It was probably the first time journalists from a variety of news organizations collectively discussed last weekend's mass shooting in Orlando that left 49 victims dead. The 70 people present for the third Unity Diversity Caucus Friday in Washington picked up a word new to most, "straightwashing."
"Straightwashing" means erasing gay identity. Some news organizations engaged in it in early reports by failing to call the scene of the crime a gay nightclub, according to Ken Miguel, a board member of Unity: Journalists for Diversity from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. Unity includes the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and NLGJA.
When Keith Woods, NPR vice president for diversity in news and operations, suggested that adjectives denoting race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity are used only when the subject is outside a straight white male context — such as "female pilot" for women but simply "pilot" for men — Miguel begged to differ from that line of thought.
"Calling it anything other than a gay nightclub is offensive to the gay community," Miguel said. When Neal Justin of the Asian American Journalists Association, another Unity board member, said that perhaps those from more conservative places such as Utah or Kansas might not want the public to know they were in a gay club, Miguel replied, "I'm fed up with the sensitivity. It is what it is." Miguel also noted that for years, gay partners of long standing were omitted from the list of survivors in many obituaries: "straightwashing."
The identification issue was only one aspect of a nuanced conversation among diversity advocates from news organizations, associations and colleges that also touched on language, race and ethnicity in coverage of Orlando and other tragedies.
Sharif Durhams, a Unity board member from NLGJA who is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, noted that the Orlando story broke in the wee hours of Sunday morning and left little time for editors and writers to consult with gay journalists on such issues as terminology.
He and others urged greater use of and familiarity with style guides prepared by NLGJA and the journalist associations of color. Durhams also said the mainstream media are doing a poor job in coverage of transgender issues.
Mary C. Curtis, a columnist for Roll Call, cited a radio discussion in which she participated Thursday with Malcolm Graham, a former North Carolina state senator whose sister Cynthia Graham Hurd was a victim of the shooting a year ago Friday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Unlike others touched by the tragedy, Graham was not so forgiving. Curtis wondered whether the media narrative of black forgiveness by the Charleston churchgoers was "compatible with black righteous anger."
Joe Grimm, a visiting editor-in-residence at Michigan State University whose students have produced a series of explanatory question-and-answer books about various ethnic groups, said that after identification of the slain gunman, Omar Mateen–who is Muslim and voiced support for the Islamic State–Detroit media inappropriately asked local Muslims whether they wanted to apologize.
Amanda Barrett, enterprise-planning and administration manager at the Associated Press, asked whether Charleston gunman Dylann Roof, who is white, was identified as a terrorist as was Mateen. "When it is a white shooter, we immediately jump to 'this person is mentally disturbed,' " Barrett said.
Jill Geisler, who holds the Bill Plante chair in leadership and media integrity at Loyola University and moderated the discussion, noted that no one was present to speak on behalf of the mentally ill.
The conversation even moved to coverage of the small boy who got away from his mother and fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo last month. That was compared with coverage of the 2-year-old snatched last week by an alligator at Walt Disney World in Orlando. In Cincinnati, officials decided to shoot the gorilla dead before he could kill or seriously harm the child. Some people excoriated the family, which is black, for the child's predicament. There was no similar excoriation of the white family whose child went to Walt Disney World.
Geisler noted that Peter Bhatia, editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, held off on reporting the Cincinnati mother's name but, as Bhatia wrote, "less responsible" media did.
The discussion did not touch much on what the coverage said about how Latinos in general and Puerto Ricans in particular — more than half the 49 shooting victims, as Spencer Kornhaber noted in the Atlantic — are viewed by mainstream media, a subject that has been broached elsewhere.
Woods did say, however, that "the real question" is about the country's attitudes, especially as expressed by social media. "That is a story that we have not told. There is a story about America to be told," he said of a tragedy that nearly a week later continues to dominate headlines.
In other comments at the all-day conference:
Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of ESPN's the Undefeated, the recently launched site on the intersection of race, sports and culture, said that "hiring is the hardest thing to do as a manager" and that he had found that "talent gets hidden." Merida has a staff of 40, but "I could have filled 10 [Undefeateds] with all journalists of color. So many people who have written and are not working anyplace" though "everybody's who's great doesn't want to work for an institution."
Newspaper photo editors are being "kicked out the door" to the detriment of the visual quality of the product as well as its diversity, Akili-Casundria Ramsess, recently named executive director of the National Press Photographers Association, told the group. The result has been a lack of "visual literacy," mistaken identities and, she told Journal-isms, a lack of oversight to ensure that people of color are portrayed in a balanced way. Whereas 90 percent of NPAA members once worked for news organizations, fewer than half do now, she said. The Orlando Sentinel and Atlanta Journal-Constitution have eliminated their photo editor positions, she said.
Tracy Grant, deputy managing editor of the Washington Post, noted the hunger of the rank-and-file for advancement. A recent Post hiring spree created a bulge in the pipeline to management, so Grant said she created a six-week "So You Think You Might Want to Be an Editor" program. Grant said she thought she might get 25 applicants but heard from 125. They are now rotating through the program, she said.
The Associated Press' race and ethnicity team is succeeding in part because it is supported by the top brass at the AP; it goes beyond a focus on pathology; "reporters are now attached to race-knowledgeable editors" and "story ideas brush up against the personal comfort level of the editors," Sonya Ross, the team's editor, told the group. The team's stories have a dedicated page on the AP website
Mizell Stewart III, vice president of the American Society of News Editors, said he wants to address the low numbers of people of color in leadership ranks as he becomes ASNE president in September. Newly named vice president of news operations of the Gannett Co.'s USA Today Network, Stewart said there "has been an acknowledgement that diversity is off the front burner" at the company and now will be addressed.
The National Association of Broadcasters, which lobbies on behalf of the broadcast industry, plans an initiative on "coverage of race in media," Marcellus Alexander, NAB executive vice president, television, and president of the NAB Education Foundation, announced at an NAB-sponsored reception for attendees. Alexander said he wanted to develop a set of best practices that would include staffing and coverage that would be ready before the end of the year. Journalists of color would participate in its creation, he told Journal-isms.
In addition, American University, site of the conference, is beginning a pilot program for first-year students on race and identity called American University Experience, Angie Chuang, associate professor of journalism at AU's School of Communication, said.
She added via email, "I was asked to develop the second semester of the program (first semester will be focused on college transition) as an exploration of identity issues, with an emphasis on race and ethnicity.
"We're piloting the program with a diverse group of 68 first-year students, split into four small-group seminars, with the intent of eventually making the two-part three-credit sequence (1.5 credits each semester) mandatory for all entering students.
"The semester on race issues will be more a structured platform for exploring in small groups the historical, social, and personal aspects of race and ethnicity, rather than a 'People of Color 101' primer. The course was created by the AU administration after student protests spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement and racist incidents affecting the campus community demanded a course on race issues."
In evaluating the conference, Geisler told Journal-isms that "Unity found its footing" after recovering from the pullout of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2011 and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2013. "A new iteration of Unity is on full display. They're not trying to be what they used to be.
"They know what they are" and what they can do: be an organizer and convener, deep dive into important issues and not "step on each others' toes.
"Our assumption was that there were pretty smart people in the room. Our job is to connect the dots."
Diversity Champs Bring Outside Help to Unity (April 10, 2015)
Sam Fulwood III, Center for American Progress: In the Media, Homogenized Gatekeepers Beget a Uniform Message
Michael M. Grynbaum, New York Times: Anderson Cooper Covering Orlando Shooting With Touch of Empathy
Keith J. Kelly, New York Post: Gannett to buy Bergen Record, New Jersey’s No. 2 paper
Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: Lots of talk, no action and yet another mass shooting
Matt Thompson, the Atlantic: To Be Outed in the Worst Possible Way
Jamar Thrasher, PennLive.com: Here's what the Pittsburgh Pride celebration taught me about love
"The nightclub attack in Orlando that left 49 victims dead was initially described by some news organizations, including The Associated Press, as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history," Deepti Hajela and Felicia Fonseca wrote Wednesday for the Associated Press.
"In truth, America has seen even bigger massacres, some involving hundreds of men, women and children.
"Here's a look at the country's violent past and how the Florida rampage fits in . . . ."
Many in the news media were continuing to call the Orlando massacre "the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history" as recently as Wednesday's "NBC Nightly News" and Thursday's "CBS This Morning." Mark Memmott, NPR standards & practices editor, more accurately — and emphatically — instructed NPR journalists instead to refer to the"deadliest" shooting in "recent" U.S. history.
Still, a story headlined, "Orlando nightclub shootings: Images capture worst mass shooting in U.S. history" was the second-most popular story Wednesday on the website of Orlando's WESH-TV, and a Google search for "worst mass shooting in American history" early Thursday garnered about 257,000 results.
"Sometimes, we in the business work a little too hard to make the grotesque more dramatic," Bob Collins wrote Tuesday for Minnesota Public Radio. "That’s why we have phrases like 'brutal murders.' The drama makes us care a little more, I suspect the thinking goes. As if nearly 50 people being shot to death needs just a little boost to establish its place in our conscience, let alone history. . . ."
‘Biggest Mass Shooting in U.S. History’ — Not (June 13)
Ariela Gross, Wall Street Journal: Orlando Mass Shooting Not Deadliest in American History
Shaun King, Daily News, New York: Calling Orlando worst mass shooting in American history ignores nation’s violent, racist past
As reported in this space on Monday, "Philadelphia’s WTXF-TV announced on its website Monday, 'We are sending our thoughts and prayers to our own 20-year-old Patience Carter, who was in the Pulse nightclub when Omar Mateen started shooting.
“The gunman shot her in the leg. According to FOX 29 HR Director Megan Young, Patience was in surgery until 12:30 a.m. early Monday morning. When Megan spoke with Patience she sounded very weak.
“We’ve gotten to know Patience because as an Emma Bowen Foundation scholar, she is interning here during all four years of school, and this is her second summer. She is currently a student at NYU.
“We look forward to a speedy recovery and Patience’s return to FOX 29.
“Sadly, Patience’s friend, Akyra Murray, did not survive the shooting.”
On Tuesday, Carter was among survivors of the shooting who spoke with the news media. CBS News reported:
"Patience Carter went to Orlando with a friend's family on vacation, and ended up one of the few surviving witnesses to the last moments of the worst mass shooting in American history.
"Carter, 20 years old, had fled into the bathroom of Pulse nightclub during the Orlando massacre, and as the situation was winding down, she said the gunman told police negotiators on the phone that he pledged his allegiance to ISIS, and that he wouldn't stop his assault until America stopped bombing his country.
"The New York-born shooter, Omar Mateen, had two parents from Afghanistan.
"Carter said after he hung up the phone, he 'started speaking in Arabic,' but she said she wasn't sure to whom, and then he had a question for the others cowering in earshot.
" 'Are there any black people in here?' Mateen asked, according to Carter.
"She said she was too afraid to reply, but another black person hiding in the bathroom did.
" 'I don't have a problem with black people,' Mateen reportedly said in reply. 'This is about my country. You guys suffered enough.' [Black people were nevertheless among the victims.]
"Pulse was attacked on Latin night, and many of those killed were from Puerto Rico, although there are other ethnicities among the dead.
"Carter described a bloody scene in the bathroom of Pulse nightclub, where survivors had sought refuge from the rampage that started out in the club, only to find themselves locked in with Mateen just before police breached a wall to get at him.
"As she was lying on the floor looking over the 'piles' of bloody bodies in the bathroom, she said she 'made peace with God and within myself.'
"Carter said she asked God to take her away so the pain would stop. . . ."
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: What happened in Orlando was ‘American Beauty’ — times 49
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: How do we stop ISIS from turning Americans against Americans?
Leah Donnella, NPR "Code Switch": What Queer Muslims Are Saying About The Orlando Shooting
Kevin Eck, TVSpy: Orlando Station Says Gunman Called During Pulse Nightclub Attack
Lynn Elber, Associated Press: Orlando Gunman's Face, Name Become Journalism Challenge
Adrian Florido, NPR: Shooting Victim Had Recently Moved To Orlando From Chicago (audio) (June 16)
Chava Gourarie, Columbia Journalism Review: The fundamental dilemma of covering the Orlando shooting
Ericka Cruz Guevarra, NPR "Code Switch": What Queer Latinos Are Saying About The Orlando Shooting
Kristen Hare, Poynter Institute: How the Orlando Sentinel, with a third of the staff it once had, covered the country’s deadliest mass shooting
Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: After Orlando, adults wanted: We need a mature conversation about gun regulations, radicalization and protecting gays and lesbians
Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Let’s find out where the killer mind-set comes from, not just the killer’s gun
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Our war on terror is clouded by fog and noise
Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Orlando massacre, only in America
NPR "Code Switch": How LGBTQ People of Color Are Dealing With Orlando (podcast) (June 16)
Xorje Olivares, Out: My Queer Latino Heart Aches for Orlando Victims
Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: After Orlando massacre, is simple decency from our leaders too much to ask?
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: President Obama has just this one more thing to do
Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Omar Mateen shattered our optimism, scarred our national soul
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Assault weapons must be banned in America
Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Orlando nightclub massacre provides another painful, telling test for America
Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Pulse’s pain is personal for Raleigh man who used to work there
"Donald Trump in a speech on Monday suggested that all Muslim immigrants pose potential threats to America’s security and called for a ban on migrants from any part of the world with 'a proven history of terrorism' against the United States or its allies," Sabri Ben-Achour reported Tuesday for American Public Media's "Marketplace."
"This is a rejection of the pluralism so central to the American experience. Beyond that, it has a significant practical expense.
"According to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office, 1.2 million human beings visited the U.S. from the Middle East in 2013. They spent, collectively, $6.7 billion ($2,000 more per capita than European visitors). So that’s $6.7 billion you can subtract from the U.S. economy right there. . . .
"Projecting Middle Eastern Muslim tourism and spending onto the larger Muslim world, we get a Muslim tourist-spend in the U.S. closer to $18 billion. This is how others have estimated spending as well.
"That’s just tourism.
"There’s education, too. Trump’s plan would ban at a minimum the 153,586 students from majority Muslim countries who came here in 2015 (that number is based on data from the Institute of International Education tabulated for all Muslim majority countries by Marketplace).
Ben-Achour continued, "Our grand back-of-the-envelope estimate so far is $24 billion that you can shave off the U.S. economy by banning all Muslims from entering. That’s not counting contributions from all the Muslims on work visas with jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. . . ."
Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Black frat, Kappa Alpha Psi, targets Trump over attacks on 'Mexican' judge
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: One year ago, Trump descended that escalator and took political discourse down with him
Louis Chan, AsAmNews: Donald Trump Influencing Attitudes about Incarceration of Japanese Americans
Jelani Cobb, New Yorker: Donald Trump’s Anti-American Values
"Eight years after the Great Recession sent the U.S. newspaper industry into a tailspin, the pressures facing America’s newsrooms have intensified to nothing less than a reorganization of the industry itself," the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday in announcing its "State of the News Media 2016.
"In 2015, the newspaper sector had perhaps the worst year since the recession and its immediate aftermath, according to Pew Research Center’s 2016 State of the News Media report, which analyzes the status of the organizations that produce the news and make it available to the public day in and day out.
"Average weekday newspaper circulation, print and digital combined, fell another 7% in 2015, the greatest decline since 2010. Sunday circulation fell 4%. While digital circulation crept up slightly (2% for weekday), it accounts for only 22% of total circulation. And any digital subscription gains or traffic increases have still not translated into game-changing revenue solutions. In 2015, total advertising revenue among publicly traded companies declined nearly 8%, including losses not just in print but in
digital as well. . . ."
A news release also reported:
"The Hispanic news media market is in a state of flux. Hispanic print weeklies saw some circulation growth, but the major Hispanic dailies all declined, and the largest TV network’s news programs lost both audience and revenue.
"After many mainstream English-language news organizations crowded into the Hispanic market over the past decade, often by launching separate Hispanic-oriented outlets, they hit hurdles in 2014, including the closing of both NBCLatino.com and CNN Latino. In 2015, MundoFox’s news division shuttered when Fox sold its stake in the venture.
"African American-oriented news media — one of the long-standing minority news genres in the U.S. — showed little substantive change in 2015. The number of black newspapers remained steady at roughly 200, though there is evidence of further audience decline.
"In U.S. newsrooms overall, the portion of full-time daily newspaper jobs filled by blacks showed no change from 2014, while in broadcast, the percentage of television newsroom jobs filled by blacks remained steady at about 5%. Nonetheless, concerns about newsroom diversity figured prominently in media headlines throughout 2015. . . ."
"The 20% of Americans who are confident in newspapers as a U.S. institution hit an all-time low this year, marking the 10th consecutive year that more Americans express little or no, rather than high, confidence in the institution," Lydia Saad reported Monday for Gallup.
"The percentage of Americans expressing 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence in newspapers has been dwindling since 2000, and the percentage expressing 'very little' or 'none' finally eclipsed it in 2007. The percentage with low confidence has only expanded since, tying a previous high of 36%.
"One in five U.S. adults now say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers — the all-time low for newspapers in Gallup's trend dating to 1973. An additional 42% of U.S. adults say they have 'some' confidence, meaning that the institution still sparks at least a measure of confidence in a majority of Americans.
"However, the days when more than twice as many Americans expressed high rather than low confidence in newspapers are long gone. . . ."
Sidmel Estes, president of the National Association of Black Journalists from 1991 to 1993, will be honored posthumously with the 2016 Ida B. Wells Award, NABJ and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University announced on Tuesday. The award goes to "an individual who has provided distinguished leadership in increasing access and opportunities to people of color in journalism, and in improving the coverage of communities of color in American media. . . ." Estes, a former executive television producer for WAGA-TV in Atlanta, where she worked for 27 years, died at 60 on Oct. 5 after being treated for a mystery illness.
"Univision has been the most important Spanish-language media company in the U.S. Now its digital news arm is taking aim at the 500 million Spanish speakers around the world," James Breiner reported June 7 for the International Journalists' Network. "Borja Echevarria, its digital editor-in-chief, says his team is at the beginning of an initiative aimed at Spanish speakers in Latin America and globally. . . ."
"The Center for Investigative Reporting has been awarded a $900,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to expand its reporting on inequities related to race, gender and economics that affect working families and launch a fellowship for journalists of color," the foundation announced Thursday. "The three-year grant also will support academic research into workplace disparities and create opportunities for public engagement, including through the production of two original one-act plays by CIR’s StoryWorks. . . ." [Added June 16]
"Journalist and author Ismael Cala tonight spent the last 14 minutes of his primetime show 'Cala' on CNN en Español to announce he is leaving the network after 15 years to focus on his personal growth, reinvention and independent projects," Veronica Villafañe reported Tuesday for her Media Moves site. She quoted Cala saying, "News used to be the center of my life. Today, my mission has changed. I’m no longer interested in finding journalism exclusives, but that’s the essence of a program like this.”
"When people think of the largest immigrant groups in the U.S., Mexicans and Chinese usually come to mind. But changing immigration patterns have already led to a major demographic shift in America that has not yet been widely reported," Zara Zhi reported Wednesday for AsAmNews. "According to recent census data, immigrants from Asia constitute the fastest growing immigrant group, outpacing Latinos. . . . one group in particular has been leading the rest — Indians. . . ."
"The New York Times has sparked an international incident by publishing an op-ed article under the byline of a foreign official who never agreed to it, according to his supporters," Paul Farhi reported Saturday for the Washington Post. "The newspaper this week blundered into the bloody politics of South Sudan, the fledgling east African nation, by posting a column ostensibly written by that country’s president and first vice president, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, respectively. The column argues for an internal, government-led 'truth and reconciliation' commission to investigate atrocities stemming from South Sudan’s two-year civil war rather than an international war-crimes tribunal that was part of a peace agreement brokered by the United States and Great Britain last year. Only one problem: Machar’s supporters say that he didn’t sign on to the editorial and doesn’t agree with it. . . ."
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column. 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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