FAMU Partners for 24-Hour Black News Channel

Florida A&M University student
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Trustees Approve 11-Year Collaboration With J.C. Watts

The board of trustees of Florida A&M University has approved an 11-year partnership with former Rep. J.C. Watts to produce a 24-hour, multiplatform Black Television News Channel that Watts initially announced six years ago.


A signing ceremony is scheduled Friday on FAMU's campus. The new network plans 50 full- and part-time journalism jobs, according to Frank Watson, the vice president and general manager, with internships for students, a bureau in Washington and hopes for branching out to other historically black colleges and universities.

Robert "Bob" Brillante, a cable TV veteran, founder of Florida's News Channel and one of the cofounding partners, told Journal-isms by telephone that Comcast had committed to carrying the channel in seven of the 10 top African-American markets: Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will broaden the potential audience, he said.

Florida's News Channel operated statewide from 1998 to 2003 and created nightly newscasts for a black audience.

The Black Television News Channel was originally announced in 2008 by Watts, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma from 1995 to 2002. Contracts were signed then with Comcast.


However, Brillante said, financing collapsed in 2010 amid the recession. Since then, he said, the partners have been busy "putting the people back together."

Sony Corp. has agreed to equip FAMU's School of Journalism & Graphic Communication with a network operation center and an automated newsroom, according to the announcement. The center will be located next to the existing student broadcast newsroom, Dean Ann Wead Kimbrough told Journal-isms by telephone.


Kimbrough said in the announcement, "This is not a singular opportunity. We see it as a multidisciplinary opportunity for our students, alumni and faculty." She said the partnership "would elevate the technical expertise of the school's faculty and the university's ability to attract high-quality journalism students from around the globe."

Financial investments have come from Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm, and the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, Fla., Inc. Brillante said he was not ready to name the individual investors.


"According to the BTNC executive summary, the partnership will fill a void left by 18 black-owned and operated full-power television networks that ceased to exist during the last 20 years," the announcement said.

"The network will serve as an economic powerhouse for FAMU and the North Florida region, as the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis reports that BTNC is slated to generate $33.6 million in economic stimulus annually. The Center also reports that the establishment of BTNC on campus will initially create at least 117 new jobs and 226 jobs in total, which translates to nearly $10.5 million in combined employee compensation and proprietary income.


"The partnership also includes a promise by BTNC to return up to $500,000 annually to the university for the first three years of the network's operation and $1 million for each of the seven years remaining in the contract. The first year of the partnership will be dedicated to renovating, upgrading and installing equipment in the SJGC building, with a total price tag of $10 million."

It also said, "FAMU students will have the opportunity to hone their crafts through first-hand learning experiences with the latest digital broadcasting technology and systems. Career counseling, internship opportunities and job placement are also keystones of the agreement."


While there will be opportunities for students, the news will be delivered by professionals, Brillante and Watson said in separate telephone interviews. The network plans to deliver news initially from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., followed by three one-hour blocks of news and news-related programming.

One model will be Florida's News Channel, in which Brillante and Watson worked with stations across the state. The two men also played a major role in the Florida-based Black Family Channel, which folded after eight years in 2007. Underfunded, it was created by lawyer Willie Gary, celebrities Marlon Jackson, Evander Holyfield and others.


Watson said hiring of journalists would not take place until a news director was in place. "The working plan right now is to bring on the senior management and then let these guys pack their own parachute," he said. Interested journalists can find contact information on the channel's website, Watson said. There is no firm launch date, Brillante said.

The FAMU news release called the network the nation's "Only Black Owned Cable News Network." Others that deliver news, such as the year-old Soul of the South, transmit over both broadcast and cable TV.


When Watts announced the network in 2008, he said, "We hope to be the single destination for reliable, credible, informational resources for the African-American community. The critical thing is to allow the community to create a platform to be involved in the economic, social and political debates taking place across the country."

Brillante told Journal-isms that Watts is not involved with network details, but that the partners are carrying out his vision.


In addition to Watts, Brillante and Watson, the operations group includes cofounding partners Steve Pruitt, former budget director for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Evan Leo, "one of Washington D.C.’s premier telecommunications and regulatory attorneys," the FAMU announcement said.

Helena Andrews, Politico: Watts launches African-American channel (2008)

Rahman Johnson, WTXL-TV, Tallahassee, Fla.: FAMU releases new details about BTNC partnership


Cooke Reportedly in Line for "CBS Evening News" Producer

"CBS News Asia Bureau Chief Marsha Cooke is moving to New York where she is ultimately expected to take over as Executive Producer of CBS Evening News, sources at the network told POLITICO on Tuesday," Dylan Byers wrote Tuesday for Politico.


"Network executives are planning to groom Cooke, a former Evening News producer, to replace current EP Pat Shevlin within the year, the sources said. Those sources cautioned that the executives could change their plans."

Byers also wrote, "Cooke joined CBS News in Los Angeles in 1993 and became a producer of 'Evening News with Dan Rather' in 2000. She began reporting from Asia in 2006 and was named Asia Bureau Chief in 2009. . . ."


Sonya McNair, senior vice president, communications at CBS News, told Journal-isms by email, "We do not comment on personnel matters."

Jackson, at Hewlett-Packard, Pushes for High-Tech Diversity

"The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., the civil rights leader and political activist, appeared at a shareholder meeting of Hewlett-Packard Wednesday afternoon, in what appeared to be the start of a comprehensive campaign to bring greater minority representation to the technology world," Quentin Hardy reported Wednesday for the New York Times.


“ 'Inclusion leads to growth,' said Mr. Jackson, who is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which announced a 'digital inclusion initiative.' 'I appeal to you today to forge new partnerships.'

"Besides HP, both before and during the meeting, Mr. Jackson cited Twitter, Google, Facebook, Apple, among other companies, as places needing greater minority employment and leadership. In a letter to those companies, he wrote that 'when it comes to African-Americans on Board—ZERO. C-Suites, ZERO. Minority firms in IPOs and financial transactions, advertising and professional [services]—ZERO.' His organization, he continued, 'is seeking meetings with tech leaders to address these ZEROES head on.'


"The accuracy of the statement, in particular whether top management at all these companies lacks a single African-American, could not be readily determined. During his speech at the HP meeting, however, he noted that Google had used a minority-owned firm in a bond issuance, and that Microsoft regularly used minority-owned firms in financial dealings. . . ."

No Blacks in the Boardroom (Sept. 11, 2013)

Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Jesse Jackson focuses on HP in campaign to highlight Silicon Valley's lack of diversity


Liggins Gives Howard U. Communications School $4 Million

Howard University has received $4 million from Alfred C. Liggins III, chief executive officer and president of Radio One, Inc., in honor of his mother, Cathy Hughes, Radio One chair and founder and a Howard alumna, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education reported. The gift is to benefit the School of Communications.


Asked what the money would be used for, Dean Gracie Lawson-Borders told Journal-isms by email, "The final details not settled."

John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, pledged $4 million to the School of Communications shortly before his death in 2005. The school was renamed for him, and the gift was proudly cited at his funeral. But Journal-isms reported in 2012 that Johnson's name was removed from the school as the publishing company and the university were unable to leverage the pledge into the $20 million to $30 million needed to construct a new building.


According to allaccess.com, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, the university's interim president, announced the Liggins gift at Charter Day ceremonies on March 8.

"Howard University is a business and we need to make money," Frederick said. "Howard must invest properly and be invested in. We know that continuously raising tuition as a form of income is not sustainable. We need partners with deep pockets to make the goals of the university sustainable. Over 70 percent of annual revenue is from federal sources, thus lacking stability in crucial economic times. This means that in times such as the recent government shutdown—the university experiences a deficiency in cash flow."


Hughes' relationship with Howard is extensive, according to a 2010 article in Message Magazine.

"While working and being a mother, she found time to attend classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she became the student chair of the Black studies committee. During this time she also volunteered at KOWH radio station. As chair, she was instrumental in bringing Tony Brown, now host of Tony Brown’s Journal, to the campus to speak to the student body. After several visits to the university, Brown offered her a job as lecturer at the newly developed School of [Communications] at Howard University. Cathy accepted and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1971. The faculty at that time was very unique. 'Approximately 70 percent of us were without formal college degrees, including people such as Quincy Jones, Melvin Van Peebles, and Stan Lathan.'


"Two years after lecturing at Howard University, Cathy began working at the school's radio station, WHUR. During her time at the station she served as general sales manager, vice president, and general manager. Under her leadership the station increased revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year. She also created the Quiet Storm, a nighttime radio format now heard in more than 50 markets nationally. . . ."

Byron Pitts Wins McGruder Diversity Award

"Byron Pitts, ABC News Anchor & Chief National Correspondent, has been named the 2014 winner of the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University," the school announced Tuesday. "The award recognizes the accomplishments of media professionals who encourage diversity in the field of journalism.


"Kent State's School of Journalism and Mass Communication will honor Pitts at an awards luncheon and lecture Monday, March 31.

"Constance D. Harper, associate publisher and editor of the Cleveland based Call & Post newspaper, which has editions serving the African-American communities throughout Ohio, will be recognized at the annual McGruder luncheon as the 2014 Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award winner. . . ."


Kentwired.com, a student publication, added, "This is the first time this award has been given to someone who edits and is responsible for an ethnic newspaper, JMC associate professor Eugene Shelton said. . . ."

Pitts moved to ABC News last year as an anchor and its chief national correspondent after having been a CBS News correspondent since May 1998 and a contributor to the newsmagazine "60 Minutes."


He told Journal-isms then that he was joining a network where "diversity is as important as it is to me."

ESPN Ombudsman Urges More on Sports Issues, Not Less

Robert Lipsyte, the ombudsman at ESPN, opened his latest column by quoting a viewer: "Enough already about Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, concussions and the N-word. I turn on ESPN to get away from the stress of everyday life, to relax with my friends, to share some family time with the kids. Why do you keep shoving that stuff in my face?"


Lipsyte wrote Tuesday that he does not agree.

"Bringing up concussions on every hard hit in pro and college football next season is not the answer to the opening question about ESPN's role and responsibility. However, neither are the long silences between eruptions of the N-word, gay bashing, bullying. These are all ongoing stories that give context to sports. [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell has handily described the N-word issue as 'complex,' which is a way of pushing it to a sideline as too hard to understand.


"Concussions might top the list of complexity, a topic that simply can't be wrapped in 90 seconds on 'SportsCenter' or nibbled to death for days on the chat shows by gasbags who are offering stale opinions. Does ESPN need a 'Concussion Watch,' a daily or weekly catch-up, 2 minutes, more if warranted, on the latest advances in science, rules changes, litigation, victims? What about this disagreement between owners and players on the allocation of research funds? Does it have anything to do with the possibility that Harvard could concentrate on the brain trauma to athletes but the National Institutes of Health would have to spread the investigation beyond football? Granted, this might not be conducive to stress-free family watching, but then again, maybe you should know if, by putting a helmet on your kids, you’re putting them in danger.

"There’s hope. The creation of Exit 31, a division within ESPN that will include Bill Simmons' Grantland, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films, is a clear indication of reshuffling the deck for more creativity. I look forward to [Jason] Whitlock's new site, which he sees as a home for black journalists and fans. There are other internal changes underway that should offer more platforms for the smarter coverage of stories that never go away, that fly just under the radar until they take us by surprise again.


"And really disrupt your pure fan pleasure.

"What do you think? My second half has begun."

Miami Herald Finds 477 Kids Died From State's Inattention

"Who speaks for Ghanson? No one did," syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote on Tuesday.


"He is one of 477 Florida children no one spoke for or spoke forcefully enough for, 477 who have died in the past six years from drowning, crushing, starvation, neglect and the inattention of a system that should have protected them, but did not. In Innocents Lost, a report by Audra D.S. Burch and Carol Marbin Miller published this week by the Miami Herald, we learn that the number of children dying has spiked since DCF made a deliberate decision almost a decade ago to sharply reduce the number of children taken into state care and to slash 'services, monitoring and protections for the increased number of children left with their violent, neglectful, mentally-ill or drug addicted parents.' "

The reference is to the state Department of Children & Families.

"Money was saved. Children were not. . . ."

The newspaper reported, "Digging through six years of DCF files, The Herald found hundreds of children who died of abuse or neglect whose families had contact with the agency over the previous five years—far more than the state reported. The information is from death reviews, police reports, autopsies and interviews."


It also wrote, "The children were not just casualties of bad parenting, but of a deliberate shift in Florida child welfare policy. DCF leaders made a decision, nearly 10 years ago, to reduce by as much as half the number of children taken into state care, adopting a philosophy known as family preservation. They also, simultaneously, slashed services, monitoring and protections for the increased number of children left with their violent, neglectful, mentally ill or drug-addicted parents.

"The result: Many more children died. . . ."

The newspaper told readers, "To understand the magnitude of the problem—and possible solutions—the Herald studied every death over a six-year period involving families with child welfare histories. This series is the result of a year's worth of reporting by the Herald's Investigation Team, and multiple lawsuits to obtain state death records."


WFOR-TV, Miami: "Innocents Lost" Reporters interviewed (video)

Black Press Says Obama Disrespects by Not Giving Interview

"This morning on #NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) wire service Editor-in-Chief George Curry said the black press has been disrespected in recent years," Lauren Victoria Burke wrote Wednesday for crewof42.com.


" 'There is a disrespect for the black press that we have not seen in recent years. For example, we have requested—every year—an interview with the President. He can ignore 200 black newspapers and 19 million viewers but he can give one to every stupid white comedian there is on TV, the black ones and the white ones, and has time for all types of [buffoonery] but they will not respect the black press enough to give us an interview,' Curry said on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin this morning. . . ."

It's a familiar complaint from mainstream newspapers as well.

"Why bother with The New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on 'The View'?" Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen wrote last year in Politico. David Weigel added in Slate, " 'The president has not granted an interview to print reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, and others in years. These are the reporters who are often most likely to ask tough, unpredictable questions.'. . . "


As a candidate, Obama was asked in 2007 by Cheryl Smith of the Dallas Weekly why he had reached out to the black press, with whom the candidate held a conference call early that year, and whether he would continue to reach out if elected.

Naming three Chicago black newspapers—the Defender, the Crusader and the Citizen—Obama said that when he served in the Illinois legislature, those papers would cover issues he was working on that the mainstream press would not.


"My attitude is that if you were covering me when nobody wanted to cover me, then they should cover me when everybody wants to cover me. That attitude will continue when I'm in the White House," Obama said at a Las Vegas convention of the National Association of Black Journalists.

As president, Obama seems to have altered his strategy.

On March 3, Obama was on the "Ricky Smiley Morning Show" on the black-oriented network TV One discussing the Affordable Care Act (audio). He also calls in periodically to the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show."


The White House preferences seem to be broadcast over print, friendly questioners over others, larger audiences over smaller ones, and those the president finds intellectually challenging or with whom he has a special rapport.

Obama gave considerable time to David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, for a 17,000-word New Yorker profile that appeared in January.


"It was similar to the wide-ranging set of interviews the president gave Michael Lewis a year ago for a Vanity Fair profile," John Dickerson wrote for Slate. "In the Lewis interview, the president was buoyant, game for Lewis' conceit to train a person for the presidency in 30 minutes. He invited the writer to play basketball with him and needled him for his sloppy defense. . . ."

However, Lewis told a Lincoln Center audience in 2012 "that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear," Jeremy W. Peters reported for the New York Times. But "Mr. Lewis said that ultimately the White House disallowed very little of what he asked to use."


In January 2013, Piers Morgan, the CNN host, asked "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft, "Let me ask you at the top, why do you think he keeps coming to you? Because there's two schools of thought. One, is that you're the most brilliant, penetrating interviewer on American television. And the other one is that you give him a soft time. Neither of which I suspect is entirely the true picture."

Kroft replied, "No, I think that first of all, I think he likes '60 Minutes.' It's, you know, we have a huge audience. We have a format that suits him, it's long. We can do 12 minutes or 24 minutes. We do, you know, we do a good job of editing. And I've been doing these interviews with him since a few weeks before he declared his candidacy. So I covered him during the campaign and have kept doing it in the White House.


"But I think it's a question of fairness. We have not—I think he knows that we're not going to play gotcha with him, that we're not going to go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid and we'll let him answer the questions."

Dylan Byers, Politico: The most transparent administration, cont.

Tommy Christopher, Mediaite: Here's That Steve Harvey Interview You Missed During President Obama’s Press Conference (Dec. 20, 2013)


Mike Cavender, Radio Television Digital News Association: Hardly the "most transparent administration in history"

Short Takes

Jim Trotter, an NFL writer who joined Sports Illustrated in 2007 from the San Diego Union-Tribune, is moving to ESPN, he told Twitter followers Wednesday. "Happy to be joining the ESPN family. Can't wait to get to work," Trotter wrote. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz told Journal-isms by email that Trotter would be reporting on the NFL across all platforms. "Always. TV digital and beyond. The ESPN way," Krulewitz said.


Summer Reese, fired Thursday as the Pacifica Foundation's executive director, "marched to the Pacifica national office in Berkeley on March 17, bolt cutters in hand, removed a padlock placed on the front doors over the weekend, and essentially occupied the building," Hillel Aron reported for the LA Weekly issue dated March 21. "When newly appointed interim executive director Margy Wilkinson showed up, Reese and 12 of her compatriots—including Reese's mother, a longtime anti-war and civil rights activist—refused to let Wilkinson, her husband and two of her allies pass. . . ."

"Jose Antonio Vargas' Documented will be released in select New York and Los Angeles theaters prior to its television broadcast on CNN, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively," Scott Feinberg reported on Friday for the Hollywood Reporter. "The move will qualify the film for Oscar consideration. The documentary — which was written, produced and directed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist — centers on Vargas' experience as an undocumented immigrant and a crusader for immigration reform. . . ."


The second edition of the Morgan Global Journalism Review was published this week, with such topics as mixed-race Germans, covering the civil rights movement, "a view of civil rights from inside Cuba" and "for American Indians, '64 act was justice delayed." DeWayne Wickham, dean of the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University, told the Board of Visitors, "This very fine book puts SGJC in the company of the journalism programs at Columbia University, which publishes the Columbia Journalism Review, and the University of Maryland, publisher of the American Journalism Review."

Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, serving an 18-year prison sentence under a sweeping anti-terrorism law since 2011, wrote a letter to his son Monday that was smuggled out and published on Wednesday. "I miss you and your mother terribly. The pain is almost physical," Nega wrote. "But in this plight of our family is embedded hope of a long suffering people. There is no greater honor. We must bear any pain, travel any distance, climb any mountain, cross any ocean to complete this journey to freedom. Anything less is impoverishment of our soul. God bless you, my son. You will always be in my prayers."


Andrea Elliott of The New York Times is to receive $10,000 and the Ernie Pyle Award [PDF] for Human Interest Storytelling for "Invisible Child," "a chronicle of a year in the life of one of the city’s 22,000 homeless children." The honor is one of the annual Scripps Howard Awards announced Monday, "honoring the best work in the communications industry and journalism education in 2013. . . . "

"In the April 2014 issue of EBONY, the publication has released a special report, 'Guess Who's Coming to the Prom' on teenaged interracial dating," the magazine announces. "According to research conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc., today's teens are more likely to interact with a diverse circle of friends, and according to the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were interracial, compared to 6.7 percent in 1980. . . ."  More


John Ketchum, assistant producer for wealth and poverty at American Public Media's "Marketplace," is joining NPR's "Morning Edition" as an assistant producer.

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights plans a hearing on the case of Lohé Issa Konaté of Burkina Faso, chief editor of the weekly newspaper L'Ouragan, who was "convicted by the courts in Burkina Faso for defamation, public insult and insulting a magistrate due to two articles he published in his paper," and fined the equivalent of $3,000 U.S., the court announced. He maintains that his right to freedom of expression was violated.


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

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