Joe Oliver, Family Friend, Says Zimmerman Is No Racist

An African American former television anchor and reporter is emerging as one of the most vocal defenders of George Zimmerman, the white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and sparked a national uproar.


"Speaking on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' Joe Oliver said George Zimmerman is not a racist and has virtually lost his own life since the shooting," the Associated Press reported.

" 'This is a guy who thought he was doing the right thing at the time and it's turned out horribly wrong,' Oliver said.

"On NBC's 'Today' show, Oliver said he had spoken with Zimmerman's mother-in-law, who said Zimmerman was remorseful.


" 'I learned that he couldn't stop crying for days after the shooting,' Oliver said."

Oliver's LinkedIn profile lists him as a forensic chart review specialist at Orlando-based Digital Risk, which specializes in residential mortgage risk management services.

In 2006, Oliver was a weekend anchor and news reporter for WESH-TV in Orlando. His bio then read, "Before joining the station, Joe was an anchor and reporter for KRON-TV in San Francisco, Calif. Prior to that, he worked in Atlanta, where he was an anchor and reporter for CNN. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in journalism."


He went on to become a marketing director at Mesos Wellness and Cosmetic Laser Center in Orlando, a sales account executive at Genesis Communications, owners of WHOO-AM/WAMT-AM in Orlando, and a forensic chart review specialist.

"The current economic situation requires flexibility for many, especially many veterans in broadcast media. My year as an Account Executive in the wholesale mortgage industry has made it possible to return to the industry. I currently process loans in default for forensic underwriting and plan to use my skills as an investigator, communicator and educator to further my career with Digital Risk," Oliver wrote on LinkedIn.

Reporter Chris Francescani said of Oliver Monday on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," ". . . in his efforts to defend Zimmerman, who he says has gone into hiding in fear of his life, Oliver, a former television journalist, has made a number of incendiary — and at least in one case — apparently contradictory comments.


"Yesterday, Oliver told ABC News' David Muir that he 'didn't even know whether George pulled the trigger.' He reiterated that claim Monday to George Stephanopoulos on 'Good Morning America.'

"Authorities have said since the beginning that Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin, and numerous eyewitnesses have told ABC News they heard a gunshot, and ran out of their houses to find Zimmerman standing over Martin's body.

"Still, in response to a question about what Zimmerman would say to the Martin family if he had the opportunity, Oliver replied 'that he's very, very sorry. That he's very, very sorry, because in many ways George has lost his life too.' "


Zimmerman's version of events emerged in a story Monday by Rene Stutzman for the Orlando Sentinel.

"With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel," Stutzman wrote.

"That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say.


"Zimmerman has not spoken publicly about what happened, but that night, Feb. 26, and in later meetings he described and re-enacted for police what he says happened.

"In his version of events, he had turned around and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from behind, the two exchanged words then Trayvon punched him in the nose, sending him to the ground, and began beating him."

Writers Analyze Spread of Story in Social, Mainstream Media

"How does a story about teenager's illogical killing go from barely registering a mention in local newspapers to a national conversation?" Kelly McBride asked Friday for the Poynter Institute. "It's carried by people who care — by family, by bloggers who fear for their own children and by communities with tools that connect them to each other for fortification, while they wait for someone to listen.


"Ten years ago Trayvon Martin's family would have had a hard time getting the national media's attention. But with the help of a few bloggers,, and social media, they managed to put increasing pressure on the Sanford, Fla., Police Department to charge their son's killer and release the 911 recordings. When they prevailed on that second goal a week ago, they got the break they needed.

"Look at the path they traveled and you can see the way media power has changed.

" . . . This is how stories are told now," McBride continued, tracing the story's trajectory. "They are told by people who care passionately, until we all care."


This columnist was quoted on the limits of social media by Aaron Morrison on

"Social media were out front on the story — but social media can only report what has been published elsewhere. While let some know about its petition, the reports quoted in the social media were by and large from the mainstream news media."

Brian Stelter added Monday in the New York Times, "Notably, many of the national media figures who initially devoted time to the shooting are black, which some journalists and advocacy groups say attests to the need for diversity in newsrooms. The racial and ethnic makeup of newsrooms, where minorities tend to be underrepresented relative to the general population, has long been a source of tension for the news industry."


Some of the coverage drew criticism.

On CNN's "Reliable Sources," host Howard Kurtz questioned how the Rev. Al Sharpton could lead a rally in Sanford, Fla., and also host his MSNBC talk show.

"MSNBC, for its part, would seem to have planned for this kind of role for Sharpton from the start of his career there," the Huffington Post noted.


" 'We are breaking the mold,' president Phil Griffin told the New York Times in September. 'Anything he does on the streets, he can talk about on air — we won't hide anything.' "

Media Matters for America zeroed in on Fox News Channel.

" . . . of all the issues surrounding the coverage of the killing, Fox News' media criticism show, Fox News Watch, chose to focus on this question today: 'Was this a story for the national media?' " Solange Uwimana wrote Saturday.


Obama Aide Says GOP Will Rue "Obamacare" Term

"Senior White House adviser David Plouffe said Sunday that the White House is 'confident' its health care overhaul will be upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court — and that, ultimately, Republicans are going to regret having branded it 'Obamacare,' " Lucy Madison reported Sunday for CBS News.


"The Supreme Court will hear arguments this week over the Obama administration's landmark Affordable Care Act, which celebrated its two-year anniversary last week."

Plouffe made his comments on "Fox News Sunday," whose host, Chris Wallace, was one of two Sunday talk-show hosts to use the "Obamacare" term to describe the health-care reform plan. The other was George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week." Hosts on NBC, CBS, C-SPAN and CNN left that characterization to their Republican guests. Stephanopoulos did not respond to a request for comment.

As reported last week, major print-news organizations regard "Obamacare" as pejorative. Mara Liasson reported last week on NPR, "In polls that ask voters about 'health care reform,' the public looks equally divided. "Polls that refer specifically to the Obama health care law show more negative results."


In Columbia Journalism Review on Thursday, Trudy Lieberman noted that the health reform law celebrated would celebrate its two-year anniversary the next day.

"There are myriad ways to report on the Affordable Care Act and its sure-to-be-tumultuous future," she wrote. "Two stories showed up this week that illustrate two sides of health reform. The AP, which reaches zillions of ordinary people, reported — not surprisingly — on how the law has helped ordinary people. Politico, which reaches the Beltway types, described 'four hard truths of health care reform' in a piece meant to interest political types. Neither story would win five stars, but they are good starting points for more questions and dot connection."


"Root 100" List Surprises With Education Level, Skin Tone

The Root 100,'s annual list of "the most influential African Americans between the ages of 25 and 45," has impressed an academic with the number of recipients who hold at least a bachelor's degree, and "amazed" him with the number of female recipients who were light-skinned.

Amadu Jacky Kaba, a native of Liberia who teaches sociology at Seton Hall University, wrote about the 2011 list in "Talented Tenth: An Analysis of the 2011 Root Magazine's 100 Most Influential Young Black Americans," written for the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science.


"Among the variables examined in this study are: place of birth, average age, gender/sex, skin tone, institutions where college or university degrees were earned, states and countries where those colleges or universities are located, and professions/job types," he wrote.

Asked what impressed him most, Kaba told Journal-isms by email, "Coming from a part of the world (West Africa) where parents and relatives pay a lot of attention to educational attainment, including cooking meals for teachers and taking it to their homes, I would consider the finding that at least 7 out of every 10 of them (70% out of 100, but over 18% of Blacks aged 25 and over in 2010) already have least a bachelor's degree very important or significant.

"What makes this even more interesting is that this finding goes across professions or job types — Musicians/Artists, Journalists, Politicians, Religious figures, Entrepreneurs, etc. I believe that this will inspire young people who look up to them to work hard, stay out of trouble and do well in school."


He said of his findings on skin tone, "There is a very large academic literature on skin tone. I used this variable to explain to young people in West Africa or Africa, because they may consider someone like Cory Booker," the mayor of Newark, N.J., "as a White man. So this is to teach young people in Africa who might not know. When I started doing the research, I immediately saw that there were a lot more light skin awardees than their brown skin and dark skin counterparts, and I knew that it was because a good number of them are either mixed race or have relatives who are White. So I decided to use skin tone as one of my variables.

"For the three categories, if someone looks like Cory Booker, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Soledad O'Brien, then I categorize them under light skin. If someone with skin tone like or Kanye West, then I categorize them as dark skin. Finally, someone with skin tone like Tyler Perry and Marc Lamont Hill, I categorize them as brown skin. I knew from past research as I cited in the skin tone section of the paper that there appears to be more light skin Black females than Black males, but I was still amazed that within their gender, their proportion was 53 percent."

Sheryl Huggins Salomon, managing editor of, told Journal-isms by email, "We weren't aware of this study before today, but find its results to be fascinating. To identify and rank those on the 2011 list of The Root 100, we developed a formula that defines influence as the marriage of reach and substance (more info is here). Dr. Kaba's study sheds additional light on the complex forces shaping African American leadership across fields, and we applaud that effort."


Diversity in Ad Business: Resignation Tinged With Sadness

"The average ad-industry employee likely agrees the diversity issue is a very unfortunate situation," Ken Wheaton wrote Monday for Advertising Age. "One that should be remedied. By someone. But on a daily basis, he's likely to carry on, figuring for the most part the industry will evolve and that his nonwhite coworkers are content with the state of adland.

"The reality, according to a new study, is that a whopping 74% of minority employees in the industry agree that "My experience as an employee from a multicultural background is different from my colleagues'."


"The Impact Study, conducted by cross-cultural talent consultancy Tangerine-Watson, surveyed a total of 831 ad-industry professionals of various races and across general-market and ethnic shops between September and December of 2011.

"The study's numbers likely won't shock anyone who's paying attention to the issue. As 4A's CEO Nancy Hill said, 'It is very disenchanting, but not surprising at the same time.' Carol Watson, founder and CEO of Tangerine-Watson, called the results 'sad and concerning.'

"But one thing this survey provides is actual voices from those responding. What comes through is mostly a sense of resignation tinged with sadness."


Eight years ago, with the endorsement of chief executive officers from six of the industry's worldwide communications firms, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, known as 4A's, launched 'Operation Success,' a program to increase ethnic diversity and inclusiveness in key operational areas of the advertising business, according to news release at the time.

Judge Dismisses King Estate Suit Against Miss. Anchor

"A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the estate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. seeking documents and other material connected to the civil rights leader from a Mississippi TV anchor," the Associated Press reported Friday from Jackson, Miss.


"The lawsuit was filed in September in U.S. District Court in Jackson against Howard Ballou, an anchor for Jackson-based WLBT-TV. The suit said Ballou's mother worked for King as a secretary from 1955 to 1960 and kept documents during the time King led the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference."

Unity: Journalists of Color Unveils New Logo

"UNITY: Journalists of Color today unveiled its new logo, an emblem symbolic of the organization's decision to expand and further diversify its alliance," the coalition announced on Monday.


"The logo represents the organization's brand and the unity of its alliance associations together committed to advancing diversity in news media. Current members of the alliance [include] the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), and UNITY's newest alliance partner, the National Lesbian [&] Gay Journalists Association (NLJGA).

"The logo features a yellow and gray design with a prominent 'U' for Unity and 'J' for journalism. The four featherlike stripes reflect the four founding members of UNITY: Journalists of Color — AAJA, NAHJ, NAJA and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) — and invoke the Phoenix, the mythical bird that rose renewed from its own ashes. The Phoenix is also the name of the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, a weekly that first published in 1828 in New Echota, Ga."

The previous logo had symbols for AAJA, NAJA, NAHJ and NABJ, but NABJ pulled out last year and NLJGA subsequently joined.


Onica N. Makwakwa, executive director, told Journal-isms that a design team at Hargrove, Inc., donated its services pro bono.

Debra Adams Simmons Wins McGruder Award for Diversity

Debra Adams Simmons, editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, was

This image was lost some time after publication.


honored Monday as the 2012 winner of the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University. The award recognizes media professionals who encourage diversity in the field of journalism.

Lydia Esparra, an Emmy-winning anchor with WOIO-TV in Cleveland, was recognized at the annual McGruder luncheon as the 2012 Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award winner.

Adams Simmons became editor of the Plain Dealer in 2010, promoted from managing editor. A graduate of the Maynard Institute's Management Training Program, she joined the Plain Dealer in September 2007. She was ousted the previous November as vice president and editor of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal in a cost-cutting move by the new owners of the former Knight Ridder paper.


Adams Simmons had worked as deputy managing editor and metro editor at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., before her time at the Beacon Journal. She has also worked at the Detroit Free Press, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant and the Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald-Journal.

Why Aren't J-Students of Color Learning Technology?

"I'm part of a relatively small community of African Americans who teach multimedia/online journalism at colleges and universities across the country," Michelle Johnson, associate professor of the practice, multimedia journalism at Boston University, wrote Monday for Amy Alexander's Community Forum. "When we talk (and we do talk, in various online forums and when we meet up at conferences), some of us express disappointment that some students of color avoid the kinds of courses we teach when they're not required, and sometimes perform poorly in them.


". . . I'm seeing that many of the students of color lack experience with the tools and technologies that will be fundamental to journalism innovation going forward. And this comes at a time when funding for training programs for students of color has shrunk, along with the bottom lines of the news industry and professional associations.

"I'm not clear if the students themselves realize the stiff competition they're facing. Here's an example of what I'm seeing when I'm weeding through 100-plus applications to fill 20 or fewer spots for a program or scholarship: Applicant One not only launched an online publication, but did the coding to build it, launched it with funds that they won through pitching at an entrepreneurial journalism contest, and they've included a detailed analysis of what they'd do with the training/funds if they're selected. Applicant Two offers up a short, unfocused paragraph with few details or accomplishments listed.

"Faced with that scenario, I've had to reject Applicant Two more than once. Sometimes if they show a spark of promise, but haven't had the exposure or opportunities afforded to other applicants, they'll make the cut, with the understanding that they'll receive some additional mentoring. Applicant Two isn't always a student of color, but painfully, many times they are."


Short Takes

* ". . . Of all of the part-time jobs that I have held outside of my chosen profession, the one that has caused people to most question my rationality and mental state, has been my work as a substitute teacher," Dallas journalist Linda Jones wrote Sunday for ". . . What many of them fail to realize is that I am a former news reporter. What substitute teachers go through is really not that much different from what I did for decades. . . . So here is my a list of 10 survival tips created specifically for former news writers who are considering subbing when reporting wasn't enough."

* Alicia Quarles, global entertainment and lifestyles editor for the Associated Press, joins E! News, "the global leader for celebrity and entertainment news," on April 3 as the New York-based television Correspondent, the media outlet announced on Monday. Quarles will "solidify E!'s presence in New York while also obtaining and reporting on all aspects of entertainment news."

* A Black Enterprise magazine article, "Black & Gay in Corporate America" by Carolyn M. Brown, tied for "outstanding magazine article" at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards staged Friday by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. GLAAD also awarded several honors in the Spanish-language category.


* "ABC News has hired Alex Perez as a Chicago-based correspondent, ABC News president Ben Sherwood announced today," Merrill Knox reported Monday for TVNewser. "Perez joins ABC News from WMAQ, the NBC-owned local station in Chicago, where he has been a reporter and anchor for six years. . . . Perez is the third recent ABC News hire from NBC Chicago."

* "When Ebony Marshman heard about the death of foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid in February through Twitter, she was surprised how moved she was at the news," according to Western Kentucky University. "Marshman, a senior visual arts student at WKU and Central Hardin High School graduate, decided to paint a watercolor portrait of Shadid. . . . When she completed her portrait, Marshman posted a copy on Twitter, which she uses for news and networking. Through a series of retweets, the image found its way to Nada Bakri, Shadid's widow. Bakri then tweeted Marshman and asked for a hard copy of the portrait."  

* Christopher John Farley, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal who produces its Speakeasy section, was among the guests at Aretha Franklin's 70th birthday party Saturday in New York. "We were pleasantly surprised to find that the gathering was an intimate affair — maybe 80 people or so? — and just about the only person that really didn't seem to belong there was us," Farley wrote. "We love to attend parties that we wouldn't have invited ourselves to. The other guests included activist Al Sharpton, music executive Clive Davis and academic Michael Eric Dyson."


* "With two of them governors, four billionaires and over a score sitting in high places in government, Indian Americans not only keep making news but have also emerged as major players in American media, the Times of India reported on March 18. It named prominent Indian-Americans in broadcast and print and concluded, "Hundreds of lesser known Indian Americans are among the producers, reporters, copy editors and production assistants, bringing Americans their daily news showing how far [Indian Americans] have come in the media world where only a few of them commanded bylines in the 1990s."

* Some 175 people, including Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, turned out in Washington Friday for a three-hour tribute to Askia Muhammad, news director of Pacifica's WPFW-FM, columnist for the Washington Informer, host of a WPFW jazz show and former editor of Muhammad Speaks newspaper. The event honored Muhammad's four decades as an independent journalist. "It was grand," Muhammad told Journal-isms.

* Diana Munatones, said to have been at one time the highest-ranking Latina in television broadcast management, died March 18 in Arcadia, Calif. She was 66, according to the EGP Newspapers. "In a statement announcing Munatones' passing, family and friends recalled that Diana started out as a television production assistant, and worked her way up through the various ranks of television to become a producer, host, writer and director of many cable, local and network television programs in English and Spanish. . . . By 1977, as Director of Community Broadcast Relations at KNXT and Director of Special Projects for CBS Inc, Munatones was the highest-ranking Latina in television broadcast management." She later was director of communications for the Los Angeles Unified School District.


* The National Association of Caribbean-American Journalists is planning its third bi-annual meeting at the New York Times headquarters in New York on May 31 and June 1. The theme is "Styling Black Identities: Reclaiming the Past, Building the Future." For more information on the group, visit

* "Last week's sentencing of a Bolivian news magazine editor convicted of slandering a government lawyer to two-and-a-half years in prison underscores the urgency with which Bolivia must revisit its criminal-defamation laws," the International Press Institute said on Friday. "The editor, Rogelio Peláez of Larga Vista, had been the defendant in a suit brought by Walter Molina, whom Peláez had accused of collective excessive attorney fees while representing the government in a case involving the country's social-security program. A La Paz judge found Peláez guilty of defamation and slander as well as a third offense, the distribution of slanderous material, news reports said."

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