has anchored Sunday's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, was replaced last weekend on the 11 p.m. show by Darlene Rodriguez . . . .Rodriguez has been getting heavy face time alongside Chuck Scarborough and David Ushery when Sue Simmons was on vacation."

  • Jim Yardley, the New York Times' Beijing bureau chief, is heading for the New Delhi bureau, succeeding Somini Sengupta, who spent four years as the New Delhi bureau chief, and who will take a temporary sabbatical in the Netherlands before getting a new assignment, John Koblin reported¬†in the New York Observer. "He'll be joined by Lydia Polgreen, who will leave her post as West African correspondent."

  • Aye Aye Win, a correspondent for the Associated Press in Myanmar, was one of three women to receive Courage in Journalism Awards from the International Women's Media Foundation, along with Farida Nekzad, managing editor of Pajhwok Afghan News, and Sevgul Uludag, an investigative reporter for Yeniduzen, a Cyprus newspaper. All told of being subjected to intimidation and even death threats for their journalistic efforts, Richard Pyle of the Associated Press reported. Edith Lederer, an Associated Press reporter who has covered wars and other events around the globe for more than three decades and is AP's chief correspondent at the UN, received the IWMF's Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • "What About Gwen Ifill? Last week, Margot Friedman, a public relations professional in Washington, D.C., launched a Web site
    encouraging NBC News executives to rethink their strategy for picking the next moderator of Meet the Press," Felix Gilette reported  Monday for the New York Observer.
  • "In a case that has illustrated Afghanistan's drift toward a more radically conservative brand of Islam as well as the fragility of its legal system, an appeals court Tuesday overturned a death sentence for a student convicted of blasphemy but sentenced him to 20 years in prison," Laura King reported¬†Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times. "The student, Parwez Kambakhsh, 24, ran afoul of Afghan authorities last year when he circulated an article about women's rights under Islam after downloading it from the Internet. He was studying at the time in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where he also worked as a part-time journalist for local newspapers." The Committee to Protect Journalists said¬†it was outraged by the 20-year sentence.

  • In New York, a panel of activists and journalists discussed the 1965¬†civil rights confrontations in Selma, Ala. Activists Andrew Young, Rep. John Lewis and Diane Nash, and¬†journalists Dan Rather, former NBC correspondent Richard Valeriani, Haynes Johnson and Nick Kotz, the TV Newser Web site reported. "Some of the talk revolved around the role between the movement and the press at the time. Young said the press 'was on our side,' while Lewis thought they were a 'sympathetic referee.' Rather described the role as 'honest brokers of information.'"

  • Ron Kitagawa, features editor at the San Jose Mercury News, has been named assistant managing editor for production. He will oversee design, graphics and the copy desk for the paper. Kitagawa, who just celebrated his 10-year anniversary at the paper, is a past president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, AAJA reported.

  • Christopher LeeWashington Post national reporter Christopher Lee started work Wednesday as a communications officer for the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, with Medicaid, state children's health insurance programs, the uninsured, women's health and state and national health reform efforts as his portfolio. Lee came to the Post in 2002 after 11 years at the Dallas Morning News. "I'm mindful that the industry is contracting and thought it would be a good time to expand my professional toolbar," he told Journal-isms. The Post ran a front-page story by Lee on Tuesday. He had departed on Friday.
  • "A new English-language Latino Lifestyle magazine hit the streets in
    Chicago.  The first issue - October/November 2008 will have a
    circulation of 45,000 copies," Veronica Villafa?±e reported
    ¬†for her Media Moves site. "The magazine is produced by a group of former Tribune employees, including Alejandro Riera, the Editor in Chief for Caf?© Media."

  • "When Gambian security agents took 'Chief' Ebrima Manneh away for questioning in July 2006, his colleagues at the Daily Observer thought he would be back soon. Instead, Manneh has been kept in secret locations by a government that has officially denied holding him. In 'The Witness,' fellow reporter Ousman Darboe recounts his search for Manneh and his risky decision to testify about the case before a regional court," the Committee to Protect Journalists said¬†Tuesday in introducing Darboe's story.

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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Comments

Black journalists in business news (Peter Alan Harper)

I don’t know why there aren’t more black journalists in business news, except for the same o’ same o’. Beyond that, news organizations can easily grow their own business journalists. My journalistic growth serves as an excellent illustration. I wound up in biz news because I switched my interests from political to financial stories while working as the labor and transportation beat reporter for the New York bureau of The Associated Press. I wound up doing budget stories as often as possible. I was asked to write national NYC stories in the early 1990s, which meant financial stories as the city nudged toward a financial meltdown. I dealt w/Mayor Dinkins, Gov. Cuomo, Wall Street execs and economists. Because I was covering municipal bonds and other things I didn’t fully understand, I organized an NYABJ forum that had journalism, political, economic and regulatory players. I approached the AP’s national business desk for insight. I did everything possible to make myself knowledgeable. Unbeknownst to me, two things happened. NYC print and broadcast street reporters carried around my stories because I explained the complex, and the national business wire carried some of these stories. Eventually, I was invited onto the business desk, becoming in 1992 the first African-American national business journalist in the AP’s then 146-year history. There I got to cover stories that involved southern Africa, edit economic reporting from around the world, be w/Nelson Mandela at the United Nations and in Washington , and report on various players on the national and international financial scene. Peter Alan Harper From New York , Celebrating 30 years in the Business

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