Steve Capus, the president of NBC News who in 2007 received the Ida B. Wells Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for his diversity efforts, is stepping down, he told colleagues Friday. His move means an expanded role for Antoine Sanfuentes, senior vice president of NBC News and Capus' chief deputy.
"Working in network news is not a solitary pursuit; it is the ultimate 'team sport,' " Capus said in a memo to colleagues, "in which success is derived from the collective performances of remarkable people united in purpose and dedication. I have seldom described my role as 'presiding' over NBC News. Instead, I have viewed it as leading a collaborative effort to pursue journalistic excellence.
"It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction. I have informed Pat Fili-Krushel that I will be leaving NBC News in the coming weeks.
"Of course, it is an extremely difficult decision to walk away from a place that has been the backdrop for everything in my life since 1993. . . ."
Fili-Krushel, chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, said in her own memo that ". . . Antoine, in addition to overseeing the Washington Bureau and 'Meet the Press,' will serve as interim managing editor responsible for editorial decision making, Specials and Standards and Practices.
"Reporting to Antoine will be Cheryl Gould, Mark Lukasiewicz and David McCormick. Antoine also will run the Daily Share meetings," according to a memo published by Dylan Byers in Politico. Gould is senior vice president of NBC News, Lukasiewicz oversees digital media and specials and McCormick is executive producer, broadcast standards and ombudsman.
The Daily Share is the daily NBC News Group editorial call/meeting, during which all NBC divisions "share" their editorial plans — including "Today," "NBC Nightly News," "Dateline"/"Rock Center," the NBC affiliates, MSNBC, CNBC, special projects, the Weather Channel, Telemundo and digital properties. Sanfuentes, whose father is Chilean, also leads NBC's Diversity Council.
Capus received the Wells award, then presented by NABJ and the Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers, in part for his actions during the Don Imus affair, in which the radio host described the Rutgers women's basketball team in racist and sexist terms. Capus ended MSNBC's simulcasting of the Imus show from CBS-owned WFAN radio in New York.
The NBC News executive was also praised then for appointing two African American vice presidents, Mark Whitaker and Lyne Pitts, both of whom have since left the network. Capus said he was proud of the diversity-friendly culture at NBC. He noted that the GE African American Forum, part of the NBCUniversal operation, had raised $100,000 for the NABJ scholarship fund, and said his network's commitment shows in its coverage.
The Grio, an NBC-owned daily newsmagazine focused on African Americans, was created on Capus' watch, as was a partnership between the Grio and NewsOne.
“With the African-American audience representing one of the fastest growing consumer segments online, this partnership is a huge growth opportunity for both TheGrio and NewsOne," Capus said in a 2011 release. "This is a smart play for both sides as we combine the best of these two platforms to enhance African-American journalism."
David A. Wilson, Grio founder and executive editor, told Journal-isms by email, "Steve Capus will definitely be missed at NBC News. His unwavering commitment to excellence and diversity in news has become a part of the fabric of the news division. In 2008, when I first pitched Steve the idea of launching what would become theGrio.com — a web platform focused on the African-American audience that would leverage NBC News' resources and reach — Steve immediately saw the importance and need for it. He pushed the idea ahead and became our biggest advocate. He expanded on that vision by launching NBCLatino.com. Though Steve is moving on, we can all be proud of what we've done to promote diversity at NBC News to date and will continue to carry it forward."
David Bauder of the Associated Press reported that "While NBC News stood at the top of the ratings during most of his tenure, the decline of the 'Today' show over the past year was a major blight on the division. Six months ago, NBC's corporate parents installed Pat Fili-Krushel to oversee the division, diminishing Capus' influence."
It added that Capus was a long-time producer for Brian Williams' newscasts before being installed as head of the news division in 2005.
Brian Stelter, media writer for the New York Times, tweeted, "Capus's exit has been rumored ever since Pat Fili-Krushel was put in charge of all of NBC's news assets 6 months ago."
He added later, ". . . a restructuring six months ago foreshadowed Friday’s announcement.
"Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, consolidated all of NBC’s news units — NBC News, MSNBC and the business news channel CNBC — under a new umbrella, the NBCUniversal News Group, and he named one of his most trusted lieutenants, Ms. Fili-Krushel, to run it. Mr. Capus, who previously reported directly to Mr. Burke, now reported to Ms. Fili-Krushel.
"Mr. Capus made no secret of his unhappiness with the restructuring. His contract had a clause that allowed him to leave in the event that he no longer reported to Mr. Burke, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement at NBC. He decided to exercise that right after months of contemplation, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak publicly. . . ."
Michael Malone, Broadcasting & Cable: NBC Affiliates Salute Departing Capus for Strong Network News Product
A CNN spokeswoman denied Friday that CNN Senior Vice President Bart Feder complained that the viewership of the "Early Start" and "Starting Point" morning programs was "too ethnic," based on the high concentration of minority viewers.
"The quotes attributed to Bart Feder in the FishbowlDC's blog are false," Christal Jones told Journal-isms in an email. She did not respond when asked what Feder actually said.
In discussing the future of CNN correspondent and anchor Soledad O'Brien, Betsy Rothstein wrote Wednesday in FishbowlDC, ". . . Many staffers were stunned when Feder constantly complained that the viewership of 'Early Start' and 'Starting Point' was 'too ethnic,' based on the high concentration of minority viewers. This common complaint worked itself up through the company, to CNN's Diversity Committee, and to other staffers, who were mortified that a CNN executive was squabbling over attracting minority viewers."
Rothstein later added this note: "UPDATE: To clarify, Feder’s issue with 'Starting Point' was that the audience was too small and happened to be predominately comprised of minorities. A source close to the show insists that the ethnicity of the audience was never the issue, it was the size. Feder in no way meant to imply that the audience was too ethnic."
Edward I. Koch, the feisty New York mayor who died Friday at age 88, was a lightning rod for at least two New York black journalists during his three terms at Gracie Mansion: the late Wilbert Tatum, editor and publisher of the weekly New York Amsterdam News, and Les Payne, columnist for Newsday.
Reporting Tatum's death in 2009, Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins wrote in the Village Voice, ". . . In the 1980s, he memorably pounded away at former Mayor Ed Koch in a weekly column that ran on the paper's front page for more than two years. Week after week, it carried the same headline: 'Koch Must Resign.' Years later, he urged Rudy Giuliani to do the same. . . ."
Payne emailed Journal-isms, ". . . as a weekly columnist, I carried on a long-running shootout with Koch WHILE HE WAS MAYOR THOSE 12 YEARS, WITH THE REST OF THE CITY MEDIA, SAVE THE VILLAGE VOICE, KISSING HIZZONER'S BIGOTED ASS.
"Several times, on official New York Mayor stationery, Koch wrote and asked Newsday to fire me, and once the Editor came very, very close, the closest I'd come to getting fired at the paper.
"Also, for what it's worth, he included me and my attacks on him in several of his jive books.
"Beyond catering to his people, Koch, unlike even Geo. Wallace, went out of his way to offend black New Yorkers, far beyond any requirement of 'taking care of your own.' Wallace, at least had the cover, and thus the excuse of doing the bidding of his constituent white-racist voting majority. . . ."
Koch was aware of the antipathy toward him on racial grounds in some circles. Responding to a critical review by scholar Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the New York Review of Books, Koch wrote, ". . . no racial disturbances or violence have marred my terms. They did mar the terms of my three 'fair-minded' predecessors.
"Nor could one expect Dr. Schlesinger to regard as significant the fact that in the 1981 general election I received 60% of the black vote, 70% of the Hispanic vote and carried every Assembly District in the City of New York. . . . "
Paul Schwartzman explained in the Washington Post: Koch's mayoralty ". . . was defined by several racially charged crimes, including one in 1984 in which Bernhard Goetz, a white man who became known in the headlines as the 'Subway Vigilante,' shot four black men he believed were about to mug him aboard a subway train. Five years later, five black and Hispanic teenagers were accused of raping and beating a woman jogging in Central Park, an attack that Mr. Koch branded at the time as 'the crime of the century.'
"The convictions of the men were later overturned, a saga that became the subject of a recent Ken Burns documentary, 'Central Park Five.'
"Four months after the jogger case dominated the headlines, Yusef Hawkins, a 16-year-old African American, was shot to death after he and three friends were attacked in the white neighborhood of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. Hawkins' death prompted the activist Al Sharpton to lead protest marches through the neighborhood, at which white onlookers mocked the marchers by holding up watermelons."
On Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" co-host Juan Gonzalez, who is also a columnist at the Daily News in New York, cited Koch's "very hostile relationship with African American and Latino community," but said Koch had "launched a huge low-income housing program" and concluded, "people who look back now at his period of time will say, 'Well, Mayor, you did pretty well,' for a figure who was so long on the political scene."
Wayne Dawkins, Politics In Color: Koch rebuilt N.Y., often at the expense of blacks, poor
Editorial, Daily News, New York: Ed Koch, a great mayor and a New Yorker through and through, dies at 88
Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: New York Times Revises Ed Koch Obit To Include AIDS
Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Central Park jogger case still lacks justice
Les Payne, the Nation: The Post's Stimulus Chimp (2009)
Tribune Media Services retreated Friday from an opinion column by former New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley that alleged that Vietnamese people eat birds, squirrels, rats and dogs. The piece, which drew outrage from some readers, "did not meet our journalistic standards," the news service said in an editor's note.
". . . TMS has a rigorous editing process for its content, and in the case of Brinkley’s column that moved Jan. 29, all the required steps did not occur. We regret that this happened, and we will be vigilant in ensuring that our editing process works in the future," the note said.
Brinkley, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for his reporting from Cambodia, began his column, "You don't have to spend much time in Vietnam before you notice something unusual. You hear no birds singing, see no squirrels scrambling up trees or rats scurrying among the garbage. No dogs out for a walk.
"In fact, you see almost no wild or domesticated animals at all. Where'd they all go? You might be surprised to know: Most have been eaten."
Brinkley is the Hearst visiting professional in residence at Stanford University.
The Vietnamese publication Thanh Nien reported Friday, " 'Vietnam isn't the monster portrayed in the article,' Jake Brunner, program coordinator for Vietnam with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told Vietweek.
"Brinkley’s attention-grabbing opener was a misrepresentation of reality, other conservationists say.
" . . . The journalism professor, however, could see no merit in all the criticism he has faced. He dismissed it as 'borne of hysteria.'
" 'I stand by my reporting,' he told Vietweek. 'I've spent a great deal of time in the region,' he said."
Jim Romenesko blog: Joel Brinkley Defends His Vietnamese Diet Article
Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer metro columnist since 2007, wrote a farewell column to readers Friday after taking a buyout.
" . . . I'm guessing that fully a third of my commentaries focused on the city's homicides — and the young African American men who were the victims as well as the perpetrators," she wrote. "In November 2007, with a homicide rate at 336 and counting, I wept while writing a column about my love for black men:
" 'I am a black woman who was raised by a black man, married a black man, and gave birth to a black son. Which is why it breaks my heart to even think this, let alone write it: I'm starting to profile black men.'
"That admission generated hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, and landed me on a couple of national news programs. I made sure to note that my fear of black men wasn't so much of them as for them. . . ."
John-Hall told Journal-isms that she did not know what she would do next. "I'm open to anything — communications, writing a book, teaching, doing another form of journalism, even going back to school," she said by email. "The nice thing about taking a buyout is that it gives you a little bit of a cushion to decompress, focus and decide."
The number of African American newspaper columnists is shrinking as newspapers continue to downsize. An astonishing 10 African American metro or op-ed columnists stopped writing their columns in 2011, and most were not replaced by another journalist of color. In 2012, Eugene Kane of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel left the paper but continues to write a Sunday column.
Associated Press: Harry Belafonte: Blacks should participate in gun debate
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The National Regulation-Resisters Association
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: School shootings, street shootings; is there any legislation that can stop the carnage?
John W. Fountain, Chicago Sun-Times: Obama should lead fight for safe Chicago streets
Jeremy Gorner and Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune: January homicide count worst since 2002
Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: The gun lesson that too many parents refuse to learn until it's too late
Violence Policy Center: Missouri Leads Nation in Black Homicide Victimization for Third Year in a Row
Barry Wilner of the Associated Press wrote on Friday: "Three black former NFL head coaches say the league needs to rethink its Rooney Rule for promoting minority hiring after 15 top vacancies — eight head coaching jobs and seven general manager positions — were all filled by white candidates since the regular season ended a month ago. . . ."
Straightforward enough, but it doesn't capture the irony, according to a Journal-isms correspondent. Wilner writes for the Associated Press, where, according to sports journalists, only three full-time African American sports reporters or editors work among a number estimated at 90 to 100 worldwide. That's not counting stringers or those who split their time between sports and other departments.
The three are Oscar Dixon, Atlanta-based South regional sports editor, reporter Fred Goodall in Tampa and reporter Gary Graves in Louisville, Ky.
In 2011, reporting that the percentage of sports editors at websites and newspapers who were women or people of color fell 2.3 percentage points — from 11.7 percent in 2008 to 9.42 percent in 2010 — Richard Lapchick, the report's primary author, called for a news media version of the Rooney Rule.
The recommendation apparently received no traction. AP spokeswoman Erin Madigan White, asked how many African Americans were in AP sports departments, emailed Friday, "Those numbers are not available."
Meanwhile, Duane Rankin of the Erie (Pa.) Times-News starts Monday as a sports reporter/columnist at the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. Rankin is a 1993 graduate of the first class of the Sports Journalism Institute.
Executive Editor Wanda Lloyd told Journal-isms that Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, posted a notice of the opening for her on NABJ's Sports Task Force listserve. "We are excited to have him," she said, speaking of Rankin. "The true power of NABJ networking," Lloyd said.
"Fingertips blackened by frostbite. Cars buried in snow up to their windows. Tornadoes swirling at a frenzied 120 miles per hour. Temperatures rising to 100-plus degrees," Gail Rosenblum wrote Thursday for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
"A multimedia presentation Tuesday offered the cold, hard fact that Minnesota has some of the world's greatest weather extremes. And it was potentially lifesaving news to those in attendance, who sat in rapt attention.
"KSTP news anchor Joy Lim Nakrin and KSTP meteorologist Jonathan Yuhas delivered the afternoon presentation to about 40 members of the Hmong community at the Lao Family Community Center in St. Paul. Many are new arrivals understandably ill-prepared for our capricious climate.
"With the assistance of a Hmong interpreter, Yuhas used slides and video footage to explain windchill and the heat index, how to be safe in a tornado and why it's really dumb to drive a car over a freshly frozen lake or river.
"The outreach is largely the vision of Nakrin, newly named vice president of the Asian American Journalists Association-Minnesota. Nakrin, whose mother is Chinese, is sensitive to potential cultural and language barriers.
" 'Coming from an immigrant family myself, I'm always heartbroken to hear how the challenges of finding one's way in a new country can be harmful or potentially deadly.' . . . "
Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: Obama’s big immigration opportunity
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: No Risk for President Obama in Immigration Reform Fight
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Immigration reform is a solvable problem
April D. Ryan blog: Immigration: A Black Story
Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Immigration: Republicans make nice, but are their hearts true?
Michael D. Shear, New York Times: On Immigration, a Campaign-Style Push in Hispanic Media
A spokesman for Reach Media, which with Radio One syndicated the Warren Ballentine radio show, confirmed it on Friday:
". . . effective Thursday January 31st, 2013, The Warren Ballentine Show was replaced with Trending Today. Warren Ballentine is no longer with Reach Media," spokesman Marty Raab told Journal-isms by email. Ballentine claimed 3 million listeners.
"Trending Today will showcase compelling hosts in the interim period that can continue to lead engaging discussions that are important to the community," Raab continued. "The current host of Trending Today is Gerod Stevens."
Annie Sweeney reported in the Chicago Tribune Monday, "A south suburban attorney and national radio host who bills himself as the 'people's attorney' has been charged in a $10 million mortgage fraud scheme, federal officials announced today.
"Warren Ballentine was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for defrauding lenders by scheming with others to obtain nearly 30 bogus mortgage loans, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago. . . . "
Ballentine wrote on his Facebook page Thursday, "to all the truthfighters thank you I TRIED. Reach Media/ radio one just canceled my show. I was accused not found guilty of anything and they do this dont care about my kid me or the listeners. Well I guess Im finding out who really is with me now I guess I will be homeless soon."
"Within 24 hours of posting openings for the majority of their new positions, Al Jazeera America received 5000 applications for open positions, a number that has grown to 8,063 over the past three days, a network source told BuzzFeed," Andrew Kaczynski wrote Wednesday for BuzzFeed.
"Television personality and radio host Geraldo Rivera announced Thursday he's 'truly contemplating' a run for Senate in New Jersey" as a Republican, Jonathan Easley reported Thursday for the Hill. "David Frum, CNN contributor and columnist for The Daily Beast, greeted the news with laughter," Noah Rothman wrote Thursday for Mediaite. "Frum found the notion that Rivera is thinking about a political career to be funny, and said that the Republican Party's general weakness invites weak candidates. . . ."
"It came down to the wire, but 'CBS Evening News' anchor Scott Pelley will sit down with President Obama before the Super Bowl on Sunday," Alex Weprin reported Thursday for TVNewser. "Pelley’s interview will air live at 4:30 PM, in advance of the big game. . . ."
The National Association of Caribbean-American Journalists said Volkswagen's Super Bowl commercial featuring white and Asian male office workers speaking with a noticeably Jamaican accent ". . . is not racist and lay the problem . . . at the feet of mainstream journalists, who erroneously branded the ad as racist." Jamaican-born Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher John Farley objected strongly to the commercial, and New York Times columnist Charles Blow called it “Blackface with voices," Luke Visconti wrote Friday for Diversity Inc. But Caribbean groups approved of the ad, Ann-Christine Diaz reported Thursday for Ad Age. This columnist was quoted on the subject Wednesday by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post. SandalsResorts posted "Jamaica's Spoof of VW Superbowl Ad: 'The Germaican' " [video].
"Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh says he will not run for mayor and plans to return to broadcast television," columnist Rochelle Riley reported Friday in the Detroit Free Press. "His decision will end the tenure of the city's first openly gay council member and have a major impact on November's mayoral election, where a poll last fall placed him among the top three contenders. . . ."
In a column Thursday for the Huffington Post, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reviewed the HBO series "Girls." ". . . Last season the show was criticized for being too white. Watching a full season could leave a viewer snow blind," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "This season that white ghetto was breached by a black character who is introduced as some jungle fever lover, with just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less. . . . "
Actor Jeremy Renner has been signed to star in the thriller "Kill the Messenger," based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, who committed suicide after being denounced for his articles alleging CIA involvement in helping Nicaragua's Contra rebels import cocaine into California in the 1980s, particularly into black neighborhoods, Pamela McClintock reported Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter.
"The oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the country turns 100 this year," the Huffington Post reported on Friday. 'New York’s El Diario/La Prensa will celebrate its centenary with a series of events over the course of this year aimed at highlighting the paper’s role in the city. . . ."
"The Board of Directors of the International Women's Media Foundation has appointed Elisa Lees Muñoz as executive director," Editor & Publisher reported Friday. "Muñoz brings more than 20 years of experience in human rights and media development leading organizations that promote the rule of law, press freedom and the engagement, training and leadership of women in the news media around the world. . . . "
"RTDNA honors outstanding achievements in the coverage of diversity with the RTDNA / UNITY Award," the Radio Television Digital News Association announced. "The award is part of the covenant the association has adopted to achieve diversity in the newsroom through developing news content and editorial staffs that reflect the changing face of communities. The purpose of the award is to encourage and showcase journalistic excellence in covering issues of race and ethnicity. It is presented annually to news organizations that show and ongoing commitment to covering the diversity of the communities they serve." Deadline for nominations is Feb. 8.
"Appellate courts in Brazil should overturn a decision ordering journalist Lúcio Flavio Pinto to pay more than $200,000 in damages in connection with a libel suit," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday. ". . . Pinto also blogs for Yahoo and has reported on drug trafficking, environmental devastation, and political and corporate corruption in the region for more than 45 years. He has been physically assaulted, threatened, and targeted with dozens of criminal and civil defamation lawsuits as a result of his investigative work, CPJ research shows. In 2005, CPJ honored Pinto with its International Press Freedom Award, an annual recognition of courageous reporting. . . ."
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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.