A Leading Black Think Tank Is Barely Scraping By

A sign marks a polling place Nov. 4, 2008, in Reno, Nev.
Max Whittaker/Getty Images
A sign marks a polling place Nov. 4, 2008, in Reno, Nev.
Max Whittaker/Getty Images

Joint Center's Interim President Working for Free

"The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, esteemed as America's foremost think tank for Black political and economic research, is struggling with financial problems so serious that its political arm has been gutted and its interim president is working for free," Hazel Trice Edney reported for her Trice Edney NewsWire.


Edney originally transmitted her story to little notice on May 25. She sent it out again on Wednesday with a note that the Washington-based center's "crucial fundraiser" — its annual dinner — takes place June 25.

The center has long been a go-to source for journalists seeking data on black political participation and black elected officials.


"The Joint Center stepped up and provided clear-eyed analysis of the black electorate at a time when few, if any, other think tanks would do so," Sonya Ross, an editor at the Associated Press who chairs the Political Journalism Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms by email. "It houses the wisdom of the elders where black people's political behavior is concerned, and we journalists need that long-range institutional knowledge more than ever now, as we explain America's emerging multiracial reality."

Founded in 1970 as the Joint Center for Political Studies, the think tank expanded its focus to jobs and "economic rights" and added "Economic" to the "Political" its name. "The principal areas of work now include political participation, economic advancement, health policy, energy and the environment, and media and technology," according to its website.

David A. Bositis, the center's senior research associate and a primary contact for journalists as its chief pollster, confirmed Wednesday that he left the organization in February. He said by telephone that he is still conducting research, doing public speaking and "looking at a few positions." Bositis, 64, said he is not ready to retire and can be reached at dbositis (at) gmail.com.

Trice Edney's story continued, "Spencer Overton, the center's interim president/CEO, is on sabbatical from his job as a Georgetown University law professor. He assumed the interim presidency in February after the departure of Ralph Everett, who was president for about eight years. Upon Everett's departure Dec. 31, Dr. Brian D. Smedley, director of the Center's Health Policy Institute, assumed the interim presidency briefly until Overton was announced. But Overton, who was also a member of the Joint Center's board, recently confirmed in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire that he took the position with no salary.


" 'No, I am not on salary,' Overton confirmed in a brief interview after participating as a panelist for a recent Capitol Hill event.

"When asked previously about the financial state of the Joint Center, Overton had responded guardedly in an email saying, '"The recession has affected various organizations. People of color face significant challenges, however…there is a clear need for a think tank that focuses on policies that affect people of color. I think if we focus on the challenges of real people, produce high quality policy solutions to those challenges, maintain responsible internal practices, and clearly communicate the value of our work to potential supporters, we will grow and thrive. There is much work to do, but I'm excited about the future.'


"Overton has spent the last three months meeting with people who have been affiliated with the Joint Center over the years, seeking advice and help. Despite Overton's public silence on the state of the organization's financial affairs, long-time Black political researcher David Bositis, who recently left the organization because of its financial woes, was not as subtle.

" 'They're having money problems. Basically right now, they're a health group,' said Bositis, who researched Black politics for the Joint Center for 23 years. 'They're trying to hold on. And they're not under water from the sense that they're not closed. I mean they are still open, but the political part of it… politics is not being emphasized anymore.'


"Bositis said the health research is extremely important, but Black political research — such as tracking the growth and decline of Black elected officials, voting trends, positions on issues — is still equally as needed, he says. . . ."

Blows to Redskins from Trademark Office, Seattle Times

"Unprecedented pressure on the Washington NFL team to change its name reached a crescendo today when the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six federal trademark registrations owned by the team, ruling that the term 'Redskins' was disparaging to 'a substantial composite' of American Indians when the marks were granted between 1967 and 1990," Eric Brady reported Wednesday for USA Today.


In Washington state, meanwhile, Seattle Times Sports Editor Don Shelton announced to readers, "The most controversial name in sports won’t appear again in The Seattle Times' print edition or on the seattletimes.com home pages as long as I am sports editor."

Referring to others discussing the team name, Shelton wrote, "We can't control what they do, but we can control what is delivered to your doorstep and what is highlighted on our website.


"We're not the only newspaper that has decided against using it. The Oregonian in Portland and The Kansas City Star banned it in the 1990s, and The Orange County Register recently did, too. I suspect that list will swell. . . ." 

Brady wrote, "The 2-1 decision by the board does not mean the Washington team must stop using the name but gives opponents of the name another opening to hammer home their contention that the term is a despicable racial slur. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that 'the handwriting is on the wall' and the team's name will change some day.


"The team's attorneys said the team will appeal. The team prevailed on appeal in an earlier iteration of the case. . . ."

The Native American Journalists Association issued an emailed statement saying, "In alignment with . . . the Native American Journalists Association's stance against the use of Native mascots, NAJA supports the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision, which stripped the Washington NFL franchise of [its] trademark protection on Wednesday, stating that the team name is 'disparaging toward Native Americans.'


"This is the opinion NAJA has held on the term for more a decade.

"NAJA urges the media industry to realize the harmful nature of this racial slur and adopt policies that encourage reporters and staff to refrain from using it in print and on air out of respect for the country's First Americans. . . ."


Bob Raskopf, trademark attorney for the NFL team, issued a statement that began, "We've seen this story before. And just like last time, today's ruling will have no effect at all on the team's ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo. . . ."

Baxter Holmes, Esquire: A 'Redskin Is the Scalped Head of a Native American, Sold, Like a Pelt, for Cash


Baxter Holmes, Esquire: Update: Yes, a 'Redskin' Does, in Fact, Mean the Scalped Head of a Native American, Sold, Like a Pelt, for Cash

Indian Country Today Media Network: Big Win for Indian Country: Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademark


Yahoo, LinkedIn Disclose Tiny Figures for Blacks, Hispanics

"Yahoo on Tuesday shared some basic demographic information on its work force, the latest Silicon Valley company to reveal the stark lack of diversity in its ranks," Jessica Guynn reported Wednesday for USA Today.


"For years technology companies have resisted reporting this information even though they collect it and report it to the federal government.

"But Google late last month swung open the door by revealing the gender and racial breakdown of its work force, bringing to the fore an issue that Silicon Valley has long wanted to keep hidden from public view: that these work forces are predominantly white and male.


"Google made the move after Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. stood up at its annual shareholder meeting to urge Google to disclose its numbers. He made a similar plea at the Facebook shareholder meeting. But the giant social network where Sheryl Sandberg is the No. 2 executive, said it preferred to share the data internally first.

"Yahoo, which is also run by a woman and another former Google executive, Marissa Mayer, said 50% of its work force of more than 12,000 is white, 39% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 2% black and 4% undisclosed or more than one race.


"Asians comprise 57% of Yahoo's tech workers while 35% of tech workers are white. About 37% of Yahoo workers are women and 23% of senior managers are women.

"Last week, LinkedIn also disclosed its diversity figures, which were very similar to those released by Google and Yahoo. But LinkedIn also released the demographic report it provides to the federal government.


"Only Intel, Cisco and a smattering of other companies routinely disclose their demographic reports to the federal government."

Vindu Goel of the New York Times added Tuesday:

"Last Thursday, LinkedIn disclosed its own diversity figures, which were similar to Yahoo's. The business-oriented social network, which has about 5,400 workers globally, said 39 percent are women. The company also offered an ethnic breakdown of its American work force: 53 percent white, 38 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black, and 3 percent of undisclosed or more than one race.


"Unlike Yahoo, LinkedIn took the additional step of posting its EEO-1 report, the demographic document that companies have long been required to file annually with the federal government. And it listed several specific efforts it had undertaken to make its work force look more like the demographic makeup of the population. . . ."

John Fitzgerald Gates, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Google's Dark Ages Diversity Strategy Fails


John Fitzgerald Gates, HuffPost BlackVoices: The Corporate Diversity Charade

Jacqueline Reses, Yahoo: Workforce Diversity at Yahoo

C. Thompson, Bloomberg: So Just How Many Women Make Yahoo a Good Citizen?: Opening Line


Stories About Latinos Mostly About Crime, Undocumented

"Stories about Latinos comprise less than 1 percent of top news media coverage, and the majority of these stories cover Latinos who are criminals or undocumented workers. Latino participation as anchors and news producers is also extraordinarily low: there are no Latino anchors or executive producers in any of the nation’s top news programs. Only 1.8 percent of news producers are Latinos," Ana Lopez reported Wednesday for voxxi.com, summarizing a key finding from a new report [PDF] from Columbia University.


"Latinos are missing behind the scenes. Most diversity strategies employed over the last two decades have been relatively ineffective; diversity has not significantly increased at studios, networks and public television, including behind the camera and in leadership positions.

"From 2010-2013, Latinos made up 4.1 percent of TV directors, 1.2 percent of producers, and 1.9 percent of writers. In movies, Latinos accounted for 2.3 percent of movie directors, just over 2 percent of producers, and 6 percent of writers. No Latinos currently serve as CEOs, presidents or owners of a major English-language network or studio. . . ."


Antoine Sanfuentes, who as senior vice president of NBC News was the highest ranking Latino journalist at a major mainstream television network, said in December that he was stepping down and has not resurfaced at another network.

However, the study also said, "As Latinos continue to be shut out of traditional media, their creativity is migrating online, blurring the distinction between producer and consumer. Latino creative participation on YouTube is higher than in mainstream media, with 17.5% of top focused channels featuring Latino talent. And even with little support, some of the most important new media innovators, such as transmedia pioneer Jeff Gomez, are Latinos. . . ."


"The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media" was written by Frances Negrón-Muntaner with Chelsea Abbas, Luis Figueroa and Samuel Robson. It is a collaboration between the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race's Media and Idea Lab at Columbia University, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

First among its key findings was that "Latino media participation has nominally increased since the 1940s. But, per capita, it is the same or lower than it was in prior decades in key categories. For example, in the 1950s, Latinos were 2.8% of the U.S. population. In the top 10 scripted shows, however, Latinos were 3.9% of lead TV actor appearances and 1.5% of all leading roles; in the 10 top movies, Latinos played 1.7% of lead roles. Yet, in 2013, despite being 17% of the population, Latinos comprise none of the lead actors among the top 10 movies and scripted network TV shows."


"rebeldes," LatinoRebels.com: Leave It to Colbert to Explain the Irony of the White Latino Myth (VIDEO)

Univision Responds on Questionable World Cup Language

"Over the last few days, a number of facebook friends and myself have questioned the use of questionable language by Univision's sports announcers in the way they refer to race and gender during their World Cup coverage," Felix Sanchez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, wrote Monday on his Facebook page. "Univision reached out to me and set up a call to discuss the concerns.


"I just got off the phone with Univision's President of Sports Programming and Univision's Head of Global Communications. Let me pause there to say that the Sports President called from Brazil in the middle of the US v. Ghana game to discuss the concerns raised in this post and the Communications head had the presence of mind to orchestrate the conversation.

"I think that deserves enormous kudos for their willingness to hear criticism of their World Cup coverage, while their folks are sleep deprived, working tirelessly 24/7 and for the most part are doing a great job. (Let's compare to Lorne Michael's refusal to answer our concerns over never having hired a Latina as a cast member during NBC's Saturday Night Live's 39 seasons)


"The words and context discussed in an earlier post on my page include: 'moreno,' 'greñia,' 'problema de caspa,' 'nombre suena a medicina' and 'las chulas.' These offending words are part of the culture clash that is making us deal with uniting American sensibilities with a language and culture that can easily fall out of sync with American standards. Univision and I agreed to open a dialogue and to develop a neutral racial, ethnic and gender U.S. Spanish lexicon for use over the air and hopefully and more importantly in the daily lives of Spanish speakers in the U.S. and world-wide."

Sanchez elaborated Wednesday with Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More."

Associated Press: Brazil homeless workers protest in WCup host city

Chris Chase, USA Today: Washington D.C. is the soccer capital of America

Dion Rabouin, The Root: Black Identity and Racism Collide in Brazil

Reuters: U.S.-Ghana World Cup soccer match sets records for ESPN, Univision

Subrata De, Brian Williams Producer, Now an ABC News VP

"I am delighted to tell you that Subrata De is joining ABC News as Vice President, Multi-Platform Newsgathering, with oversight of our domestic, foreign, digital and social media newsgathering," James Goldston, president of ABC News, announced on Tuesday.


"Subrata’s new role will unify our editorial operation — expanding cooperation across our broadcast and digital platforms to improve our reporting and to use our resources more effectively.

"Under her leadership we will become a more cohesive, flexible and responsive organization, which will enhance our ability to do what we do best — combine the most important and meaningful journalism with the very best in modern storytelling.


De was given the Leadership Award from the South Asian Journalists Association in 2012. For that Washington occasion, Williams and others and NBC paid tribute to her in a video

Study Links Television Crime to Increase in Real-Life Fear

"The amount of fictional crime depicted on television has increased since the late 1990s and so has the level of real-life fear among those who have been watching, even though the actual crime rate has fallen, according to a study released Wednesday," Paul Bond reported Wednesday for the Hollywood Reporter.


"Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center used a combination of FBI crime statistics, Gallup poll data and findings from its own study of 475 hours of broadcast TV dramas from 1972 through present day to determine that the 'mean world syndrome' exists.

"In 1972, there were 6.5 violent sequences per TV hour but that number fell to just 1.4 by 1996, then it rose to 3.7 by 2010. Over the years, Gallup polls indicated that the level of fear people had about real crime had risen and fallen in relation to the amount of fictional crime depicted on television. . . ."


Writer Sees Humor in GOP Chair's Plans to Address NABJ

"It sounds like a plot point from a bad ’90s cyberthriller, but my email inbox might have a sense of humor," Jamelle Bouie wrote Tuesday for Slate.


"Let me explain. On Tuesday morning, I received an alert from the Brennan Center for Justice, announcing its new report on the prevalence of voting restrictions. In the four years since the 2010 election — when the GOP swept state houses across the country — 22 states have passed restrictive voting measures, from voter identification laws to limits on early and weekend voting. While some restrictions were overturned by the courts or weakened by the Justice Department, others remain on the books, with provisions set to take effect before the midterm elections. 'In 15 states,' notes the Brennan Center, '2014 will be the first major federal election with these new restrictions in place.' . . .

"Republican voter restrictions are most likely in places where black people vote the most. . . ."


Bouie continued, "After the Brennan Center alert, the next message in my inbox was a press release from the Republican National Committee. The subject line? 'RNC Chair Reince Priebus To NABJ.' The NABJ, for those unaware, is the National Association of Black Journalists, the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation. Priebus is visiting — along with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz—as a speaker for the NABJ's annual convention, where he will speak on the GOP's outreach to black Americans. . . ."

Bouie also wrote, "By now, I’m sure you see the humor here. Announcement one: Republican-pushed voter restrictions target blacks and other minorities. Announcement two: Republican leader plans to talk outreach with black journalists who — among other things — report on voter restrictions. . . ."


Republicans have not always accepted NABJ's invitations. During the last presidential campaign, this column noted, "The Republican National Committee and the putative GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, have ceded the National Association of Black Journalists convention to the Democrats, rejecting invitations to send speakers or panelists that the Democrats eagerly accepted."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The Cantor Omen (June 11)

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: 'Freedom Summer II' could turn red states blue

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Overdosing on tea (June 12)

Short Takes

"The soon-to-be queen of Spain wasn't always royalty," Catherine Taibi reported Wednesday for the Huffington Post. "Princess Letizia, who will become queen on Thursday when her husband, Crown Prince Filipe, takes the throne, was once a reporter for CNN+ in Spain.. . ."


"Al Jazeera's last remaining employees in Egypt were informed Wednesday that they will receive their last paychecks this month, as the Qatar-based network closed its offices in Egypt," Sheera Frenkel and Maged Atef reported Wednesday for BuzzFeed. "The shocking news comes as Egypt continues to crack down on media outlets. No organization has been targeted more frequently, or with harsher consequences, than Al Jazeera, which Egypt sees as an extension of Qatar's pro-Muslim Brotherhood agenda. Three of its journalists are currently on trial, on charged with 'terrorism-related' activities. . . ."

"Lisa Frazier Page, a Slidell resident and former Times-Picayune metro columnist who spent 17 years as a reporter and editor at The Washington Post, has been named St. Tammany Parish community news managing producer for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune," NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune reported on Tuesday.


Kathy Williams resigned as news director at the Gannett duopoly WTLV-TV and WJXX-TV in Jacksonville, Fla., Eric Land, president and general manager, confirmed for Journal-isms by telephone on Wednesday. Williams was named news director for the station in October 2012 after serving as interim director since July 2012. She had been vice president and news director at KRIV-TV in Houston, where American Women in Radio-TV in that city named her News Director of the Year in 2008.

Leonard Pitts Jr., the syndicated Miami Herald columnist, told readers this week that he had worked with Casey Kasem, the radio disc jockey who died on Father's Day at 82. "I saw him every Thursday (production day) for over two years — late '80s, early ’90s. The worst thing he ever gave me was a reproachful look — Casey was a hardcore vegan — when he saw me scarfing barbecue chicken pizza," Pitts wrote. "Otherwise, the Casey I knew was remarkably at one with the Casey we mourn this week. That Casey is probably best summed up in the words of the philosopher Huey Lewis who said, 'It's hip to be square.' . . ." Pitts said he was one of Kasem's writers.


"Earlier this week Neil Budde, Vice President and Executive Editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal in Kentucky, spoke with public radio WFPL about high profile newsroom layoffs in the past week that included the paper's managing editor, metro editor and other prominent newsroom managers," according to an editor's note on alldigitocracy.com. "Betty Winston Baye, a former columnist and editorial writer for the Courier-Journal, and an institution in Louisville, responded to Budde's interview with questions of her own about the newspaper's priorities regarding diversity in a city where the number of racial and ethnic minorities is increasing rapidly. . . ."

A memorial service for Daryl Gale, the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune who died last week at 55, is scheduled for 11 a.m. June 27, at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St. in Philadelphia, John F. Morrison reported Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.


"Condé Nast publications will team up with universities to create a set of accredited certificate programs and eventually master's-degree programs (with the colleges and universities, not the magazines, as the 'institution')," Doug Lederman reported June 3 for Inside Higher Ed. "Condé Nast writers and editors will contribute subject matter expertise and the publisher will provide some financial backing to the partnerships. The institutions and new academic programs (which will include both interactive online content and in-person elements) have not yet been identified, but discussions with universities are under way with the goal of launching the first programs in fall 2015. . . ." Conde Nast spokeswoman Patricia S. Röckenwagner did not respond to an inquiry about whether historically black colleges and universities are among the institutions.

"O.J. Simpson's close friend and former manager claimed Tuesday that Simpson did not in fact write the controversial book 'If I Did It,' which explores how Simpson would have hypothetically carried out the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman if he had actually committed the crime," Ryan Buxton reported Tuesday for HuffPost Live. "Simpson's longtime associate Norman Pardo joined HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hillon the 20th anniversary of the infamous police chase that grabbed the attention of millions as Simpson led the pack in his white Ford Bronco. During the interview, Pardo claimed Simpson only agreed to claim authorship of 'If I Did It' for a $600,000 payout. . . ."


"Americans of all ethnicities have seen federal programs come and federal programs go, and they've also seen how tragically few of the programs seem to lower unemployment, reduce teen suicides or solve the other grave problems that plague so many reservations," Tom Dennis wrote Tuesday in a signed editorial for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. "Isn't it time for federal and state governments, in partnership with Indian tribes, to try something dramatically different? Here's one idea, which has been offered in this space before: Take steps to guarantee the freedom of the press on Indian reservations. . . ."

Entries are being accepted for the second annual Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability. "The Schneider Award is the first national journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage. It is administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism, headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. . . ." according to the award's website. The entry deadline is July 31 at 11:59 p.m. Mountain time. 


"PBS [NewsHour] co-anchor Gwen Ifill will receive the 2013 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism Monday at the Newseum," Chris Ariens reported Tuesday for TVNewser. "The award will be presented during the 2014 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference which brings together 51 high school students from around the country for discussions with leading government, legal and journalism figures. . . ."

"The National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications has named former Cablevision and CBS executive Eglon Simons as its new president," R. Thomas Umstead reported Tuesday for Multichannel News. "Founded in 1980, the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) is the premier organization that educates, advocates and empowers for multi-ethnic diversity in the communications industry," the organization says on its website.


In Honolulu, "KHON has hired award-winning reporter and anchor Diane Ako to work on the 'Wake Up 2day' morning news show," the station announced on Monday. "Ako previously anchored the morning news on KHNL from 1996-2009. She was most recently the public relations director for Halekulani. . . ."

"Rwandan journalist Agnès Uwimana Nkusi was freed on 18 June after completing a four-year sentence on charges including 'harming state security' that were prompted by her reporting," Reporters Without Borders reported on Wednesday. "Nkusi's unflinching commitment to information freedom led Reporters Without Borders on 3 May to name her one of 100 'information freedom heroes.' . . ."


"A global human rights organization is accusing the Cuban government of being behind an attack on a prominent journalist on the island," Fox News Latino reported on Wednesday. "The Human Rights Foundation said on Wednesday that the journalist, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, was brutally attacked last week in Havana as he was heading to the Czech embassy to use the Internet." The report also said, "The attacker then warned Guerra: 'This is so that you can see what we do to members of the opposition.' . . ."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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