Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book review in NRC
NRC/Twitter

Atlantic Writer Has Defended Term, but Not Used Like That

"On July 31, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad published a review of several books on race and racism in the United States," Karen Attiah reported Thursday for the Washington Post.

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"The series, written by the paper's Washington correspondent Guus Valk, leads with a review of Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates's latest book, 'Between the World And Me.' Somewhere along the editorial process, the editors thought it would be a good idea to headline the article, 'Nigger, Are You Crazy?'

"If the headline weren't appalling enough, the article compounded the offensiveness factor with its accompanying blackface figures . . ."

Attiah quoted Michel Krielaars, editor of the Book supplement for NRC. She wrote, "In response to questions about the editorial decisions made with the piece, Krielaars said in e-mails that the headline was a quote from Paul Beatty's satirical book 'Sellout,' which was reviewed.

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Krielaars also responded, "No, we didn't assume it would offend Dutch readers (black or white), otherwise we wouldn't have chosen it. Also we didn't think about possible reactions by non-Dutch readers, because the article is in Dutch and it does not aim at non-Dutch readers.

"The fact that, through the web, this article travels across the world we consider a good thing. But we don't think it's fair if the title travels by itself, without the context of the language in which the article was written. Having said that, we may have underestimated the possible impact on the image of a newspaper spread with these illustrations and this headline. We do regret this. . . ."

Coates told Journal-isms by email that he would have no comment on the development.

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Coates has defended use of the N-word, employing it freely in his memoir, "A Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood" and writing a 2013 essay for the New York Times headlined, "In Defense of a Loaded Word."

However, Coates argued, the offensiveness of the word depends on who is using it.

"A separate and unequal standard for black people is always wrong," he wrote. "And the desire to ban the word 'nigger' is not anti-racism, it is finishing school. When Matt Barnes [of the Los Angeles Clippers] used the word 'niggas' he was being inappropriate. When Richie Incognito [of the Miami Dolphins] and Riley Cooper [of the Philadelphia Eagles] used 'nigger,' they were being violent and offensive.

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"That we have trouble distinguishing the two evidences our discomfort with the great chasm between black and white America. If you could choose one word to represent the centuries of bondage, the decades of terrorism, the long days of mass rape, the totality of white violence that birthed the black race in America, it would be 'nigger.' . . ."

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: A fresh voice for an impatient generation (July 31)

Melvin L. Rogers, Dissent: "Coates Isn't Hopeful": Melvin Rogers Responds to Lester Spence

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Asian Americans in "Candid Convos" on Newsroom Coping

Kristen Go, the San Francisco Chronicle's deputy managing editor of digital operations and an Asian American, recalled that 15 years ago, when she was 22 years old, she was viewed as one newsroom's "minority hire."

No one would talk to her the first day, she told fellow journalists at the Asian American Journalists Association convention Thursday at San Francisco's Hyatt Regency Hotel.

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Go said she was put on "crazy shifts" without realizing that the newspaper might be violating its contract with the Newspaper Guild. Finally, she reached out to an AAJA member and then to a black journalist on staff. The latter marched in to the editor's office and asked, "Why are you doing this?" Things improved.

Go was leading a discussion called "Candid Convos: How to Tell Your Newsroom that it Might Be Racist."

In an email, Go identified the newspaper as the Denver Post; the AAJA mentor as Thomas Huang, now Sunday and enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News; and the black journalist as Neal Scarbrough, then Denver Post sports editor, now senior director for network and technical operations at the New England Sports Network.

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"Neal then went to talk to other editors to try and smooth my transition," Go said.

With Asian Americans only 2.8 percent of newspaper and online newsroom employees, according to the latest diversity survey of the American Society of News Editors, it's not unusual for Asian Americans to find themselves the only one of their number in the newsroom.

The AAJA convention, which continues through Sunday, is heavy on skills-building workshops and light on discussion of news issues of the day. But with its "candid convos," it is attempting to address cultural issues unique to Asian Americans.

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In such a "convo" on Thursday, dubbed "Humility Will Take You Far, Then Get You Nowhere," Roger W. Cheng, executive editor in charge of East Coast coverage for CNET News, asked for a show of hands.

"Who here has heard from their parents that you should be grateful for what you have?" Most hands went up. Cheng and the attendees then discussed how to overcome the mindset that one shouldn't toot one's own horn, especially after discovering that those who toot move up faster than those who don't.

On Friday, freelance journalist Vanessa Hua led a discussion called "Candid Convos: Tightrope Walk — Balancing AAPI Family Values With Work." Audience members identified the roles they played in their families and discussed how their parents' expectations influenced not only what jobs they sought but also how far away from home they lived. They recommended "strategies for success."

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One audience member, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, said her parents were thrilled to learn that she wanted to be a journalist. In China, newspapers are state-owned, and the parents assumed their daughter would be a government employee who could bring the wrath of the state on citizens who did not cooperate. When the parents learned that the job involved long hours and low pay and had no connection to the government, they wondered why she hadn't instead become a pharmacist.

Kevin Lee was part of that discussion. He is a staff writer for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Daily Journal Corp., co-chair of the convention and the oldest of four siblings and his parents emigrated from Hong Kong. In a conversation outside the meeting room, Lee listed three main reasons why  attendees come to the AAJA convention.

The first, he said, is to acquire skills for a changing news landscape. Second, he said, is to network, reaching out to those who have ascended the ladder, those who are coming up and peers in other newsrooms. The third is to meet friends in social settings.

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Developing a network of other Asian American journalists was called one of the most effective ways of dealing with racial and cultural isolation on the job. Joining online discussion groups for journalists, such as as "Journalists of Color in Public Media" on Facebook, was another. So was countering skepticism of the "minority hire" by letting others see the hire's good work and the multitude of skills that hire brings to the job.

The most obvious way to end such isolation, of course, is getting more journalists of color in the newsroom.

At the San Francisco Chronicle, Go found a way to do that.

In the latest ASNE diversity census, the Chronicle reported a newsroom of 19 percent journalists of color, including no American Indians, 11.3 percent Asian Americans, 2.4 percent blacks, 4.2 percent Hispanics and 1.2 percent multiracial.

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Before Go became part of management, she would gently suggest that new hires weren't bringing much diversity and would ask whether this person or that was considered.

Now, Go said, she can be a little more direct with the human resources department. She said she can say, "Don't bring me another white man."

Heidi Chang, Neal Justin, Eric Wee, Bobby Caina Calvan, Gary Kebbel, Raul Ball, Toan Lam, Michale Kim, Richard Prince, Chinh Doan and Christine Hsu with Curtiss Kim: AAJA SF 2015 (webcast)

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Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Why I write and go amok on behalf of Asian Americans everywhere

Reporter Among 6 Killed as 5 Burst into Mexican Bar

"Five gunmen burst into a bar early Thursday and killed a reputed drug gang boss, a reporter and four other people in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Veracruz, authorities said," Mark Stevenson reported Thursday for the Associated Press.

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"The Veracruz state prosecutors' office said the gunmen entered the bar and went directly for the victims, who included the local boss of the Zetas drug gang, identified as Jose Marquez Balderas. It said reporter Juan Santos Carrera was among those sitting with him.

"Two other reporters in the bar were not shot, but were fired by their newspaper for being at the scene with the local cartel boss.

"Police chased the assailants, and two officers were wounded in an ensuing exchange of gunfire in the streets of the city of Orizaba, but there were no immediate arrests. The prosecutor's office said some of the victims had weapons with them.

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"Veracruz state now has seen 14 journalists killed since Gov. Javier Duarte took office in 2010 and three more have gone missing, drawing criticism from press freedom advocates. But the Televisa network, for which Santos Carrera worked, said he resigned two months ago and Flavino Rios, the state's interior secretary, said the attack 'had nothing to do with the reporter's journalistic work.'

"Rios blamed the shootout on two small bands of 'ex-Zetas' that he said are fighting for control of Orizaba, an industrial city known for beer brewing.

"He said the two other reporters at the bar told authorities that Santos Carrera was the go-between who distributed Zetas money to other journalists. It was not clear if they were receiving money, he said.

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"The Associated Press could not immediately locate relatives of Santos Carrera to seek comment on Rios' claim about the dead journalist. . . ."

Reporters Without Borders: Law Protecting Journalists Goes Into Effect in Mexico City

Suspect Held in Televised Robbery of Bay Area News Crews

"A San Francisco man has been arrested in the brazen robbery of two Bay Area news crews on live TV as they reported on a pier shooting death, police said Wednesday," Veronica Rocha reported for the Los Angeles Times.

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"A black BMW used as getaway car during the robbery led detectives to Michael Jones, 23, who was found July 27 at a Motel 6 in Fremont, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

"Jones, who police say is a known gang member, was taken into custody after a brief chase. He was being held on suspicion of robbery, aggravated assault, grand theft and conspiracy, as well as several warrants for drugs, burglary, hit and run and evading police.

"Jones was on probation for a firearms violation.

"Police are looking for two other men involved in the robbery. . . ."

Rocha also wrote, "Crews from KNTV-Channel 11 and KTVU-Channel 2 were reporting live at 6:03 a.m. July 2 on the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 when three men stole their camera equipment.

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"A portion of the robbery was captured on air, showing the gunman approaching KNTV camera operator Alan Waples and putting a gun to his head while reporter Kris Sanchez pleads for him not to shoot.

"Waples was thrown to the ground and struck with the gun. The cameraman’s ear was cut. . . ."

Blacks, Whites Split on Protection Offered by Gun Ownership

"Two years after the failure of Senate legislation to expand background checks on gun purchases, the public continues to overwhelmingly support making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks," the Pew Research Center reported on Wednesday. "Currently, 85% of Americans — including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) — favor expanded background checks, little changed from May 2013 (81%). . . .

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"Guns also continue to divide the public along racial and gender lines. Whites say it is more import to protect gun rights, by 57% to 40%. Majorities of Hispanics (75%) and blacks (72%) say it is more important to control gun ownership."

Pew also reported, "Whites, by 60% to 35%, say gun ownership does more to protect people from crime than to put their personal safety at risk. Blacks by a similar margin (56% to 37%) say that gun ownership does more to endanger people's personal safety. . . ."

Apple Workforce Is 8% Black, 7% Latino

"Apple may have hired more black, Latino and female employees in the last year than at any time in the company's history, but the percentage of its employees who are from those underrepresented groups barely increased," seattlepi.com reported on Thursday.

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"That's the bottom line of the company's release Thursday of its diversity report, only the second time that Apple has publicly divulged the demographics of its workforce.

"In a statement posted on the company's website, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that over the past year, Apple hired more than 11,000 women globally — 65 percent more than in the previous year. In the U.S., Cook said, Apple hired more than 2,200 black employees (50 percent more than last year) and 2,700 Latinos (a 66 percent bump).

"But the percentage of blacks working at Apple (8 percent) only inched up from last year (7 percent.) Latinos made up 11 percent of the workforce, unchanged from last year. The percentage of women inched up one percentage point over the past year to 31 percent, according to the company. . . ."

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Paper Punctures Jindal's Defense of Confederate Statues

"The hope that Gov. Bobby Jindal might invoke a state 'Heritage Act' to keep the four controversial public monuments in New Orleans in place may be a lost cause," Jeff Adelson reported Friday for the New Orleans Advocate.

"Though Jindal's administration pledged Thursday to research the law and its possible applicability to the statue controversy, it turns out Louisiana doesn’t have such a law.

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"The Jindal administration’s vow came after New Orleans' Historic District Landmarks Commission cleared the way for the City Council to take down prominent statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis and a less public monument commemorating an attack launched by the White League against the Reconstruction-era government in the city.

"The ongoing debate over those monuments has sparked debate in the city — and around the state — with many suggesting there was a state law known as the 'Heritage Act' that the governor could use to step in. When asked Thursday night whether the governor planned to intervene, spokesman Doug Cain replied that 'Governor Jindal opposes the tearing down of these historical statues and he has instructed his staff to look into the Heritage Act to determine the legal authority he has as Governor to stop it.'

"Nothing of that name shows up in a review of state laws, though a South Carolina law with that name, passed in 2000, kept the Confederate flag flying over that state’s Capitol grounds until recently. . . ."

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Nick Anderson, Washington Post: William & Mary drops a Confederate emblem and moves a plaque

Jacalyn Carfagno, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: Kentucky's Confederate history-lite still weighing us down (Aug. 6)

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Stop the nonsense about the South fighting for something other than slavery

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Editorial, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Take Down the Statue (June 26)

Ray Leszcynski, Dallas Morning News: Garland ISD's last Confederate flag remnants don’t go down without a fight

Will Sentell, the Advocate: All three GOP candidates for governor oppose removing monuments

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Paul J. Weber, Associated Press: Challenge Stops Confederate Statue Move at Univ. of Texas

Gates Foundation Gives $4.7M for African Newsrooms

"Code for Africa has received a $4.7 million grant to fund projects using data, drones and sensors to promote health and development journalism across the continent," Alastair Reid reported Thursday for journalism.co.uk.

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"In announcing the funding, founder Justin Arenstein said Code for Africa will use the money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support newsrooms in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, before expanding into Tanzania next year.

" 'Once you liberate data, you can tell some fantastic stories about what's really going on in the country, which are a lot more up to date than some of the other sources people can get hold of,' said Stephen Abbott-Pugh, who led digital projects at the Guardian and UK Parliament before joining Code for Africa as a Knight International journalism Fellow in June. . . ."

Babatunde Akpeji, mediashift.org: The Power of Citizen Journalists in Remote, Underserved African Communities

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Short Takes

"Every year, there is always much buzz and excitement over the highly-coveted spot on Vogue's September cover, and the publication confirmed Wednesday that Beyoncé will grace the cover," theGrio.com reported Thursday. On The Root, Yesha Callahan reported Friday that Megan Garber "wrote a lengthy piece for The Atlantic about Beyoncé’s Vogue cover. Mind you, Vogue has only had three black women grace its September covers, and the fact that Garber could only point out that Beyoncé's hair was stringy is a major fail. . . ."

"One way to fight health disparities and obesity may be to turn off the TV. Food companies disproportionately target television advertising for unhealthy products like candy and sugary drinks to Latino and African American youth, new research shows," Sasha Harris-Lovett reported Thursday for the Los Angeles Times. "African American children and teens in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to see an advertisement for candy and soda on TV than their white counterparts. And healthier foods that are often seen in television ads for the general population, like yogurt, are unlikely to appear on TV channels targeted to African American and Latino viewers, according to the report. The findings were presented this week at the annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta. . . ."

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"On August 14, Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Cuba in order to celebrate the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries," Reporters Without Borders wrote Thursday. "It is the first time since 1959 that the head of American diplomacy takes an official visit to the island. This is a unique opportunity for the United States to put the issues of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Cuba at the top of the agenda. Reporters Without Borders has written an open letter to John Kerry asking him to publicly address the issue. . . ."

"To commemorate the Watts Riots, which erupted in Los Angeles 50 years ago,Twitter account @WattsRiots50 is live-tweeting the events as they unfolded decades ago," Max Kutner reported Wednesday for Newsweek. "The people behind the account have described their project as 'a modern retelling of the historic time line' and have said they will be live-tweeting from August 11 to 17. . . ."

"Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm, today announced that Brett Pulley has joined the firm as a Senior Advisor," the firm said in a news release Thursday. "Pulley will work closely with senior leadership to build business and strengthen client relationships. Pulley is the Dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University, a 147-year-old historically black university in southeastern Virginia. . . ."

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"WNEU, the Telemundo station in Boston, will air its first-ever live local newscasts — Noticiero Telemundo Boston — starting Monday, the group announced this morning," TVNewsCheck reported on Friday. "The Spanish-language station will air live, half-hour newscasts on weeknights at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. . . ."

"Veteran former newspaper editor Kevin Lau Chun-to urged police to find the mastermind behind the brazen knife attack he suffered last year as his two assailants were convicted by the High Court yesterday" in Hong Kong, Julie Chu and Eddie Lee reported Friday for the South China Morning Post. "The jury of three women and four men took only three hours to reach a unanimous verdict, finding Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah, both aged 39, guilty on a joint count of causing grievous bodily harm to Lau on February 26 last year. . . ."

"A Moroccan criminal court on Monday ordered the independent news website Badil to suspend operations for three months and handed a harsh fine to its editor-in-chief, according to news reports and the journalist who spoke to CPJ," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday. "Hamid el-Mehdaoui was convicted of criminal defamation. . . ."